For Jon Tenzing Neralich
Generational conflicts in our household are usually instigated by relatively harmless things, such as food or television programs. For example, our oldest son recently took a look at my trousers and summarily informed me that no “modern adult male” wears Levi’s 501 blue jeans, and that my allegiance to such outdated pants was yet more evidence that my advancing years had carried me outside the mainstream of contemporary American life. I pointed out that I have worn 501’s for more than three decades and that they are a minor but important personal tradition in my life.
With the breezy, if sometimes illogical, confidence of his age group, he informed me that it was time for me to acquire some “new traditions,” and so he took me to the mall to do a bit of shopping. Alas, at the clothing store I discovered that jeans now sport a strange assortment of pseudo-European names and come in a bewildering array of colors (the clerk actually offered to sell me a pair of “red blue jeans”).
There was little shelf space devoted to 501’s, because, the salesman cruelly remarked, his store catered to the teen-age market, and 501’s were bought “mostly by older people.” My son smiled at this comment, and I felt the weight of my gray hairs increase slightly.
On the ride home from the mall, I tried to explain to my son how comforting traditions can be – even traditions as modest as 501 jeans. I attempted to convince him that these jeans, like good wine, improve over time and eventually evolve into smooth perfection. But he would have none of it. “Dad,” he said, “just let it go. Clothes and wine aren’t that important. You think too much.”
I suppose that he is partly right, but there are some things in my life which I refuse to surrender – things like thinking clearly, or drinking good wine, or wearing 501 jeans. In any case, I find it impossible to imagine myself, or any other “modern adult male” with a shred of dignity, being seen in public clad in “red blue jeans.”
This posting first appeared as the frame of a wine review in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
As every jeans purist knows, the one true trousers in this world are Levi’s 501 shrink-to-fit jeans, which of course only come in blue.