Of Tattered Denims

Torn jeans are often not the choice of party goers. Take heed though at those clad in the frayed garment, they may be the next Einstein, Beethoven, or Ben Franklin -- all of which chose intellect over fashion as our author does.

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by Alexander Martin Remollino
Photo-illustration by Winston Bracken


At a party I recently attended, my friend's mother was complaining about her son's fondness for tattered denims. "I've been telling him not to wear those tattered denims of his," she said, "but he wouldn't hear any of it. He even tells me that one shouldn't be measured by what he wears."

Perhaps she had not noticed what I was wearing. "Your son and I have the same fashion taste," I said half-jestingly, pointing to my patch-ridden pair of denims.

One guy cut in, saying, "Perhaps it's just that he wants to dress simply."

"But you can dress simply and still be presentable," our friend's mother replied.

I left it at that and allowed the conversation to drift, not wishing to antagonize the mother of a friend whose house I had just entered for the first time. I had wanted to tell her that I understood her son's fondness for tattered denims.

My friend's mother is not alone; she merely spoke for society in general. Those who wear tattered denims are jeered at almost everywhere. "You look like fools," they are often told.

Having read much of history, I have always wondered why it must matter much what a person wears as long as he does what is right. A lot of the greatest people who ever lived were not known for being the greatest dressers.

Siddhartha Gautama, the prince who turned his back on his regal origins and preached a philosophy that points to a combination of right thinking and self-denial as the way to Nirvana, a state of perfect blessedness, went around for most of his life dressed like a pauper.

Jesus Christ, who preached a religion that declares all men "brothers of one another," dressed no differently from the fishermen and other poor people he often communed with.

Benjamin Franklin, the thinker who fought for freedom, discovered electricity, and gave the world a very fine example of high learning despite lack of formal schooling, virtually flaunted his lack of riches by the clothes that he wore.

Ludwig van Beethoven, the composer who refused to bow before nobility and created much of the greatest music even after losing his hearing, was always in old clothes that never matched each other.

Leo Tolstoy, who rose from the rubble of an aimless and frivolous life as a nobleman to become a socially committed writer, was more often than not dressed like a peasant.

Albert Einstein, who formulated the theories of relativity and was an active fighter for human rights, was always in a leather jacket, a sweater, and a pair of denims, and wearing socks was not among his habits.

Of course it may be argued that Jean Jacques Rousseau, one of the chief exponents of liberal democracy, was not a bad dresser and did not look a bit like the revolutionary thinker that he was. But he was an exception to the rule.

I understand my friend's fondness for tattered denims; I often wear tattered denims myself. We do not claim to be in the same league with those great men previously mentioned. But we wear tattered denims as a way of showing society what idiotic standards it uses in measuring a person's worth.

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