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$280 jeans: Would the cat know the difference?

Oh, the shame: To be an ordinary mass market person when those who are in and cool and hip are premium brand people.

I know, of course, when I'm buying my sedate, conformist Chevrolet Impala, there's somebody somewhere springing for a $300,000 Ferrari. Or when I'm flying steerage to a conference in Podunk, USA, others are boarding their private jets for a New York theater/shopping weekend or sun/fun in the Bahamas.

I accept that there is a vast gulf between me and my plebian choices and those to whom style and image are prime considerations, hang the cost.

But, thanks to an article by Guy Trebay in The New York Times, I learn of another area where I'm Dr Pepper to someone else's Champagne: denims. That's right, jeans.

When I'm shopping at Wal-Mart for Levi's and Wrangler, and paying the $20 or less that the majority of jeans in the U.S. sell for, the fashion mavens are plunking down $75 to $250 or more for “premium” jeans with names like Rogan, Seven for All Mankind, Miss Sixty, Diesel, Chip and Pepper, Paper Denim & Cloth, G-Star, Citizens of Humanity, Notify, Blue Guru, Saddlelites, and on and on.

Although these premium brands account for only about 3 percent of the $11 billion overall jeans market, the article says, “It is worth noting that the category itself barely existed just a few years back.”

Claire Dupuis, a trend forecaster for Cotton Incorporated, is quoted: “It's not just in New York; it's everywhere now. I was recently in… Charleston, S.C., and they were blowing out (these jeans)….” And, Ms. Dupuis notes, “Three percent of $11 billion is fairly substantial.”

Indeed. Even we un-hip, mathematically-challenged dolts can grasp that.

Pity the Princeton University senior, who laments, “Friends make fun of me for paying $150 for jeans.” But, he rationalizes, “If you wear them all the time and only have a few pairs, it's really worth it.”

A large part of the allure of premium jeans, the article says, “seems to be their cult appeal — it is the rare pair that comes without an instruction manual.” For a $240 pair of Rogan jeans, the owner's manual advises, “This denim is designed to age quicker, so take care in wear and do not hesitate to repair.”

Hmmm. The under-$20 jeans I get at Wally World (sans instruction manual) also age pretty quickly, and when they start getting holey, I relegate them to lawn mowing and other around-the-house chores. After they're finally too-tattered, I toss 'em in the corner of the garage for a bed for the worthless cat (she doubtless would show more gratitude were they $240 jeans).

I could, I suppose, put my name on the waiting list (!) for several $280 per Saddlelite jeans, marketed by two 20-year-old Californians who make their denim “from cotton that is woven on antique Japanese looms and sewn in limited lots….”

They're sold “only to the very best stores.” And, says one of the owners, “I've always been fond of the things that seem more limited — that are not available for everyone.”

Which, I guess, puts us mass market people in our place.

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