Prewashed jeans made America soft

December 13, 2010|By TIM ROWLAND
  • Tim Rowland
Tim Rowland

I don’t think I’d get much of an argument at my contention that America has gone soft. We used to be a strong, industrial nation that took our lunch pails to work and produced metallic goods that felt heavy in your hand and could knock a barking dog unconscious in a single swipe.

Today, we’re a nation of retail call centers.

We used to grow a lot of our own food, but now we’re scared to dig in the dirt because it might stain our stockings, or we might see a worm, or we might break a nail — and that’s just what the men are afraid of. The women are pretty sure they’ll be eaten by woodchucks.

The robber barons in this country used to buy railroads and coal mines. Now, they buy heated toilet seats and shower curtains. We used to communicate with pony express stallions kicking up clouds of dust and sagebrush. Today, we Tweet.

Because I’m curious about such things, I did a lot of research in an attempt to pinpoint the exact moment in history that the United States of America lost its manhood.

When did we go from life to virtual life? When did we become scared of the dark and scared of germs and scared of immigrants and — and, well, scared of everything? When did we go soft?

I believe I have found the answer.

The year was 1975. And the villain was a man named Hal.

Because he was the idiot who introduced America to — prewashed jeans. It was not entirely his fault. He had a storeroom full of jeans that flooded, so he was only trying to turn lemons into lemonade.

Little did he know that he was about to bring down a great nation.

That’s gotta be it, right? Jeans used to be a man’s product. Or a heavyset woman’s. They weighed about 10 pounds a pair and the fabric was so stiff that you needed the jaws of life to unfold them for the first time.

You kids don’t know this because you’ve had it too good all your lives with your computer games and your cartoon heroes made out of highly absorbent cleaning products and your juice boxes with the straws already in them.

And your jeans are already pajama-soft when you buy them off the shelf.

But it used to be the case that for about six months, a new pair of jeans was about the most uncomfortable piece of clothing imaginable. You hated to get a new pair of jeans because it was like wearing a straightjacket around your waist.

It took forEVER to break them in, and until then, we suffered. There was no easy way out, no one who was going to do the job for you.

And people made fun of you for wearing a new pair of jeans. When you walked, the fabric made this weird noise from your legs rubbing together. Vwip, vwip, vwip. Even the coolest kid in school was a dweeb when he had to break in new jeans.

Looking back, it wasn’t such a long step from prewashed jeans to financial planners and tin cans with easy-open lids.

When our jeans got soft, we got soft. Now everything has to be done for us. It’s a tragedy, really. That something so American could be the very thing that brought us down.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or by e-mail at Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under, on or on Antietam Cable’s WCL-TV Channel 30 at 6:30 p.m. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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