There is no pant as ubiquitous in American culture as the blue jean. Blue jeans transcend gender, race, class, and creed. Everyone owns a pair, from Michelle Obama to the guy who fixes your car. Babies wear blue jeans. Different styles come and go, but at the end of the day, blue jeans reign supreme as America’s Favorite Pants.
I’ve owned more pairs of blue jeans in my lifetime than I can count. In middle school they were flared with pink velvet tassels corsetted down the sides. In high-school, they were low-rise and skin-tight. I hand-ripped them at the knees and sometimes drew math equations on them with fabric paint (yes, I have always been a weirdo doing weird stuff with my clothes). Now, at 27 years-old, I own exactly one pair of blue jeans – a pair of high-rise True Skinny denim in medium blue from Gap that I purchased in 2015. When the fabric wore thin behind the knee and ripped, I patched them dutifully, and when I was feeling bored, I gave them new life by snipping off the bottoms for a cool raw hem. They fit me just as perfectly now as they did three years ago, and I do actually wear them all the time.
But I don’t love them. I’ve never loved them, and until now, I couldn’t figure out why. As I’ve pruned my wardrobe to include fewer and fewer items and analyzed each and every single garment that I own, my blue jeans have fallen further out of favor. With the clarity that closet mindfulness has brought me, I can finally tell you why:
It’s because they’re blue.
You heard me right. Their classic, iconic, timeless blueness is their ultimate downfall. Since I’ve been systematically paring down my wardrobe and learning what I love to wear and what I don’t, color stands out at the number one predictor of a garment that I am destined to hate. I put the blue jeans on once a week only to decide that they are wrong and hang them back up in my closet, but the same pair of pants in black somehow always looks exactly correct.
It happens again with the green sweater, the navy dress, the maroon top, and the red shoes, so I take them all out – and what am I left with? A beautiful canvas of black, white, cream, and brown, and just little accents of olive and orange – my “true colors” revealing themselves to me now that I’ve yanked out all the clutter. Blue denim, as neutral as you may argue that it is, just doesn’t have a place in my personal color story. I don’t like wearing it, and I think the only reason I have been for so long is because the world has been telling me that I’m supposed to.
I once read an interview with Emma Watson, whose style I deeply admire, where she said that she often finds herself wearing black because it always looks chic, but that she feels guilty of being lazy when she does that. For a long time, I thought about this quote every time I got dressed, taking off one of my beloved black dresses and putting it back on the hanger because I felt guilty for defaulting to it all the time, and ending up instead in a more colorful outfit that I didn’t feel quite myself in. I think that in fashion, we’re often encouraged to get out of our comfort zones and experiment, but if we never allow ourselves to just wear what we want to, we might never figure out what our comfort zones are in the first place, and we won’t have an established style identity to build off of when we do want to explore.
Blue jeans are not exactly a fashion risk, but for me, they don’t work. They aren’t in my comfort zone, and I feel empowered enough by my practice of wardrobe mindfulness to say that I’m not going to wear them anymore.
In the spirit of Emma, though, and even with this new realization that I’m done with blue jeans, I feel compelled to experiment outside of my comfort zone. That doesn’t mean that I need to subject myself to being uncomfortable. Quite the opposite. It’s an opportunity to play off my style identity with things that excite me, like interesting textures and silhouettes, more structurally dramatic pieces, and garments that stand out to me as truly artful and wearable. I don’t need to try to make blue jeans work when I know, after 27 years of wearing them, that they just don’t. I’m freeing myself from the obligation of wearing the thing that is supposedly for everyone, and saying confidently, without the least bit of guilt, that they are not for me. Instead, I’m opening myself up to the possibility of loving things that I haven’t tried before.
Of course, the natural solution to my blue-jean aversion is to just wear my black jeans more often. I love them because they’re classic and they go with everything, but I’m still sometimes haunted by Emma’s quote about laziness when I choose them over and over again. Here are some alternatives that I’ve been considering, in no particular order:
All of these options fill a niche in my wardrobe for a comfortable, casual pant that can be dressed up or down and that goes with pretty much everything, but unlike blue jeans, they fit easily into my color palette, and when I look at them, I see possibilities instead of challenges. Luckily, I’m not really in a financial place right now to be buying a new pair of pants, and my wardrobe doesn’t need to follow a one-out-one-in rule of rotation. I don’t actually have to replace my blue jeans with anything, and that realization is empowering. I’m not obligated to fill a spot in my closet; I’m free to save my money and eventually buy another garment just for the sheer joy of it. In my opinion, that’s how you achieve a truly mindful wardrobe.
I’m interested to know if you have a similar item or items in your wardrobe – something that you feel like you’re supposed to own for Reason X, but that you never really liked that much even though you continue to wear it. Why do you have it? Why do you still wear it? And what would happen if you just got rid of it? Comment below and let’s get this discussion going!
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