It is what it is: Frayed around the edges

Who knew I was so stylish?


Here I’ve been thinking that my shirts and pants with the frayed cuffs and collars were just wearing out. But as it turns out, I’m in the height of fashion. Apparently, people are paying a lot of money to have their brand-new garments “distressed,” using techniques that involve sandpaper and even blowtorches.

At the risk of sounding like my father, what on earth would want to do that for?

I grew up in the 1980s, and I remember my dad saying the same thing when acid-washed jeans were all the rage (“totally awesome” is what we called it back then). That was usually followed by some grumbling about paying for something that was already worn out — and me going to school in crisp, dark blue jeans.

In fact, I think the only one of my siblings who got to wear the “worn-out” look was my little brother — and that’s just because he got hand-me-downs from three other kids.

I remember doing my best to get those jeans to look a little worn out. Boy Scout camping trips were especially helpful as they provided an opportunity to use a variety of blades — from pocket knives to axes — as well as flammable substances. It seems like every member of the troop was able to get his hands on a disposable lighter for, you know, “emergency wilderness survival” situations.

My current wardrobe, however, has not been deliberately distressed. It just gets worn out, and when I shop for clothes, I find myself thinking, “I used to be able to get three shirts for that price!” — another thing I think I used to hear my dad say.

The irony is that, these days, I much prefer to wear new, unfrayed clothes. Even if I’m just doing chores around the house, I don’t like to wear ripped old jeans — nice and faded, yes, but with holes in them, no thanks.

Maybe it’s time to clean out my closet, but instead of donating old clothes to charity, I should sell them on eBay. Heck, I’ve even got a drawer full of “vintage” T-shirts I could throw in — though most of those are in “like-new” condition. It seems you get to a certain point in life, and you just don’t wear T-shirts that much, but you still keep acquiring them. I think I’ve got one from the first or second Run for the River, back when the race and Kenai River Festival were in Kenai. Any takers?

I suppose I’ve been fortunate that my own kids haven’t gotten into the distressed look themselves; rolling out of bed in the morning is distress enough. My daughter’s preferred ensemble is a hoodie and skinny jeans which, so far, do not include rips. My son goes with a T-shirt, preferably featuring a comic book logo, paired with athletic shorts, regardless of the time of year. When an occasion calls for ratty old clothes, he tends to “borrow” mine. In fact, he recently spent an afternoon clearing brush in a pair of pants that i regularly wear to the office — I guess they were frayed enough that he must’ve figured they were fair game. That situation has turned out to be OK, though, because it means I get a new, unripped pair of pants when the old ones don’t return.

I’m thinking maybe I should take those garment-distressing skills learned around the campfire and put them to use by starting my own business. Of all the life skills learned through scouting, who knew that one could be so valuable?

And with the prices people are willing to pay for new clothes that look used, I could get all the new clothes that look new that my heart desires.

Reach Clarion editor Will Morrow at


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