This originally appeared September 4, 2013 on KQEDPop.
Sometimes I decide that I’m too busy to go shopping for new pants and I order them online. Recently, I went to the Levi’s website and ordered a pair of 501 Shrink-to-Fit jeans without looking into what they actually are. I think I thought they were just regular jeans. But when the jeans arrived, they were cumbersome, heavy, had kind of an odd, sour smell to them, and were unusually attractive to dust and animal hair—they kind of turn you into a Sasquatch. The ones I ordered fit weird for my size—they bag at the bottom in a way that reminds me of the kind of dudes you knew in college who wanted you to think they were more working-class than they really were. Like they wanted to give you the impression they were working on the docks all day rather than reading Bukowski in the quad. I guess I’m trying to say they fit like Dickies. (You could also argue that I, in fronting like I had no time for shopping at the mall and had to order my jeans without trying them on, was the same kind of phony.)
I didn’t realize what I had gotten myself into until I was reading Marc Maron’s book, Attempting Normal, in which the comedian recounts a recent experience with the Shrink-to-Fits. A Levi’s clerk with a mustache sells Maron the jeans, but explains they must be treated a very specific way:
“You put the pants on and you get into a bathtub with them. Then you get out of the bathtub and you towel off and then you wear them around, wet, for as long as it takes them to dry. That way they are perfectly contoured to your body.”
“Secretly obsessed with the idea of perfect pants,” Maron goes home and gets in the tub with the jeans on, but then decides he’s been had, comparing himself to a clown being dunked at a carnival.
I looked up the jeans and the Levi’s company has slightly different instructions for the proper care of these jeans:
(I love everything about the illustration in step 4, but it is the cavalier flip of the hand with which our hero dismisses his retro-babe girlfriend’s suggestion she wash his clothes that makes it for me, I think. “Sorry, babe…someone challenged me to a game of chicken down by the old saw mill, so I have more important things to deal with.”)
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