Jeans are a staple of modern fashion, and there are hundreds of major brands that produce them. Without even entering into the dizzying world of women’s jeans, the much less varied landscape of men’s fashion offers hundreds of different styles. Boot cuts, straight cuts, lowriders, acid washed, raw, pre-shredded, the list goes on and on. “Jean shopping” is an art in itself, and good jean shoppers know their brands and styles like sommeliers know their grapes and regions.
All this amounts to a tremendous amount of wasted money, time, and effort, not to mention a lot of unhappiness. As Barry Goldwater describes in his brilliant book The Paradox of Choice, the overwhelming number of varieties leaves us destined for perpetual dissatisfaction with our chosen style of jean, because we will always believe that there is a better choice out there.
I am wearing Levi 501s right now, the ultimate classic. They are a formless, slightly baggy affair, going straight down my leg and rolled up at the bottom so that I don’t step on them in my running shoes. I have to cinch them with a belt now, because I’ve gotten a bit skinnier since the trip started. They are practical, but by no means fashionable.
Most importantly, they are the only jeans I have right now. Over the course of the last year, I have systematically reduced my wardrobe. I used to have a closet that gave fashion obsessed college girls a run for their money. I now have drybag filled with wrinkled base-layers, a jacket, a shell, and the 501s. This departure in jean style, I will sheepishly admit, was a stress point for me at the beginning of this trip. How would I stylishly walk down the streets of Munich or Belgrade or Istanbul with such drab and formless jeans? Packing for this trip required a reassessment of my vanity.
I guess I don’t walk down the streets quite so stylishly, but the net impact on my life so far has been zero. Actually, it’s been quite positive, as I do less laundry, have less weight to carry, and am freed from the social requirements applied to everyone else with a full wardrobe. Most importantly, my mind has more time to think about things that actually matter.
Since my jeans don’t matter, I’m going to take a huge leap of faith and say that the other 90 percent of my wardrobe doesn’t really either. If my wardrobe doesn’t matter, well… I’ll let you make your own list of the totally unneccessary crap that is probably surrounding you right now.
The amount of stuff we have slows us down. The enormous sacrifices make for slightly nicer cars, fancy espresso machines, and wardrobes prevent us from focusing on more pressing and pertinent issues. For every minute and dollar we spend on all this stuff, we have less freedom to chase our dreams.
But the joys of minimalism are difficult to prove: they must be experienced. What makes them difficult to experience is that one has to get over the barrier of parting with all the stuff that you’ve already become so attached to, that you may even think you depend on. Becoming a minimalist requires a major reforming of habits.
So, start slow, see if it’s for you. Hide all your jeans somewhere, except for one pair. If you do it right, it should be a pair you don’t particularly like, and your other clothing should be somewhere inaccessible, like your ex-girlfriend’s house. Wear only those jeans. It’ll suck at first, especially the first date you wear them to, or the first time you get invited out to a club. But I can near guarantee that after a week or two you just won’t care anymore. Awesome. One less thing.