So the internet's really giving a pair expensive jeans the business.
You probably saw this somewhere on your Twitter or Facebook timeline: Nordstrom's website is selling Prps' Barracuda Straight Leg Jeans, which are covered in ridiculous fake mud and grime, for $425.00. I knew these jeans were really a thing when I read and heard about it on NPR ("The High Price Of Fake Authenticity: $425 'Muddy' Jeans Inspire Mockery"/ "Nordstrom Makes Down-To-Earth Appeal To High-End Market With $425 Fake Mud Jeans") and I knew the smarm was toothless because NPR regularly crafts segments that are the fake muddy jeans equivalent of news, offering up only the style and feel of serious reportage.
NPR also said that Baltimore's own Mike Rowe, who used to host "Dirty Jobs" and fashions himself as some sort of Real Man or something, had "one of the most popular, and most thoughtful responses" on his Facebook about these jerk-y jeans. A quote from Rowe's take: "'Rugged Americana' is now synonymous with a 'caked-on, muddy coating.' Not real mud. Fake mud. Something to foster the illusion of work. The illusion of effort."
Baudrillard, fall the fuck back, we got the guy from "Dirty Jobs" to ponder the simulacra.
For those who don't follow the many micro-beefs of City Paper, we got into it a bit with Mike Rowe back in 2014 by way of David Simon because Rowe was part of this P.R. campaign called My Baltimore that was in his words, "a straight-forward attempt to remind the masses that there's more to my hometown than heroin and gonorrhea," and ostensibly blamed "Homicide: Life On The Street" and "The Wire" for Baltimore's reputation, and we called attention to it and called bullshit on it because it was bullshit.
I thought of all that when I read Rowe's Facebook post about some expensive jeans, because here's a guy blabbing about authenticity but there he was a few years ago, cooking up a "P.R. campaign" to clean-up the city's image, which totally means adjusting it, changing it, and simplifying it, and since he is a guy on television, there is certainly something rather inauthentic about that.
Fake dirty jeans are bad. Fake P.R. campaigns that fix a city's reputation are good. Got it.
The guy behind Prps is Donwan Harrell, a 36-year-old black man who previously worked for Donna Karan and Nike, and who according to a write-up in Virginia Commonwealth University's Ink Magazine "grew up in a low-income household with his mother and father in Virginia. His father worked as a naval ship repairman, and his mother as a seamstress." None of this makes these ugly jeans any less ugly, but it's worth noting, I think.
See, the issue with these jeans is not that they are fake muddy, but that they are a little too fake muddy. To avoid internet ire Prps should be more subtle with its poor taste. NPR says as much: "Nordstrom's description of the jeans — actually invoking hard labor in the ad copy — might have been the reason these particular pants have taken so much flak." If you're going to appropriate poor and working class culture, which damn near everything does, you need to be less obvious about it and not come out and just say it. What a wretchedly bourgeoisie stance to take.
Meanwhile, the more I look at these jeans the more I kind of love the way they up the ante on that fashion nexus wherein, say, 2 Chainz and every rich sad, dad-who-maybe-attends-orgies dress the same. They are the jeans version of rapping casino executive A. Samuels' 'Livin' De Life.'
Earlier today, you probably read about Fyre Festival, the "luxury music festival" that was hyped, in a "The Most Photographed Barn in America" sort of way by famous rich people who talked it up on social media and made it the place to be only it turned out to be a clusterfuck. No surprise, the primary targets of Fyre Festival sick burns are Ja Rule (a washed-up rapper) and the models who Instagrammed from the fest (women who dare to use their looks and bodies to make money) because making fun of this shit is predictable.
The problem with these things—a facsimile of muddy jeans, a moneyed hustle of a music festival—is not because they are fake or inauthentic, but because they are lame.
You should stop listening when arguments are about authenticity and realness and about how oh so many things are just fake these days, especially when it is mixed with the most half-hearted kinds of class war declarations.When you begin docking points from something, anything really, for points because it is not real enough, you're speeding towards talking about why the Kardashians are bad or how auto-tune is the death of music and you are officially another self-serious turd on the internet, a boring Tinder date with too many takes, a predictable snooze, a wet sandwich—you're NPR, you're Mike Rowe, and you don't want to be that.
"Behold" began as a celebration of West Baltimorean mocking the news and then a mildly humorous scream of terror about Trump's "Tim & Eric" aesthetics but it is I guess now, a semi-weekly column about something or other on the internet.