In general, I find people’s rants about “authenticity” to be tiresome. This is for several reasons, including but not limited to the fact that this is not a new phenomenon, or even one that is exclusive to the internet age; there is a value judgment inherent in invoking authenticity that is often entirely unexamined; and there is a sense of self-righteousness in most posts of this kind that reads as “I am authentic and people who do/buy/support x are inauthentic (which, due to my value-laden interpretation, is a bad thing).”
It is probably hypocritical of me, then, to have had a knee-jerk reaction to a blog post over at The Selvedge Yard, which I usually quite enjoy despite the author’s stated “passion for…authenticity” (among other things, of course). (Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself. [(I am large, I contain multitudes.)] &c. &c.) Anyway:
The PRPS NOIR Collection is not about black denim. Noir utilizes the best selvedge denim fabrics available anywhere in the world– with incredibly extensive washes and old school wear, tear & repair details that are authentic to genuine vintage jeans painstakingly collected over the years worn by real miners, mechanics, and laborers alike. Each jean is handmade and can take up to a week to produce. No one is doing denim at this same level. Noir represents the best of PRPS– true collector’s items.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I wish I had a pair of jeans that looked as cool as these. But, all financial aspects aside, I could never purchase them ready-made. I have several artist friends who often wear jeans with paint and god knows what else all over them. Is this an affectation? Probably. Do they look awesome? Hell yes. Would I do the same thing if I had any artistic talent? You bet your britches (paint-stained, designer, or otherwise). And that’s my point: these artists with their paint-covered jeans put it there themselves. Whenever I see scuffed up, dirty, worn jeans, I wonder how they got that way. I would hate for the answer to be “Because that’s how they’re made.”
It’s not just these particular jeans, really; there’s a whole market for pre-worn, pre-distressed items, from clothing to furniture. I am totally down with attempts to achieve a “historically authentic” look in most other iterations (being a complete nerd for historical costuming), and for that reason I have to admire the attention to detail that goes into this particular product. I do think that this product is appealing. And I don’t think that a person who does not care about these things that I obviously care about, who chooses to buy and wear these jeans, is wrong to do so. But for some reason the manufacture of a pre-owned aesthetic strikes a discordant note with me.
Shouldn’t the person who wants to own clothing that looks like it’s been through an adventure (and I totally do) be out dirtying and ripping the clothing they already own? Isn’t the charm of something worn the history that such damage evokes? And, on a tangential note, does fashion that invokes labour (and, based on the formulation of the fashion industry, is probably not for labourers) devalue or celebrate it? (You can see the graduate program at work there, no?) Am I an asshole for even thinking about jeans for this many paragraphs? (It is likely that the answer to this last question is “most definitely.”)
I have probably injected my own values surrounding “authenticity” (whatever it may be) into this entire discussion, which may or may not make me sound as self-righteous as anyone whose calls for authenticity have made me roll my eyes in the past. So be it. Call it honesty, call it pedantic excess, call it another blogger exorcising her conflicting opinions in public. If you’ve rolled your eyes (and continued to read, for whatever reason), at least take solace in the fact that I invite that reaction, fully conscious that I just put a hell of a lot of thought into an admittedly insignificant topic. But what else are grad students good for?