Denimheads blindly devoted to cause of individuality, purity


Author: Ben Tuthill

The time had come.

It was winter break. I had five weeks of nothing to do in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, and I was ready to commit myself wholeheartedly to the denimhead lifestyle. For one entire month I would wear the same pair of jeans every single day. I was willing to sacrifice everything: family, friends, reputation, comfort. If I could just get a good wallet fade by the end of the month it would all be worth it.

I started during finals week, here in Los Angeles. The first step was picking out the jeans. I opted for a pair of Made-In-USA raw selvedge Levi’s 511s. Like I’ve said, I’m mindlessly loyal to Levi’s. I’ve been wearing the 511 cut for almost my entire life, and I would feel weird wearing anything else. Also, I got them from work, and they were free.

Step two was putting them on. The first time wearing raw jeans is an experience in itself. It’s probably one of the least comfortable things a person can do. They’re stiff, they’re tight, they’re hard to put on and they’re almost impossible to take off. I got a cramp getting out of the left leg and had to sit down for a minute before moving on to the right.

Step three was getting used to the smell. I’ve asked a few people about this and have never received a definitive answer, but something about indigo and the air in Southern California makes raw denim smell like cat urine.

The first time I wore my new jeans out, the girl I was sitting next to asked me if I had urinary-incontinence issues. The comment was upsetting, but I was committed to my mission and soldiered on.

Luckily, my patience was finally rewarded. Upon landing in Minnesota, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the smell was gone. This kind of thing happens a lot for me in Minnesota: I get less blisters from running, I’m better at crossword puzzles, I can drink more milk without getting sick.

The lack of smell was no different; the effect was almost immediate. I took it as a sign from God that I was pre-ordained to join the Twin Cities denimhead community.

The task of integrating into denimhead culture proved to be more difficult than I’d anticipated. After a few days, I could already feel my jeans starting to break in, but I wasn’t noticing any immediate signs of wear.

About one week in, I started to get bored. I was not used to waking up with nothing to agonize about. What was I supposed to think about in the shower? My future? Breakfast? I started to despair, but then on day eight I looked at my jeans and saw the faintest hint of my first whisker. What a rush.

I wore them out that day nearly bursting with unrelenting pride. Every time I saw what I assumed to be a fellow denimhead I would nod at him and flash my selvedge seam. For a second I’d think that he’d notice and turn to invite me to a jarty, but I never got so much as a head nod. Oh well. In due time.

Due time did not come. I had full-on honeycomb creasing on the back of both knees by week number three, but the only person who seemed to care was my mother.

“You used to dress so nicely,” she said to me nearly every night at dinner. “I told everyone that you were Mr. Fashion, but now look at you, wearing jeans and that same dirty sweatshirt every day.” You’re wearing prewashed bootcut jeans with lame pocket stitching; shut up, Ma!

My friends didn’t notice either. I got invited to a few parties, but everyone there was wearing khakis and corduroys. I felt isolated and lonely.

Four weeks had passed. My jeans were starting to conform to my body and getting to be comfortable, but I still didn’t have a wallet fade.

In need of some support I went to visit Black Blue, the favorite Twin Cities boutique of Bon Iver and home of Satchel Moore, the local expert on all things denim. I shook hands with Satchel and told him that I was working on breaking in a new pair of jeans. He didn’t seem too impressed. “Levi’s,” he said. “Very cool.” Then he proceeded to show me his $500 custom Raleighs with selvedge pockets that he’d been wearing for the past fifteen months. I left the shop with my head hung in shame.

That night I decided to go all out. I’d read that true denimheads commit so hard to their jeans that they literally sleep in them, staining their sheets blue with indigo dye. A small price to pay for full immersion into denimhead culture. “This is worth it,” I said to myself and dove into bed completely clothed. I woke up the next morning in excruciating pain localized around a very sensitive spot and could barely walk for three days straight.

I’d had enough. This was stupid. Denimheads are morons. I threw my jeans into my suitcase and wore chinos for the rest of the break. I couldn’t do it. I had failed.

I could never be a denimhead. I see it, I get it, I support it. I’ve seen the way that people like Mike and Satchel and my insane friend whose only does his laundry on the shores of Lake Tahoe look when they talk about their jeans.

I’ve tried on the faded-out, battle-scarred pair of 501s that my housemate bought from a thrift store. It’s beautiful, it’s inspirational, it’s America. But it isn’t me. I’m just not cut from the same un-sanforized cloth.

Looking over my jeans now though, I do see the beginnings of a totally sick wallet fade.


(part 3 of 3)

Ben Tuthill is a senior English & Comparative Literary Studies major. He can be reached at

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