A Denim Expert Reveals Why You Only Need 3 Pairs of Jeans
I paid for part of my college education and for the down payment on my house with the money I made buying and selling jeans. In my lifetime, I have bought and sold, conservatively, 11,000 pairs of Levis.
When people discover my side business as a denim trader, the first question they always ask is, "How many pairs of jeans do you own?" They are always shocked by my answer.
I own three pairs of jeans.
A poll by ShopSmart, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, revealed that 25% of American women own 10 or more pairs of jeans. The average American woman owns seven pairs of jeans. However, most women only wear four pairs out of their jeans collection on a regular basis. So, even if I weren't an expert on vintage denim, I'd still be considered an outlier, a jeans minimalist.
If you are a coal miner, then yes, you possibly need more than three pairs of jeans, depending on your laundry schedule. But for most office workers, three pairs of jeans are all that is really needed to look tidy and well dressed.
The three pairs of jeans that I own are: the pair I bought this year, the pair I bought last year, and the pair I bought the year before last year. Here are my actual jeans. (Not a denim re-enactment!)
Let's learn a little more about each pair.
This Year's Jeans
The jeans I bought this year are my dressy jeans. I wear This Year's Jeans to business meetings in creative environments where the dress code is suitably casual. These are also the jeans I wear to dinner or to nighttime events, paired with a nice blouse and dress shoes. These jeans are not play clothes. Just like my suit, these jeans are part of my work wardrobe, so I do everything I can to preserve the pristine quality of these jeans for as long as possible.
After a year of office and dinner wear and tear, This Year's Jeans are usually too worn to wear to business meetings, even on Casual Fridays. At this point, This Year's Jeans become Last Year's Jeans.
Last Year's Jeans
Last Year's Jeans are my play clothes. They are the jeans I change into when I come home from work and change out of my dressy jeans. Last Year's Jeans are the pants I wear to school, to brunch with friends, and to run errands.
After another year of wearing, Last Year's Jeans become The Year Before Last Year's Jeans.
The Year Before Last Year's Jeans
The Year Before Last Year's Jeans are my grubby jeans. These are the jeans I wear while beekeeping, painting, or cleaning the house. While the fading, tool marks, and repairs on these jeans might make them more charming to fashionistas, I generally don't wear these jeans out of the house. Why? Because even if they are my gardening pants, I need these jeans to hold on for another full year of wear before they are sold to a denim collector on eBay or repurposed as a craft supply.
By rotating my jeans on this three-year schedule, I ensure that I always have a pair of jeans that are Like New looking for work, but at the same time have a rugged pair of pants that I can hike in. This jeans-buying schedule also means that I can reduce my wardrobe budget, as I only have to purchase one new pair of jeans per year. Additionally, I only have to have enough room in my closet for three pairs of jeans.
How to Buy a Pair of Jeans
Now, the reason that most women own so many pairs of rarely-worn jeans is that it's much harder to find flattering pants than to buy a flattering skirt. Holding out for perfect fitting jeans does not make you shallow. Even the most anti-fashion guy will spend hours looking for that pair of jeans that make him look thinner and taller. Once you find a pair of jeans that fit, stick with that style. No one will notice if you aren't wearing up-to-date jeans or luxury denim if your butt looks amazing. If you notice, all three pairs of my jeans are the exact same size and style. By keeping my jeans' style consistent, I save time and money, because I don't have to go on a denim safari every year. Instead, I can buy my jeans online when they go on sale.
Are you a wardrobe minimalist or maximalist? How many jeans do you own and how many pairs do you actually wear? What's your best wardrobe hack?
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