Special Report Living the Jeans Lifestyle

September 1, 2011 | By Ted Kade

Our Search for Good Jeans Has Led Us to Another Source. They Even Offer Them With Flame-Resistant Cloth.

YEARS AGO, IN my newspaper and corporate days, I wore a suit to work and a variety of “leisure wear” pants and shirts in the evenings and on weekends.

That was then.

Now, I don’t even own a suit. I have a couple of sport coats hanging in the closet for “special occasions” (which rarely happen) and I think there are a few ties that have been in storage for so long that they’re no doubt too narrow or too wide by today’s standards.

Instead, my standard uniform has morphed mainly to pullover shirts teamed with cotton (generally Dockers) pants for the office and jeans for every other waking moment.

My feeling is that many Auto Restorer readers make a similar fashion statement these days or will as soon as they’re able to move away from their own suit-and tie days.

For years my jeans of choice have come from Eddie Bauer but I’m always on the lookout for new sources, especially since Eddie closed the store nearest to me and I have to travel a ways to get to the next-nearest location. (I know what someone’s going to say, “Justshop online; there’s no driving that way.”Well, that may be so, but I’ve found that I always have to take three or four pairs of jeans into the fitting room to find one that I think is made right and feels comfortable, and that requires shopping in a store. Go ahead, call me old-fashioned or stubborn; either way you’ll be correct.)

The Carhartt Collection

Given my never-ending quest for jeans, you can imagine my immediate interest when I received a news release from Carhartt about their current clothing product line, including several types of jeans.

To be honest, I’d never heard of Carhartt, which is understandable when you figure that they’ve only been around for 122 years and are headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan, which is about a dozen miles from where I was brought up.

Anyway, in the name of experimentation, I decided to jump in with both feet, into their jeans that is, by trying a pair of their Men’s Traditional Fit Pre Wash Jeans Straight Leg ($36) and 1889 Loose Fit Jeans ($60).

I was immediately impressed with the fit and workmanship of the traditional fit jeans and figured that they could easily do yeoman’s duty as leisure or work pants. I especially liked the idea that they are available in “Prewash” condition, which means that they look and feel like retro, dark blue jeans. I know it’s far more popular to buy jeans that come in a scrubbed and worn-looking condition, but I figure a pair of dark blue jeans will start looking scrubbed and worn after a few years of trips through the washing machine. Beyond that, I can’t see spending good money for new pants that essentially look like used clothing.

As for the 1889 Loose Fit Jeans, I had mixed feelings on those. (The “1889” comes from the year that the company was founded by Hamilton Carhartt. It’s still privately owned and is managed by family members.) The 1889 jeans had a special look and feel that, according to Carhartt, comes from“premium ring spun denim with special tints and hand finishing.” While I’m not one who could see himself spending big bucks for designer jeans,I figured that $60 for pants like these would be worth that much of a stretch. They would do very well as my “good” jeans, not to be used for everyday wear.

Then I tried them on, and quickly found that I am not a Loose Fit kind of guy. I wore them for a few days, trying to convince myself that I liked them but I Still came to the same conclusion—I Felt like I was wearing a denim sack. A very nice denim sack, but a sack nonetheless. So, you can imagine my disappointment when a Carhartt spokesman told me that all jeans in the 1889 line are either relaxed or loose-fit. Naturally, preference in the way jeans fit is a matter of personal taste, but my advice to any traditional-fit people would be to try on the loose or relaxed pants and walk around the store for a while before you buy anything.

Some Specialized Work Clothes

Obviously, a company would have a hard time being successful for a century plus if it sold nothing but jeans, and Carhartt carries an extensive line of work clothes, including coats, jackets, vests, bib overalls, coveralls and polyester/cotton blend twill work shirts and pants.

One line that caught my eye is the company’s flame-resistant clothing that Carhartt says is designed to help protect workers from burns caused by electric arcs or flash fires. This line of shirts, pants, sweatshirts, jackets, overalls, coveralls, etc. “is treated with flame-retardant chemicals so it self-extinguishes as soon as any source of ignition is removed,” the company said. Furthermore, Carhartt says its flame-resistant clothing meets standards set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), ASTM International (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

In looking through the company’s list of flame-resistant clothing, I found that they even offer a pair of flame-resistant jeans. But wouldn’t you know it; they come in relaxed, not traditional, fit.

For more on Carhartt, its product line, and locating a retailer near you, visit carhartt.com. You can even order online, if you happen to be one of those modern types of shoppers.