253. what not to wear


A couple weeks ago I went clothes shopping with Miles from my band and Jenn (Martin, the lead singer’s, wife). Specifically, we were looking for clothes for me to wear when on stage with my band. See, back in Hawaii, I didn’t put much effort into what I was wearing while playing. I mean I made it a point not to dress like a dork, but jeans and a cool t-shirt was the norm for me during performances.

Things are different now that we’re in Seattle. Rock bands mean business up here and so if we’re to compete, we need to dress the part. The other guys in the band have their look together already, but I needed more help because the things that I like to wear around town won’t work on stage.

What’s my normal garb? Jeans, t-shirt, and (now that I’m in Seattle) jacket.

If I had a bottomless budget to spend on clothes, I’d go around wearing some nice, tailored blazers, hemmed jeans, and some artsy t-shirts. If I had to give it a name, I’d call it smart but not preppy. I think this look would work on stage, but this look is expensive (especially the tailored bit and yes, it IS necessary because I’m Asian so everything is too long for my short Okinawan body) so it’s not an option.

Because I couldn’t go with the look I wanted, I needed help because while I know how to dress the way I like to dress, I wanted to explore a different look and I needed a fresh pair of eyes. Thus the shopping spree with Miles and Jenn.

I had a great time. We hit up some stores and a couple malls and I told them I would try anything they thought might look good, even if it was outside my comfort (and fashion) zone. And they did.

It was hilarious because I’d be in the dressing room trying things on and they’d literally be throwing more stuff for me to try over the dressing room door. It really did feel like being on the TLC show, What Not To Wear because I’d go into the dressing room to try something on and when I emerged, Miles and Jenn were there to comment and critique.

Now before I go on, I need to tell you about the single most embarrassing day of my life. I don’t remember what grade exactly, probably fifth or sixth grade, but it was at a time in the early eighties when designer jeans were all the rage.

Back in elementary/intermediate school days, I was a dork. Now while dorks and nerds are similar, there’s a crucial difference. Nerds, at least, have their intellect working for them. Dorks, on the other hand, share all the socially clueless handicaps that nerds have, only they don’t have the sharp mind and good grades to buffer their self-esteem.

On the social food chain, there was only one other guy lower than I, but come to think of it, he had a girlfriend so technically, he was cooler than I was. Damn it!

Anyway, I was always trying to find ways to up my social status and cool factor but opportunities were few and far between. But then I started to notice how all the cool kids were wearing and talking about these new jeans that were hitting the stores. Now while the new cool jeans didn’t look all that different to me than the Toughskins pants I wore (the ones with knee reinforcement pads sewn on the inside so only you knew they were there), the one thing that seemed to make these jeans cool was the name brand.

In this name brand, I saw the opportunity I was waiting for. If only I could get my mom to buy me a pair of these cool, brand name jeans, the gates of popularity would swing wide open for me and I’d enter and be granted instant “it” status.

Thus began the whining onslaught.

I pestered my parents about these jeans. I tried every angle. I tried explaining to them the social necessity of these jeans. Of course I told them how everybody was wearing them but they had the well rehearsed “if everybody starts jumping off the bridge are you going to jump off too?” retort. I knew these jeans were a lot more expensive than my Toughskins so I had to pull out all the stops. I tried to make nice. I watered the plants, I did my piano practice without being told to, I ate my vegetables without pouting. I even cleaned my room.

Now while room cleaning doesn’t sound like all that big of a deal, I was a rotten kid. When my parents told me to clean my room, I’d move so slowly and complain so much that my mom would eventually push me aside and clean my room for me. Maybe she thought this would give me a guilt trip. And yeah, sometimes I felt bad but mostly, I was just glad I didn’t have to do it myself. So you can see what a big deal it was for me to clean my own room unprompted.

Maybe that’s what finally did the trick because the next time we hit the mall, my mom told me to go pick out some of those designer jeans I kept talking about.

I didn’t waste any time. I found a pair that had the name I kept hearing around school. I tried them on to make sure they’d fit then I brought them to my mom who made one more comment about how expensive they were before finally paying for them.

I don’t know how I slept that night. I can’t remember, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I actually slept in those jeans. I couldn’t wait to get to school. I couldn’t wait to play in the cool part of the playground and I was sure I’d start receiving invitations to those cool birthday parties at Farrell’s where the Sundays were so big it took three kids to finish one.

The next day came and I remember walking onto the campus. I was excited but also a bit apprehensive because I wasn’t sure exactly how it was that one entered the upper echelons of cool. I did notice some kids out of the corner of my eye who were pointing in my direction and whispering. I could only assume that they were wondering where it was this cool new kid with the fancy jeans came from.

And then I went to homeroom, and what was supposed to be the best day of my pre-pubescent life, imploded upside-down and inside out.

See, prior to this, I heard one brand of jeans being mentioned more than any other and so naturally, that’s the brand I got my mom to buy for me. So there I was in the homeroom doorway with my Jordache jeans looking at a roomful of my peers laughing at me.

Me and my designer, Jordache girl’s jeans – the ones that had the little horse head embroidered on the back pockets.

Yeah, it was bad. Even some of my teachers laughed at me. The worst part of it was, I had to go through that whole day in those jeans.

I kid you not, I didn’t buy or wear another pair of jeans until the summer after my Junior year in high school and even then, I made sure I bought them in the company of friends who knew what was what.

Okay, so I share that story because it turns out, one of the things that I bought on my shopping spree with Miles and Jenn was a pair of women’s jeans! The jeans I’m wearing in the photo. Turns out, women’s jeans are all the rage in emo/indie circles. Maybe it’s a reaction against the loose and baggy look. Maybe it’s a way of confusing marketing executives. Maybe it’s just because they fit better…because they do.

Couple things I learned about today’s women’s jeans.

1. Very short zipper. At first I couldn’t figure this out. Then on my first night wearing them out, I had to go to the bathroom and then it all made sense. If you don’t get it yet, use your imagination. Think about the difference between men’s bathrooms and women’s bathrooms and then think about why women wouldn’t need long zippers.

2. What is up with the miniscule front pockets? I swear, the BACK pockets are bigger than the front ones! What’s up with t
hat? No wonder you need to carry around a purse.

3. And what’s the deal with your sizing system? Guys jeans are sized by inches around the waist and inseam (for example, I would wear 31/28 which means 31″ around the waist with a 28″ inseam). But when a pair of women’s jeans says size ten, to what does the number ten refer to? Jenn told me that ten just means larger than nine but smaller than eleven and that a ten in one brand might be a nine in another brand or eleven in yet another. Great system, girls.

Oh and one last thing about jeans in general. How does anyone justify spending upwards of one hundred dollars on jeans? One of the stores we hit was Lucky Brand Jeans and while we did find a pair that looked great, my debit card had a heart attack when it saw the price tag: $130 on sale!

Earth to shoppers, jeans are casual wear. Casual as in you shouldn’t have to take out a loan to own a pair. If I wore a pair of $130 jeans, that’s all I’d wear. I wouldn’t want any other piece of clothing to distract people from noticing my $130 jeans. For $130, those jeans better come with a guarantee that says, “if you don’t meet someone and get a date while wearing these jeans, you get a full refund and a back rub, and a bag of chips.”

PS. an apology to those who thought my disco was a kind of celebration dance, that I had finally gotten a date with Quest Girl, but such is not the case.

Maybe if I had a pair of $130 jeans…


One thought on “253. what not to wear

  1. Hilarious. I saw the punchline coming a mile away because that was one of my perpetual fears growing up — that I might accidentally buy girls’ clothing. It’s still something I worry about when I get a new pair of glasses.Now, allow this English teacher to give you a little assignment. Read this out loud to yourself. Yes, out loud. Now ask yourself if what this piece really needs is some internal dialogue, actually transcribed for the readers. It does not! Your writing is so much better without it!

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