Sunday, February 18, 2018

Raw denim - a 13 month update, and some thoughts on jeans

A few years ago in college, one of my friends fell down the rabbit hole of r/malefashionadvice and took it upon himself to start dressing well. There was a period of time when he texted me and two others in our group every single time he bought something -- raw denim, cordovan boots, leather belt, weird thrifted sweatshirt with a painting of a dog screenprinted on it...

My jeans thing we gave him particular shit about was his obsession with raw denim. Selvedge. Vocabulary words that I still don't completely understand or care to understand at this point. He babied his jeans, cared about each crease and fade, wore them every single day, soaked them in the bathtub. I didn't get it. I still don't really get it.

My tumble down the rabbit hole of raw denim was gradual over the years, and it was only 13 months ago that I bought a pair -- a less expensive pair, from Uniqlo. My two older Uniqlo jeans were stretchy and getting uncomfortably skinny, and I wanted the option of layering tights or leggings underneath them if it got that cold. So I got a new pair of jeans -- men's raw denim -- in size 29. That's another thing: I needed to accept that my body has changed since I was 19. I wanted a looser fit and that's what I bought.

I retired the two old pairs (of three - the other I wear in spring and autumn) and wore my new selvedge jeans damn near every day for the rest of the winter. And then I did it again this winter. They were stiff the first winter, rubbed indigo everywhere (I paid more attention to where I sat and leaned), and I actually think I should have sized down. I had too much fabric around my waist, and it sat weird under a belt. I really thought about getting them tailored.

Not really qualified to say what combo of soaking, washing, etc is the best. But I'm not dead set on having Reddit-worthy fades, so I wash my jeans regularly now. Then I made the stupid, stupid mistake of putting them through the dryer. This shrank them down to be more of a slim instead of a relaxed fit, but it fixed the waist issue. Now they fit like women's size 26 or 27. I'm glad I sized up when I did.

I liked not having to decide what kind of pants to wear every day. Unexpectedly, I got compliments on my style, that it was cohesive for so consistently featuring "dark blue or black" jeans. I don't own black jeans, but my winter ones are dark blue indeed.

So, that's where I am. I kind of wish I had taken more pictures with them over the past year. But, in the end, they're just jeans.


My own story of jeans began with something from Marshall's or Ross in middle school, then three <$10 pairs from Forever 21, then two pairs from Uniqlo in college, a thrifted pair, to present day. My preferred fit is mid-to-high rise, slim or straight leg, true or dark blue. I have to be able to squat and deadlift with full range of motion in them. Must look good cuffed or uncuffed. Nondescript. Absolutely no obvious branding. And for now, the search is over. I had a pretty bad relationship with jeans and body image as a youth, and I'm better at keeping it at bay. I think I'm in a good place now.

Friday, January 12, 2018

A review of my 2017 clothing purchases

Left: my jeans | Right: a crazy Monstera deliciosa trying its best to survive in the hospital

As always, to keep myself accountable. I don't like doing too many clothing or consumption related posts in a row, but my updates in general have been pretty sparse.

Call it what you will, I'm trying to have a more intentional and critical approach to my wardrobe. Shopping as an activity to do out and about is loathsome to me, but that doesn't capture how much time I burn thinking about clothes, researching them, looking at them on the internet, or even going into a store and trying things on without buying anything. With that in mind, I'm listing my purchases and acquisitions in chronological order, +/- $5.

January to March
  1. Uniqlo men's selvedge denim jeans - $50 - my winter jeans. I will write a long post about just these jeans sometime soon
  2. Uniqlo dress - $20 - a really good purchase. I love this dress and wear it as often as I can. It looks professional and suits my body shape
April to June
  1. School group tank tops (2) - $28 - unfortunately, I didn't have a choice in buying these or not. One was to wear to Boston Pride, the other was because I was a hiking group leader for the first year orientation hike. I bought the first one by choice, second one because I felt like I had to. I need to be more vigilant, but these serve me fine at the gym
  2. Uniqlo linen sleeveless shirt - $20 - so important in the muggy humidity of an East Coast summer
  3. Uniqlo mock turtleneck shirt - $5.90 - my replacement for the Red Polo of my youth. I like the cut of this shirt a lot, but noticed that the color has faded. Additionally, I find that Uniqlo tops are sometimes just too short for me
  4. Scrubs (3 pairs) - free - a very, very kind chief resident in orthopedic surgery gave me three pairs of scrubs (exchanged for new from the hospital scrub machine) when I told her my scrubs were from Goodwill, and that students don't get scrub cards. She was such a darling, and absolutely radiated warmth and authority both. She taught me a lot and I am so grateful to have found a female role model, if only for the summer.
July to September
  1. Mizuno running shoes - $60 - my old pair had a hole, which I discovered after my sock got soaked with blood in the OR
  2. Maggy London black silk dress - secondhand - $45 - 100% an impulse purchase off of Poshmark. It's a gorgeous dress that I would wear to any evening occasion, though it's a bit too big. My first foray into the online secondhand market
October to December
  1. Volunteering event t-shirt - free - I didn't have a choice here
  2. L.L. Bean flannel - $30 - not as stoked about the black Stewart colorway, and I also think this one fits boxier than the same flannel I got last year. This was purchased on steep discount
  3. Old Navy pixie pants - $18 - for my growing professional wardrobe. Bought on Black Friday
  4. Old Navy underwear (4) - $20 - also bought on Black Friday. Not a huge fan of them, and I wouldn't have bought them had I known my mother would force me to get red underwear for my zodiac year (my other Chinese-American friends warned me, I didn't listen)
  5. Uniqlo heat tech thermal - free - Uniqlo had a code for a free thermal and I absolutely got it on impulse because it is so fucking cold in Boston - at the time of writing, it is 10*F
  6. Calvin Klein underwear (5) - free - a 23rd birthday gift from my mother, per Chinese tradition. It's the year of the Dog next year so naturally I must have plenty of red underwear to ward off bad luck

Total amount spent on clothing in 2017 - $296.90
Total number of items purchased in 2017 - 27

Excluding the scrubs and underwear, that number comes to 12 items purchased in 2017, which I am quite happy with. I'm still in the process of building a professional wardrobe in time for third year rotations, and I'm still in the process of building a casual wardrobe fit for a young woman. Where I see a "lack" is definitely in the professional clothes category, to which I hope to add at least two more blouses and another pair of trousers, as well as a pair of black ankle boots that I still haven't bought.

Overall, I don't know if I'm any closer to developing a coherent personal style or not. Lots of Uniqlo here, but I think I've realized I'm not so suited to Uniqlo anymore.