Thursday 12 December 2013

A Life of Jeans

Don't mean to sound odd but in a way, jeans are very much like girlfriends: you seldom forget the first one you meet and fall in love with.

Growing up in the 70s, Levi's was the must-have jean. Failing that, you bought some other brand like Lee Cooper, Texwood or Lawman.

If I remember correctly, Coopers were for those with shapely behinds; Texwoods for those who were slim and tall; Lawmans were, well, more Asian in cut and size.

I, like how I would choose my GFs later in life, opted for one called Jenkins. It was green in color and altogether rather different. What kind of green? Imagine the color of broccoli with underlying yellows; kind of green-fresh like sea moss, kind of yellow-cheery like the morning sun.

You can tell I related a lot to the color and mood that that jean brought about. And its fabric wasn't thick. It was a denim that felt cottony soft, almost like seude. The cut was piped at the ends (i.e. not flared) and that suited me fine. I was very skinny then.

Altogether, a Jenkins denim was thin and light, very slacks-like.

From that green pair of jeans I finally wore a blue colored one, albeit a stonewash. I've always worn them stonewashed. I didn't quite like the solid blue ones because they reminded me too much of dye. I loved the stonewashed fabric with its "lived in" pathos. It even has an ethereal quality reminiscent of girls with fair and angelic faces.  Mind you, that's by looks itself. Whether the girls have anything upstairs is another matter.

Just like how some jeans look tough but would give way upon the slightest of rough outing.

I tore my first jeans riding a motorcycle. No, I wasn't thrown off like a whipped catapult. Thank goodness!

A pick-up truck had inadvertently backed up against me as I was riding past. I did not fall over but wobbled for control. After I stopped my bike and checked the pain on my thigh, I found a short gash along its length. Fortunately, no skin was broken, only a heavy bruise. I could count myself lucky in not suffering worse.

I got that jeans sewn up again and it was serviceable once more. I guess that's the nature of denim. Takes a beating and keeps on going! Why, I suppose, it is a fabric first worn by miners and railroaders.

That pair of scarred jeans accompanied me on most of my motorbike rides in that mostly student phase of life. And I did ride far, often travelling from my home in Woodlands to Changi Airport to fetch my air stewardess GF home after each international flight. She lived in Tampines then, so the ride home for her wasn't too bad. But my return journey would be another matter.

Having missed her for a week or two, I would want to spend as much time with her as possible, By the time I bid my adieus, it would be late, around 2am+. At that hour, the ride along some of the expressways was cold, especially along BKE where forests flanked both sides for long stretches. Global warming wasn't a buzzword then, so the ambient temperature at night must have been much lower than it is today. Also, there was like 50% less cars than now. Less carbon emissions, less greenhouse effect.

Later, after I broke off with this GF, I retired that pair of jeans. Wearing it was just too painful. Plus, we had bought it from a factory outlet at Rochor Centre, a favourite hangout place of ours. The jeans was branded Hoko's and by the time I retired it, it had faded much and frayed. And became snowy white with only flecks of its original pale blue colour remaining.

After that came another pair of green jeans. Why that particular color, I don't know. I can only guess that it was my favorite and hence gravitated towards it. Or perhaps after breaking off with my GF, I had to return to my roots. That I needed something to cheer up my mood might explain the sun-cheery underlying yellows of the fabric as well.

That new pair of green jeans was a Hara, bought from OG at People's Park. I think Hara was also commonly sold at that popular tee-shirt outlet called Heshe (i.e. "he, she"). Do you remember the Heshe stores? I visited the outlet at Parkway Parade quite often.

The Hara brand had a motif of a Red Indian Chieftain sewn near the lip of the jean back pocket. It signified adventure and that's what I did. With my Hara jeans, I was single again and went out to resume my hiking/trekking ways.

The first place I hiked to was Mount Ophir. It was with a couple of army buddies. Well, one army buddy and two lady JC friends. I think my friend was trying to set me up with one of them. But I remember thinking it was all too soon. And the girl he was trying to set me up with had a funny laugh. Why I did not kindly let her know about that, I don't know. Politeness? Maybe. Telling her would be awkward, like saying someone's nose was too large. Right thinking folks are supposed to look past stuff like that. 

But keeping silent would be like letting a friend walk about with a pant zipper down. Someone has to say something!

Till today, I regret my inaction. Something like this can affect a girl's fate for life. She could continue to turn people off with her snorting, flatulating kind of laugh. She was after all a very sweet girl like that pair of jeans just fresh from a clothes dryer you just want to snuggle up to. Until she laughed.

From Mount Ophir, that Hara jeans followed me on to various island trips around Malaysia and even on trips overseas.

I drove my first left-hand drive car in that pair of jeans.

I took off that pair of jeans to make love for the first time on a large continent, right there in front of a lovely fireplace in a very charming little cottage inn.

I tell you, images are powerful reminders. Especially when you remember folding that pair of jeans into your luggage and thinking that the trip should have gone on for much longer; perhaps never ending. Is that how honeymooners feel? I dunno. That was just a side trip from work.

I also started my Reservist in that pair of jeans, a rather traumatic re-introduction to Army Life after an absence of six years since ROD. Ops Orders? What Op Orders??? Oh...that. What are the steps again?

Haiz.... When I changed out of that green pair of jeans, I would think what a long in-camp it was going to be. Army was a different green back then and not that Hara green. That pair of jeans was good while it lasted.

Some years later, I had to, with sadness, retire it. I had started my career as a journalist and unlike my more taxing Engineering work, I had begun to put on weight (from all that sitting down to write). I was no more the skinny me. An inch can made a lot of difference to the waistline of a pair of jeans and I had advanced by a couple. That's when my age also matched my waistline - not a good thing! But I think this sort of phenomenon only happens to guys than girls. And that Hara pair of jean wasn't really the stretchy, accommodating sort. So into the "has-been" bin it went.

The pair of jeans that came after was a tougher, more regular sort. It was a Lawman's. I wore that everywhere, including winter time in Hanover, which made realise jeans aren't the best option in that weather. Once outdoors, they felt wet and cold. My crotch never felt so vulnerable. But bore with it I did. And because the jeans was fitting, I couldn't wear extra clothing like thermals underneath. Oh, what a bummer!

Fortunately, I had a long winter coat and that kept the cold winds from snapping at my family jewels.

Another problem was wearing normal office shoes and socks as I would in my home country, which had a tropical climate. Nope, such shoes weren't exactly winter wear either! But who could blame me when my travel there was to work? I think a guy would tend to forget to buy the right shoes to wear.

But then again, even in wintry conditions, women could still be seen in skirts and high heels. What's that Chinese saying about "valuing beauty above death"?

But I liked the Lawman jeans for its fit and "jeaness", so when this pair of denim trousers became torn and ripped from overuse, I had to retire it and buy another. I remember my mom complaining each time she saw me. "Like a beggar," she would say. "Can you please go buy a new one?"

But procrastinate I did. We all know how comfy an old pair of jeans can be. But a ripped pair of jeans doesn't show up well at smart casual events, so I had no choice but to say bye bye to it. I mean bits of my my underwear were already showing through!

My next pair was another Lawman's and that would be my last pair of jeans.

Why? Because I had gotten into PR work and wearing jeans wasn't the thing to do. We all wore tailored clothes to look smart. And frankly, cloth is always more comfortable than denim. Cloth pants don't bite as much at the crotch and don't give one hip stress. They are lighter.

So what memories did my last pair of jeans give me?

It followed me on a backpacking trip to Europe that lasted 35 days and covered 24 places. Yet another pair of very special and memorable pair of jeans. Much like this ex-GF I am thinking about now!

Next story: Appreciating Nudes 

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