Sunday, February 27, 2005


Since I was in junior high and high school (in the later eighties and early nineties: the height of grunge) I have always been envious of cool people with worn-out clothes. From jeans with holes and, more impressively, those thin, white spots that still had the strings going across to broken-in leather jackets and jean jackets with touches of paint on them, I was jealous. Dave Griffin, who worked with our youth group, had a jeans jacket that had to be held together with duct tape. My brother David often had to repair his shoes with Shoe Goo and duct tape. Guys had those beautiful T-shirts that were worn so thin, they were velvety soft. Guys also had those baseball hats that fit on the head like it wasn’t even there and looked so much cooler than the stiff ones I had acquired. That was why we girls stole them, not as pre-adolescent flirting, no matter what the teachers tell you.

The love that I learned from my mother for clothes involves having lots of clothes that vary in purpose. This means that I have lots of coats and lots of pants and lots of shoes in lots of colors. Neutrals aren’t really my thing unless they accent something that’s a little wild. Hence, I can’t in good conscience wear the same thing every day or even every other day. Unlike the perfect pair of Levi’s, people will notice if you wear the pink pants every day. Same goes for the red shoes. Plus, often, favorite items couldn’t be worn within the same outfit (pink and red are a definite clash) so that spread out their use even further. Face it, I like variety. Also, when I was younger, my mom still purchased most of my clothes for me and she certainly wasn’t looking simple elements that could be worn again and again. Therefore, my clothing never reached that well-worn “favorite” status. My stuff remained disappointingly new-looking. Plus, my attempts to purchase worn-looking clothes from the only places I knew how to shop, malls, failed miserably in a wave of total wanna-be dorkiness. I was the nerd in the sweatshirt that had been bought with the holes and neckline already cut out of it.

So, I turned to acquiring clothes that had been worn by others. I found my dad’s jeans from the seventies in the closet that were just ready to go white and stringy in places. I also got to put neat patches on those. One of David’s friends left their oversized jeans jacket at our house after coming over to skate on the half-pipe in the backyard. Ditto for the grey, shapeless sweatshirt with ground in dirt and side pockets. I found some of David’s old T-shirts and scrubbed them until the released their pit stains but kept that almost transparent softness. (Double bonus for those is that they were also skater chic. I still treasure my turquoise Powell Peralta shirt.) I could also rescue Converse high tops from David’s closet because he was growing so quickly. He had just enough time to wear them in, but not enough time to wear them out. From my brother Paul, I stole coats like navy pea coats and long black dress coats. He has more than paid me back for that since.

But, I didn’t earn these clothes and that made them less perfect. (Although, I still own many of them to this day.) Going on mission trips and working in the set shop in high school allowed me to create some of my own paint clothes, but I was never willing to wear clothes I actually liked to paint in so they would acquire a nice patina, so I only wore paint clothes to paint in, never to go out. It was a vicious cycle of just plain fashion obliviousness.

I am pleased to announce that I have begun earning my own beat-up - and therefore cool – clothes. I have been doing a lot of manual labor and not much else that requires me to wear the spring green, lavender, red and black striped tights, not to mention the knee-high, three inch black leather boots, so I’ve been wearing out my own clothes! I found perverse pleasure in learning that my T-shirt and my vest had burn holes the other day working for Harold. I have a pair of Carhartt pants that have dirt ground into them permanently from farming with Rhonda. (Yesterday, we formed beds, leveled them, dippled them and planted fava beans and garlic.) Most impressively, my hiking boots that looked like wanna-be boots since I bought them new, now look distinctly broken-in from wearing them all the time. I can’t wear my light blue leather Mary Janes without ruining them here so I’m stuck wearing in a pair of shoes at last. I am no longer mistaken for a tourist on the island. In fact, at Sauna Night last Sunday, Bridget said that it felt like I’d been here forever or a year, at least. Woohoo!

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