We’ve all seen those torn jeans that upscale stores sell for a couple Benjamin Franklins. Well, Nordstrom’s recently took it a step further. Via Mike Rowe:
“This morning, for your consideration, I offer further proof that our country’s war on work continues to rage in all corners of polite society. Behold the latest assault from Nordstrom’s. The “Barracuda Straight Leg Jeans.”
Finally - a pair of jeans that look like they have been worn by someone with a dirty job…made for people who don't. And you can have your very own pair for just $425.00.”
So what exactly does Rowe see wrong with the product? He explains:
“The Barracuda Straight Leg Jeans aren’t pants. They’re not even fashion. They’re a costume for wealthy people who see work as ironic – not iconic.”
I like Mike Rowe, and I think he often makes legitimate points about our culture’s lack of respect for manual labor. I think his point that these jeans are "a costume for wealthy people" is a great line and largely accurate.
That said, it feels like a bit of a stretch to classify Nordstrom’s new Barracuda jeans as an example of “our country’s war on work.” This is how Nordstrom’s describes the product:
“These heavily distressed medium-blue denim jeans embody rugged, Americana workwear that's seen some hard-working action with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating that shows you're not afraid to get down and dirty.”
This doesn’t exactly sound demeaning. It looks to me like Nordstrom's was attempting to appeal to rugged American masculinity (albeit in a clumsy and phony manner).
Is there something false and downright silly about buying clothing designed to appear filthy (for $450 no less)? Absolutely. Is there irony in the fact that many of the people who purchase these jeans probably have done few (if any) “dirty jobs” themselves? Without question.
But it also feels a bit like Rowe himself is tapping into the American grievance industry, a machine that thrives on faux outrage, often expressed over matters that are relatively trivial. I would have had no problem with Rowe mocking these ridiculous jeans, but to be offended by the product seems out of character for him.
Am I wrong? I admit I don't really understand fashion. Are these jeans intended to demean working men?
Jonathan Miltimore is the Managing Editor of FEE.org. His writing/reporting has appeared in TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes, Fox News, and the Washington Times.