When I was in high school and college, I worked in the classified phone room at the Akron Beacon Journal with a mélange of people. Some were lifers—the full-timers, with contract accounts and a desk name. Miss Allen. Miss Dodge. Miss Jackson. Others were part-timers, usually women on their way to somewhere else. Since we only met customers over the phone, the dress code was flexible for the times.
One of my co-workers was Lucine, a whip-thin girl with quick hands and a brilliant smile. Though she hadn’t much money (none of us did) she always looked fine. Right down to her dry-cleaned jeans.
I couldn’t get over that. “You don’t dry-clean jeans,” I told her.
“Well. That’s the whole point of jeans.”
“I like the way they look. And that way I don’t have to iron them.”
“Iron? There’s no ironing of jeans!”
In my teens and twenties, jeans were my uniform, my go-to wardrobe item. Something I could wear until they stood up by themselves, then throw into the wash with the hottest possible water.
Each time they would emerge a little bit softer and easier on the eyes. Friendlier to my body. More and more mine. I’d wash them and wear them until they were a second skin; until the hems became frayed from walking on them. Made shabby by love.
It was bad enough when pre-washed jeans came along, all soft colors and manufactured shabby. No longer did you have to put in your time with board-stiff blues to get there.
So recently I got me some of those miracle jeans that are supposed to make you look five pounds thinner and three inches taller. They were comfortable as soon as I put them on, so I went out and double-dug my garden in them. When I went to toss them in the wash, I happened to notice the care tag.
MACHINE WASH COLD DELICATE CYCLE SEPARATELY DO NOT BLEACH HANG DRY USE COOL IRON IF NEEDED FOR BEST RESULTS DRY CLEAN
Never mind the COOL IRON IF NEEDED, since I knew from the start that NO ironing was needed. But DRY CLEAN? DRY CLEAN blue jeans?
What is the world coming to when a person can’t rely on a pair of jeans to survive in the wash?