Blue Jeans, Robert Hall & Torture

I am baffled and awed by anyone who likes to go to the store and try on clothes. To say I’d rather run headlong into a brick wall is only a slight exaggeration. 

When I was a boy I would volunteer to mow the lawn (twice!) and clean every room in the house (including my sisters!) to avoid going to the store to try on clothes.

When I was a boy my mother would take me to Robert Hall’s to buy clothes. Robert Hall Clothes was a reasonably priced and very popular chain of clothing stores that operated from 1937 to 1977. Taking children to Robert Hall’s was also a widely accepted form of child abuse in those days.  Very popular among parents who liked to torture their children by bringing them into what were essentially large cafeterias with racks of clothes as far as the eye could see, parents who enjoyed wiping spittle from their mouths before looking at their young and saying, “And you will try on everything.”

Without question, the worst of all articles of clothing to try on were, and still are, blue jeans. Yes, I love jeans. Why? They virtually last forever because, in case you haven’t noticed, they are made from a combination of cotton and steel.  Most importantly, their durability reduces the number of times I have to go to the store to try the damn things on.

When I was a boy jeans were so hard and durable law enforcement agencies across the country were forever tracking down and arresting builders and contractors who robbed them by the thousands from large clothing stores (when they weren’t hijacking trucks loaded with them). The stolen jeans were used in place of more fragile materials like wood two-by-fours to frame the walls of the houses. I can’t be the only one to notice older houses are a lot more durable and last a helluva lot longer than the newer ones.

Today, jeans are only a tad softer when new. Many have  labels claiming they’ve been pre-washed (a rare admission on the part of big business that there was a problem in the first place). Does the so-called pre-wash make them softer? Somewhat. When I was a boy it was a well-known fact each and every pair of jeans  had to be washed 642 times on average before they’d soften enough so you could bend your knees when you wore them.  A recent study by an independent consumer group, Keep Our Cotton Soft out of Spunky Puddle, Ohio, reveals that today’s jeans are  softer; they only need to be washed 347 times on average before they are soft enough to  bend your knees.

I am writing about all this because today, or maybe tomorrow, I am going to the store to buy jeans which means, God help me, I’ll have to try them on. A friend of mine who knows I am on a mercilessly tight budget was kind enough to send me some money and so, given that colder weather is just around the corner, I am going to buy  two or three pair of jeans.  I figure if I start washing them right away, and wash them daily, I’ll be able to bend my knees by the time winter arrives. One can only hope.


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