Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dungarees and the Culture Wars

Yeah, you read it right.

The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property was established in 1971, dedicated to the restoration of Christian (specifically Catholic) civilization. They are inspired by the work of in Professor Plinio CorrĂȘa de Oliveira, who founded the parent society in Brazil in 1960. With their red banners, matching capes, and occasional drum and bugle corps, they parade at the March for Life and appear at college campuses handing out literature, and are basically non-violent when confronted, as they often are on campuses. I'll say this for them, they have no shame. Put them up against Muslims in Dearborn, Michigan, and my money's on the boys in red. Those evangelical Bible-thumpers can sit this one out, pal, it's time to rumble.

So what's got them worked up lately? Offenses by commissioned "artists" and playwrights against the True Faith, the secularization of Christmas, to be sure. But a page on their "Student Action" group takes on one of the burning "culture war" issues of our time. You'd better sit down.

George Will wrote an article in The Washington Post titled “America's Bad Jeans.” The article analyses the influence blue jeans have on those who wear them. In his piece, Will cites another article published by the American writer Daniel Akst in The Wall Street Journal, “Down with Denim" ... Akst says, “Denim on the bourgeoisie is discordant.”

Several factors of more substance than the above contribute to this.

First, the average wardrobe in Western cultures has probably tripled or quadrupled in the last half-century. Our everyday or work clothes were once worn out dress clothes. But an increase in consumer choices, compounded by more disposable income, has contributed to this. In addition, denim jeans are comfortable, and tend to fit better over time. Besides, most people do not go out of their way to get pre-faded jeans, allowing their new ones to get broken in. And only stupid people pay good money (and to get them torn just right, really good money) to buy pre-torn jeans, I don't care how rich or famous they are.

In the 1970s, designer jeans such as "Chardon" and "Sasson" were very popular, especially with women. This came about in large part due to the demand of women for jeans more suited to their anatomy than that which was on the market up to then, which were better suited to men. It gained further acceptance because of the disco craze in mid-decade, when staring at a woman's backside became a more openly expressed preoccupation, among alleged babe hounds hanging at the bar nursing their by-then watered-down drinks. There was also a brand early in the decade called "Cheap Jeans," which really were not all that cheap.

One thing I do find annoying as a Scout commissioner, is the units who insist on a "waist up" uniform policy, where the boys can wear any pants they want with the uniform shirt as standard wear, except for the most formal occasions, if those. Keep in mind that I live in one of the most prosperous sections of the country. These boys generally don't wonder where either their next meal or pair of designer gym shoes is coming from.

As a boy, denim blue jeans were just about all I wore when I wasn't dressed for church, school, or Scout meetings. Only in the last decade have I really stopped wearing them regularly. I prefer cargo pants most of the time, as putting my wallet in a generous side pocket instead of the one behind me (on the recommendation of a chiropractor) is better for my back when sitting down. Yes, it can happen.

What few pairs of blue jeans I still wear tend not to be blue but ... black. Go figure.

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