A denim story
In today’s context, one might say that having your first jeans at 18 would qualify as being somewhat late to the party – but not so in my teenage world. And what a cultural discovery that party has become! For me, at least, denim has been the fabric of strength, resilience, opportunity and triumph – and, as I later discovered, that was the story of denim itself.
This is what I have learned living alongside denim:
Curiosity and graft
My earliest memories from well before the fall of the Berlin Wall were seeing it featured in those Westerns on TV: jeans were the choice of cowboys in dusty American places. There was a fascination associated with hearing from those older than me who knew more about how denim was made. Unfortunately, I don’t remember reading any books about this then: if they had been around, I would have known!
I bought my first pair of Levis (what we called them) when I was a first-year student at the University of Bucharest. I managed it by hard work and determination as there were no such things as convenience or gifts. Nevertheless, I managed to buy myself into that world of privilege by saving all I earned from private tuition for some young minds for a whole year. I remember the excitement of a market by a border crossing over the Danube where people from two neighbouring countries were allowed to interact/trade for just two hours a week: it was a window to a different, exotic world. It was mind-blowing!
Choice and challenge
I then remember shopping in an actual Levis store in the US years later; this was ten times the cultural shock! Despite living through consumerism on steroids, the bigger and shinier the stores, the less and less I liked them. It didn’t feel quite right: why was there so much? Was it necessary? What about those producing them; how was it for them? I had a first clue that it might be the manufacturers who were struggling; after all, producing denim has always been so resource-intensive.
Have you ever tried a new pair of jeans in the back of an open van?
Versatility and adaptability
Apart from gala events, where has your denim not been? As I transitioned into the western world, denim became a permanent feature. But, I still struggle to comprehend seeing it worn to the theatre – although an even bigger shock was seeing leggings! If you ask me now, those ‘out-of-place’ events would probably still catch my eye, but the excitement of returning to the theatre would override my observation skills.
Denim at the theatre, any time soon? Um!
Resilience and match
I cannot help but associate denim with a highly innovative project when we created the first 3D digital map of the ‘two seas’ (the Black and the Caspian seas). I had it on my office wall for over 15 years, and I wish I had saved all those comments from the various celebrities who visited (royalty included).
That map was like denim – stretching across exotic countries (for some): a symbol for cross-border and international connections. So often, I would catch myself staring at those fascinating printed pixels in the colours of mountains and rivers, land and water. Although I didn’t have the intrinsic knowledge of how colour works as I do now, I can’t but relate how the colours of that map were so good for what I was doing at the time. Those colours matched my natural characteristics; that map was my colour palette; its magic on the wall will never leave me!
How do you wear your best colours with denim?
Wearing denim is like having a regular chat with somebody you have known for a long time: the strength and comfort of friendship.
It’s always there; the fall-back option, the reliable one not ever asking for special treatment; the unsung hero.
The more, the better? I would beg to differ: ‘yes’ to more friends and moderate on denim heroes. But the value is in the stories, quality and meaning, rather than quantity.
How many do you have … in your wardrobe?
Denim made a connection to something different in my early life; it was tangible. It commanded respect from the outset, and, in my previous life, it was not a commodity; as we would now say, it had the values of scarcity and authority as well as providing social triggers. Although I am not the everyday jeans type, whenever I wear denim, those early memories of touching sturdy, beautifully coloured fabric reinforce the sense of resilience, challenge and connection to a greater good. Those triggers work every single time.
So, what is your denim story?