With his glasses and bow ties and the camera-ready professorial air, Will has always struck us as an amusing charlatan. His tendentious columns strive for the Olympian but mostly read as if they’d been hastily slapped together with the help of a research assistant, or three. His long-running shtick---and we’d assume it’s been a fairly lucrative one---is that he is much, much smarter than you, and much too busy grappling with the serious issues to sample the grungy pleasures of our quotidian age. He fancies himself the Burke, or maybe the Chesterton, for our times, and he well may be, although this speaks more to the attenuation of the times than his particular skill set. Every time we see him on TV chatting it up about his love of baseball---it’s the thinkin’ man’s sport!---the thought invariably crosses our mind: George Will probably throws like a girl.* We know we're not alone in this thought.
Will’s screed against “denim” finds him assuming the role of le provocateur, cut-rate Tom Wolfe division, which is not a snug fit. He approvingly quotes from a recent Wall Street Journal piece by somebody named Daniel Akst decrying the the “plague of that ubiquitous fabric, which is symptomatic of deep disorders in the national psyche.”
It is, [Akst] says, a manifestation of "the modern trend toward undifferentiated dressing, in which we all strive to look equally shabby." Denim reflects "our most nostalgic and destructive agrarian longings -- the ones that prompted all those exurban McMansions now sliding off their manicured lawns and into foreclosure." Jeans come prewashed and acid-treated to make them look like what they are not -- authentic work clothes for horny-handed sons of toil and the soil. Denim on the bourgeoisie is, Akst says, the wardrobe equivalent of driving a Hummer to a Whole Foods store -- discordant.That’s certainly the clearest explanation we’ve seen of the current economic malaise.
We found our self taking this much too personally, because we own perhaps too many pairs of jeans and wear them whenever possible, not out of some dopey nostalgie de la boue** but because they’re affordable (a pair of Wranglers can be had for less than $20 at Wal-Mart, at least the last time we looked), low-maintenance (run ‘em trough the cold-water cycle, hang 'em on the line and they’re ready to go again), durable (last for years) and---a most important consideration for us AARP members---comfortable (we really like the way our little pot belly pooches out over the waist).
Will’s column brought to mind a piece we saw last week on 60 Minutes that featured Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, who’s worked with the Defense Department to create a new prosthetic arm for wounded vets. We don’t think we’ve ever seen Kamen in anything but denim (in this video he's wearing not only a worn pair of jeans but a denim work shirt). The heart-warming 60 Minutes report portrayed Kamen as the embodiment of American generosity and ingenuity, but after hearing from George Will we realize our mistake in judgment and must conclude that Kamen is just another fraud, one of those who wears “the carefully calculated costume of people eager to communicate indifference to appearances. But the appearances that people choose to present in public are cues from which we make inferences about their maturity and respect for those to whom they are presenting themselves.”
*And by this we mean no disrespect to the many girls who do not throw like girls and could most likely whip our ass, if they could catch us.
**Elvis, who in his later years favored tight jumpsuits adorned with shiny stuff, long predated George Will in disdaining the wearing of jeans, which from his perspective as a rural Southerner he associated with the attire of the "field hand." But that's OK, because Elvis was a real person.