Whenever I buy a pair of jeans, I am still shocked at how comfortable they feel and how well they fit -- the first time I try them on! Buying jeans has not always been this easy. I still remember the days when jeans were not prewashed.
When I was young, breaking in a new pair of jeans took a whole day. My friend Outdoor Girl and I used to buy jeans at the same time so that we could go through the process together. And Outdoor Girl took this kind of things very seriously.
First, we would go to the little store on the main street of TrainTrack Village to buy the jeans. The store was owned four very old people who were related in some way, although I never did figure out how. Because so many men in town at that time worked on the railroad, the store was filled with workboots, bandanas, wool socks, leather work gloves, and stiff men's jeans. Jeans were not sold at fashionable boutiques. Jeans were what working men wore.
The jeans were not pre-washed. They were stiff, as stiff as the canvas on a suitcase. Outdoor Girl and I always insisted on trying them on, much to the dismay of the Very Old Woman, who would shuffle us back to the storeroom, where we could stand amidst all the boxes of workboots and pull these stiff pants on. We would be very serious and polite to the Very Old Woman, but as soon as she left the room, giving one last glare, we would both start giggling. Even in the dim lit of the one hanging light bulb, the jeans looked ridiculous - way too big, and stiff enough to be able to stand on their own. They were men's jeans, not made for the bodies of teen-age girls. Always, we would have to cuff them up before attempting to even walk.
Once we had purchased the jeans, carefully handing over the wrinkled bills our parents had given us, Outdoor Girl would outline her plan for breaking them in. The first rule, of course, was that we had to keep them on all day. The second rule was to see how many times we could get them wet and let them dry, shrinking the cotton until it fit our bodies.
Swimming in a pond was always our first choice. How heavy new jeans feel when they are soaking wet! We'd roll around on the ground to get them dirty, then jump back into the pond. Sometimes we would volunteer to wash a family car, spraying the hose on each other. Always, and this was important, we let the jeans dry while still on our body. Outdoor Girl had this theory that we had to move around a lot, so often we would blare a radio and dance -- yes, to seventies music because this was the seventies. Sometimes we went horseback riding. Sometimes we would find a playground and go on swings. Our wet jeans would stick stubbornly as we tried to go down the hot metal slide. Outdoor Girl came up with all kinds of ideas and I always played along. Breaking in jeans was great fun.
At the end of the day, when we finally stripped off the jeans, ready now to toss them into the hamper so they would be washed, our lower bodies would be dyed blue, a streaky navy blue that looked especially funny on Outdoor Girl because she has very white skin. But our work would be done. The jeans would be ready to wear: softer, more comfortable, and fitted to our bodies. Buying prewashed jeans is just not the same.