Mad For Mud

PRPS Barracuda jeans

Unless you live in a cave that nature miraculously made free of dirt, you’d know that the dirtier the jeans, the more desirable they are. Despite the scarcity of cave dwellers, people are still amazed that dirty-looking—and actually dirty—jeans are available to buy. And expensive to boot.

Nordstrom, the American department store that dropped Ivanka Trump’s fashion line, was thrown into the filthy path of Twitter ridicule yesterday when shoppers spotted a pair of USD450 muddy ‘Barracuda’ jeans at shop.nordstrom.com and could not believe what they saw, particularly the accompanying price tag. A Twitter storm broke out (although the jeans have been on sale for quite a while), with one Tweet describing the five-pocket “perfect jeans for men who work corporate office jobs but still haven’t given up on their dreams of being a cowboy”.

Even news channels weighed in, with CNN declaring “dirty denim is the new black” and The Washington Post stating that “a few people with jobs that involve getting ‘down and dirty’ are pretty miffed”. They’re even joining the fun across the Atlantic, with the BBC informing us that Nordstrom was “castigated” for peddling those “mud-coated jeans”.

But making what we wear look like they have survived BMT field camp during the rainy season is not really new. Back in 2014, Adidas tried something dirty when they released a pair of sneakers—the ZX 750—with Japanese graphic/fashion designer Kazuki Kuraishi (under the label KZK ZX 750 RG 84-Lab) simply called “Mud”.

Adidas ZX 750 MudTo make the soiling really obvious, Adidas had the effect created on an all-white ZX 750. While no wet earthy matter was used, the effect was rather realistic and jokey enough that, for many sneakerheads, justified the asking price of USD175. Here is a pair of shoes you would not wear into anybody’s house without incurring the displeasure of the host. But those who bought a pair consider the sneakers a terrific joke. Let them think you’ve been running through a Kranji farm when, in fact, you have been cruising on your moped.

The humour and the tease are terrific—fashion is not always a lover of wit (and you didn’t think the Japanese have a funny side). But on the Barracuda jeans, by the New York denim label PRPS—founded by former Nike designer Donwan Harrell, the muddy stains seem too serious, too desirous to mimic what Nordstrom calls “Americana workwear that’s seen some hard-working action”. If you check PRPS’s offerings, they’ve made dirty and immensely soiled jeans a signature, closely reflecting their marketing tag “Bruised, Never Broken”—torn is equally favoured as muddy.

That Nordstrom got the flak rather than PRPS is a reflection of social media’s disposition for knee-jerk reactions: I see; I can’t stand it; I shoot. The Adidas ZX 750 ‘Mud’ did not get such a reception. In fact, by most reports, the soil-stuck soles were a hit and were sold out in no time. The Barracuda was criticised because most see it as an insincere attempt at replicating worn, bespattered clothes the result of much toil and grime for wealthy consumers who have never had to slog and be dirtied their entire life. This is clean, manufactured muck. Both sneaker and jeans are not coated with real mud; they’re all bluff.

Photos: Nordstrom and Adidas respectively

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