Long ago, when James Dean and Marlon Brando wore it, denim was, Akst says, “a symbol of youthful defiance.” Today, Silicon Valley billionaires are rebels without causes beyond poses, wearing jeans when introducing new products. Akst’s summa contra denim is grand as far as it goes, but it only scratches the surface of this blight on Americans’ surfaces. Denim is the infantile uniform of a nation in which entertainment frequently features childlike adults (Seinfeld, Two and a Half Men) and cartoons for adults (King of the Hill). Seventy-five percent of American “gamers” — people who play video games — are older than 18 and nevertheless are allowed to vote. In their undifferentiated dress, children and their childish parents become undifferentiated audiences for juvenilized movies (the six — so far — Batman adventures and Indiana Jones and the Credit-Default Swaps, coming soon to a cineplex near you). Denim is the clerical vestment for the priesthood of all believers in democracy’s catechism of leveling — thou shalt not dress better than society’s most slovenly. To do so would be to commit the sin of lookism — of believing that appearance matters. That heresy leads to denying the universal appropriateness of everything, and then to the elitist assertion that there is good and bad taste. Denim is the carefully calculated costume of people eager to communicate indifference to appearances. But the appearances that people choose to present in public are cues from which we make inferences about their maturity and respect for those to whom they are presenting themselves.
Er ... what? 0.o This isn't commentary on style, this is more like the paranoid ramblings of a schizophrenic.
The only reason I happened upon this is because kinkyturtle posted a link to it, commenting that it reminded him on one of my own posts on the subject of dress (I'm guessing it was this one). I am gratified that he was quick to point out the distinction between my wistful desire that people would dress better generally compared to this column's scattershot condemnation of anyone who doesn't Act Like a Grownup for Chrissake — but at the same time to be mentioned in the same context of such raving lunacy has given me pause.
So for the record: if you like denim, please, by all means wear it. I have no idea what George Will is smoking.