Straight Up with Sherri

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Another GREAT Piece by One of My Heroes!


I had my 43rd birthday last week and it's official: I have turned into my father.

The world makes less sense to me every day. My fellow man puzzles me more every day.

I cite exhibit A: crappy stone walls. I know a woman who recently paid $10,000 to have a stone retaining wall built along her driveway.

Now I used to be a stonemason -- I rebuilt close to 200 such walls during my college years -- and I was shocked to learn that hers was a NEW wall. It was buckling and full of gaps. Not one stone was properly cut or faced.

It’s the latest craze, she told me -- walls that have an old, authentic look. This is because people suddenly want the outside of their homes to look as “distressed” as the inside.

“Distressed furniture” is the latest trend in interior design. People are buying brand new tables and dressers, bringing them into their garages, kicking and scratching them, then covering them in a lumpy, flaky paint.

I called my sister, an interior designer, to learn more about this peculiar activity. She said people want the antique look, but because real antiques are hard to come by, then the next best thing is to buy something new and make it look scuffed and tired and worn.

This causes my father to rise up in me as I say, "What the…”

But nothing is more puzzling than our next item of distress: distressed jeans. That’s right, there is actually a product the fashionistas refer to as “distressed jeans.” These are jeans with tears and gaping holes that, according to the New York Times, sell for upwards of $600 a pair.

Even in Pittsburgh, land of common sense people, a lousy pair of trendy jeans run upwards of $200. I talked with the owner of an upscale jeans store and she told me the jeans with holes in them aren’t as popular as the ones with paint splattered all over them.

“Jeans with paint on them?”

“Yes, they’re all the rage.”

“But they have paint on them!”


Just as I was ready to concede that the American experiment is spent and all will soon be lost, she told me about another jeans trend: dirt washed jeans. That’s right, the jean manufacturer washes them in dirt. They have pebbles and clumps of clay in the pockets. And Americans, many of them educated and from good homes, willingly exchange their hard-earned dough for them.

The dirt washed jeans are almost as popular as the grease-smeared jeans, she continued (and I’m not making this up). The jean manufacturers actually smear grease all over the jeans, so that people who buy them can be as fashionable as the guy in the pit down at the Jiffy Lube.

I asked the jean shop owner to help me understand why people are buying such products. She said that the manufacturers are always trying to be hip. When something hits -- when the trendy crowd just has to have it -- the manufacturer can charge huge markups.

Well, I understand that, I told her. But WHY? WHY are people dumb enough to buy these things? Why are Americans spending so much money for items that sensible Americans used to donate to Goodwill or toss in the garbage?

She had no answer. Let me take a stab at it.

As we work exhausting hours in gray cubicles doing bland service work -- as we move into cookie-cutter houses in the thick of suburban sprawl -- and as fewer of us know any sense of craftsmanship or what it is like to sweat or work with our hands, we long for ANYTHING authentic, even if it is fake.

But what do I know. At 43, I have effectively become my father. Puzzled as I am by the latest trends, my thoughts have shifted to more practical matters.

Such as finding a couple of suckers willing to give me $200 bucks for my dirty, greasy, paint-stained jeans.
(Tom Purcell’s e-mail address is; his web address is
Tom Purcell


  • If I had any pride, I would have been embarrassed by my jeans that I wore to change the exhaust system on my middle aged car last week. Wait, I have no pride and all of my jeans are oil soaked, torn, paint spattered, grass-stained and otherwise show as much wear & tear as I do.
    Remember back in the early fifties when new denim jeans would stand up by themselves and you turned up the cuffs at least twice?

    By Blogger Right Wing Nut Job, at 3:02 PM  

  • I use to be one of those "pit" guys for Jiffy Lube. Only when I worked for them- they were owned by Quaker State and it was called a Q-Lube. I loved it!

    By Blogger Straight Up with Sherri, at 3:26 PM  

  • Is there a market for holy socks and shredded underwear? E-bay?

    By Blogger levi from queens, at 7:54 PM  

  • levi

    OH! Great question! What about loner socks? I have tons of those! Nobody stays together anymore......

    {sniff, sniff}

    By Blogger Straight Up with Sherri, at 9:23 PM  

  • Ha! I'm a fashionista and I didn't even know it. The next time my wife looks at me and says "Your not wearing that are you?" I'll just look at her and smile.

    By Blogger Tom, at 9:52 PM  

  • Tee hee, Tom! I'm with Sherri - show me the lone sock market. I'm ready to do some sellin'!

    By Anonymous Juleni, at 8:16 AM  

  • as a matter of fact yes there is a market..LOL as an occasion seleer of ebay goods, I can say if anything is marketed right it can be sold. even used underwear.(YUCK).
    As for becoming our parents..When exactly did we cross that line? I discovered myself looking at clothes lately and choosing comfort over fashion...I thought, Oh NO! *GASP* I have become ..MY MOTHER. :-)

    By Blogger KC, at 7:03 PM  

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