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Blue jeans and their critics

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Ed Quillen | Apr 21, 2009 10:15 AM

Doubtless you've heard of George Will, a prominent member of the chattering class. He wears a bow tie. And now this fop, with prominent sartorial affectations of his own, presumes to give us fashion advice. 

In a recent syndicated  column, Will rants against blue jeans, also known as "Western wear."
Will borrows many of his critiques from a Daniel Akst, who earlier wrote in the Wall Street Journal that denim is "hot, uncomfortable and uniquely unsuited to people who spend most of their waking hours pushing keys instead of cows."
Well, pushing keys is how I spend most of my working hours, and I wonder. Has Daniel Akst ever had to crawl down on the floor to find an errant computer cable? Had a sharp-clawed cat jump on his lap while he was trying to work? Had to venture down into a dusty cellar to find the file from something he wrote years ago?
Perhaps Akst has flunkies to handle such chores, but most of us don't. As for George Will, he doesn't like it that parents and kids wear the same outfits: T-shirts, running shoes, blue jeans. Somehow he forgot to mention the ball cap in his condemnation of normal American attire.
Will seems to see blue jeans as a threat to the Republic because jeans are juvenile attire, and grown-ups should put away childish things.
But mostly it seems to bother him that most of us, instead of aspiring to mimic our betters (i.e., pin-striped investment bankers whining about how tough it is to get by on only $500,000 a year), instead wear pants that are affordable, durable and comfortable.
"It is silly," he writes, "for Americans whose closest approximentation of physical labor consists of loading their bags of clubs into golf carts to go around in public dressed for driving steers up the Chisholm Trail to the railhead in Abilene."
In other words, jeans seem to make for a more egalitarian society. Will obviously prefers hierarchies, where we can easily tell who's wealthy and deserving of respect because those folks aren't in blue jeans.
Perhaps this plays well in some parts of the country, but not our part -- we Coloradans did, after all, elect Ken Salazar to the U.S. Senate despite his broad-brimmed hat and bolo tie. And I have with my own eyes seen every Colorado governor in the past 35 years dressed in blue jeans.
Will's effete Eastern attitude might explain a 37-year-old political mystery. Back then, he was an assistant to Gordon Allott, a three-term Republican senator from Colorado.
Allott sought re-election in 1972. That was a strong year for Republicans in Colorado; in the presidential contest, Richard Nixon carried the state easily with 63 percent of the vote.
But Allott was defeated in his bid for a fourth senate term by Floyd Haskell, a state legislator who had never sought statewide office. It was a major upset.
How did Haskell pull that off? Perhaps it was this simple: Allott foolishly allowed one of his aides, namely George Will, to wander around Colorado speaking for the senator, and Will told us what he thought about how we dressed. And we, in turn, voted Gordon Allott out of office, on account of George Will.

Blanco Weeks
Blanco Weeks Subscriber
Feb 16, 2012 01:18 PM
Will = insular, ignorant

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