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Harris Blackwood: Questioning the appeal of distressed jeans
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I like new things.

I like the way clothing smells when it comes from the store. I like the feel of good leather on a belt or shoes. I like the smell of a brand-new car, and no, there is no amount of air freshener at a car wash that can make it smell that way again.

I like things that come in boxes, primarily gift boxes with tissue paper. There is something wonderful about opening a box and being surprised.

We had a relative who gave me and my brother a pair of pajamas every Christmas and I knew that box all too well.

She usually insisted we put them on and she would take our picture in front of the Christmas tree. No, they weren’t footed pajamas, but they usually came with a rather dorky hat that was never worn again.

I like nice department stores. I like to have a knowledgeable clerk assist me when I am looking for something in particular.

One of the stores I’ve always admired is Nordstrom. I was in Seattle last year and had a chance to walk through its flagship store. It was a grand place that reminded me of Rich’s, the store that was the standard for Atlanta for more than 100 years.

For several years, retailers have been offering what is often referred to as “distressed” clothing. Jeans, tops, even shoes that have holes in them. I just can’t understand how anyone can put down good money and buy something already ripped up. It just doesn’t make sense.

Now comes word that Nordstrom, that premiere store, is selling jeans coated with fake mud. More shocking than that is the news they cost $425 a pair.

I went through many pairs of jeans as a boy. I realize that was a long time ago, but I don’t think my mother spent $425 on all of the jeans I wore in my childhood.

If I came home with mud on my jeans, I knew to take them off by the back door and run upstairs and change.

I don’t understand the whole distressed clothing thing. Women seem to be content to wear a top that is stretched out of shape on one side and hanging off their shoulders.

People are content to wear jeans with holes in them and ragged edges. Ragged jeans were relegated to playing in the yard on Saturdays. Mama didn’t like me to wear them to town. Most of the time, she would buy an iron-on patch that would cover the torn place. I was fashionable before anybody knew.

The thought of forking over $425 for a pair of jeans frightens me. The thought that those same jeans look like they need scrubbing is even more frightening.

The person who started the whole jean business was Levi Strauss. That was in the era when they called them dungarees.

If you want some muddy jeans, call me. I’ll order them from Levi’s and take them out and muddy them up for you. We have two new puppies at our house; I can get them to chew on them and won’t charge you a dime more.

When they’re ready, I’ll wrap them up in tissue paper and put them in a nice box. I’ll be as friendly as any clerk who ever worked at Nordstrom.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

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