- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 3, 2007

The planet is not going to be overwhelmed by global warming, giant asteroids, neutron bombs or even something the Democrats might do. The world is going to be overwhelmed by bluejeans. Yes. Bluejeans. We’re infested. We’re denim-deranged.

Consider, for example, that now there are bluejeans for dogs. A Manhattan pet boutique called Modern Tails offers basic jeans for dogs up to 100 pounds, complete with copper rivets, pockets, belt loops, adjustable elastic waists and Velcro closures “for that perfect fit,” the company advises. These dog pants are $30. Should the dog be feeling a little rustic, there also are dog bib overalls for $85.

Needless to say, the bluejean theme has been imposed on underwear, baby clothing and a host of domestic items including sofas, wing chairs, bed linens and suitcases.

How about a bluejean wedding dress? Denver-based Sat’n Spurs offers one that has an embroidered cathedral train and hand-beaded bodice for brides who can’t shake their denim mind-set even on their wedding day. Prom queens in the same condition can choose between strapless, halter, tulip-hemmed and empire-waist blue denim evening gowns that are somewhere between Dale Evans and Jean Harlow.

Japanese designers are fixated on boots and shoes that look like bluejeans, while Geoffrey Kilts, a Scottish company, offers bluejean-themed kilts for men, with a zillion knife pleats and removable “combat pockets” for cell phones, wallets and water bottles.

“Like a pair of jeans, your kilt will become possibly the central point of your wardrobe,” advises designer Howie Nicholsby.

The entire Old Biddies Desk down the hall was ready to cackle over the fact that tartan wool is no longer the fabric of choice for today’s young, uh, kilt wearer until the biddies were informed that none other than Bing Crosby had a bluejeans tuxedo custom-made for himself back in 1951.

Now they’re singing “Where the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day,” no doubt imagining Mr. Crosby in his denim duds, crafted for him by Levi Strauss & Co. Of course, the real Levi Strauss — a Jewish immigrant from Bavaria — more or less invented bluejeans. The company’s official archives tell it thus:

“In 1872, Levi received a letter from Jacob Davis, a Reno, Nev., tailor. Davis was one of Levi Strauss’ regular customers; he purchased bolts of cloth from the company to use for his own business. In his letter, he told the prosperous merchant about the interesting way he made pants for his customers: he placed metal rivets at the points of strain — pocket corners, and at the base of the button fly. He did this in order to make the pants stronger for the laboring men who were his customers.

He didn’t have the money to patent his process, so he suggested that Levi pay for the paperwork and that they take out the patent together. Levi was enthusiastic about the idea, and the patent was granted to both men on May 20, 1873. The bluejean was born.”

Since then, the company has added so many styles and varieties of jeans that it offers customers a computerized jeans finder. The clueless can simply plug in key phrases like “low rise”or “slim fit,” and the finder quickly recommends the proper pair.

Levi Strauss remains fierce about its heritage, and no wonder. Hundreds of jeans makers have horned in on the idea, for better or worse. Lynn Downey, official “jeans archivist” at the company’s San Francisco headquarters, oversees historical records, artifacts, photographs, ephemera and fan letters from celebrities as diverse as Ronald Reagan and Clint Eastwood — all devoted to Levi’s jeans.

She actively seeks authentic old Levi’s for the company’s 5,000-piece collection — and she is willing to pay.

In 2001, she shelled out $46,532 to rescue a pair of late-19th-century Levi’s that indecorously had surfaced on EBay.

The world’s most expensive pair of jeans lurks deep within the Levi Strauss vaults. They are wrapped in archival cloth, are labeled “XX,” have a single pocket and were constructed from indigo denim in 1879. They are worth $125,000, putting to shame a $3,134 pair of bluejeans by Gucci — deemed the most expensive off-the-rack brand by Guinness World Records — as well as a $10,000 designer pair from Escada, which got the “most luxurious” vote from Forbes magazine.

Worldwide, an estimated $40 billion worth of jeans are sold each year; a cool $400 million worth are sold annually on these shores alone by manufacturers with names such as True Religion, Antik Denims, Akademiks, Citizens of Humanity, Rock & Republic, Joe’s Jeans, Chip & Pepper and 7 for All Mankind. The denim itself can be distressed, destroyed, laser-burned, whiskered, dirty-dyed, sandblasted — just a few of the many industry terms.

Meanwhile, jeans obsession continues to grip the Earth. Not one, but six, books on the history and cultural impact of bluejeans have appeared in the past three years. One notes that jeans represent American “practicality, patriotism, rebellion and sexuality.” Another notes that one’s bluejeans are “an intensely personal experience.”

Not one, however, offers any insight into dog pants.

Jennifer Harper covers media, politics and Bing Crosby for The Washington Times’ national desk. Reach her at [email protected]washington times.com or 202/636-3085.

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