Thursday, May 22, 2014


One of the dumbest pieces of advice we’ve ever seen recently came from Levi’s CEO, who suggested that people should never wash their jeans. This was less in response to the resulting shrinkage problem, and more to do with conserving resources, i.e. water. Not to be outdone, the Vice-President of the company suggested freezing them to get rid of bacteria (not that that would even work according to scientists). Yes, people like this run big companies these days. 

If you’re not a water conservation fanatic, but are concerned about shrinkage here are some ways around it. If you don’t wash and rewash cheap jeans like Levis they will remain as stiff as a board. Shrinkage only happens if you wash them in hot water and then use a hot dryer to dry them. If that is your practice then just buy them a size larger to compensate. Just sponging off blemishes, as they suggest, will do nothing about accumulate bacteria or odors. 

It is easy to avoid shrinkage and clean your jeans by using cold water. Ideally hand-washing in cold water with something like Woolite will work, as it does with more delicate fabrics. Then let them dry flat or drip dry. If you must use machinery do the wash in cold water, and run the dryer on the coolest setting, even if it takes a few passes. 

What these executives fail to realize is that many people wash their jeans less for dirt than to soften them up and have some wear, but that takes a lot of cycles. The alternative is to buy a more expensive pair of jeans. Generally the higher the price, the softer the fabric and the more worn they feel. But this only makes sense for dress jeans of the kind you’d wear on an evening out or on a business casual occasion. If you’re working in construction, repairing cars, farming, or do any other kind of dirty work then you wear jeans like Levis. Given such use they are far more likely to get dirty and therefore need to be washed, which makes the advice cited above all the more silly. 

Better fabrics cost more, and all you need to do is feel how soft a pair of high-end jeans are compared to lower-priced brands. With jeans it is mostly a case of getting what you pay for, but no designer label is worth anything if the fabric doesn’t feel any different than cheaper jeans. The very best are made in Italy, as with so much other clothing. However, even with these you have to be careful because some big design firms have multiple lines, often attached to the word “jeans.” But this is the cheaper stuff and inferior to the jeans they sell under their “collection,” “coutoure,” or other prime label, which often have a limited run. This is not a problem with the overall best in this category, Brioni, which only makes fine products. But with such costly jeans you have to treat them more like a good pair of pants, and avoid doing things in them you would never do in your dress pants. Dress jeans should also be tailored like any other pair of good pants, so that they end at your shoes rather than bunching up at the bottom. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Until now we’ve avoided mentioning two French brands that belong with the best because their prices are preposterous for ordinary humans, namely Hermes and Louis Vuitton. That is not to say that  their goods are not exquisite, if they are real. If an item with one of these brands is not exceptionally fine, it is likely a fake. Generally the higher the price of genuine goods the more likely they are to be knocked-off. On the plus side this is less of a problem for men than it is for women. The reason for that is, according to law enforcement, the most frequently copied goods are as follows: handbags, wallets, jewelry, watches, sports jerseys, and footwear. Unless you carry a pocketbook you are less likely to be stung than a woman will be, but then some don’t care. Louis Vuitton is most frequently knocked off, to the point where there are more fake goods in circulation than the real thing. You can be reasonably certain that women you see on the subway carrying Louis Vuitton are traveling with knock-offs. It also follows that if fakes are so ubiquitous the value of the real thing must be diminished as well. Hermes, while very expensive, is much more likely to be real.

As this is being written there is a listing on Ebay for impossibly inexpensive “Hermes” as well as “Louis Vuitton” jeans. They happen to be from the same seller, and in fact on closer inspection they are the same exact jeans except for the label, which makes it obvious they are fake. If the price of something is too good to be true you should reasonably assume it it isn’t true. You’re either getting counterfeit goods, or a product from the designer’s crummy mass market line, usually made in China. Many top (but not the very top) designers have multiple lines. Thus the good stuff from Giorgio Armani is in the Armani Collezioni, or in the case of Calvin Klein, the Calvin Klein collection, with the rest of his lines being less than high quality. It is noteworthy that both high-end collections are made in Italy. A leather item in the “collection” will likely be glove soft, while the ‘jeans” or whatever “other” line they sell will be hard and coarse. 

Other top brands, such as Gucci, Kiton, Brioni, etc.  take pride in their products and don’t produce mass market lines. Gucci is the most likely to be knocked off, but again quality, along with a too-good-to-be-true price is your surest guide to authenticity. In the case of Brioni there is a line of relatively inexpensive suits being sold by one “Bianco Brioni.” That may be his real name, but it has nothing to do with the authentic high-end Brioni brand,  according to Brioni. It is easy to see why. “Brioni” is not the name of a person but an island in the Adriatic that was used when the exclusive brand was founded. 

The basic truth is that quality brand items at a low price can only be fake or used. The latter is the one instance in which you can occasionally find real bargains, i.e.  on Ebay in terms of authentic used items that haven’t really been used much. For example, a wife may have bought her husband something he doesn’t really like and wouldn’t wear, so she has to sell it at a steep discount. Or someone has an article that just doesn’t fit them and they can’t return it. I would not recommend buying anything with much more use than that unless you’re dying for it in any condition. An exception would be something like jeans, which you’re getting broken in and still look good. These kinds of “used” items are much more likely to be genuine than something “new” at an impossibly low price. That’s still no guarantee, but it  is at least the one window where you can possibly find legitimate high end stuff at a low price.