Thinking Outside the Blue Jeans Gender Box: A Quest for Pants that Fit


It happens every few years. All my jeans wear out at once – holes show up above the knees, growing larger with each washing.

It’s hard for me to find jeans that fit. This periodic quest ranks right up there with swimsuit shopping. I have narrow hips, a muscular butt, and legs shaped by regular dog walks, yoga, biking, and cross-country skiing. So when I do find some I like, I buy several pairs at a time. I am lucky to have a job with a casual dress code, so I wear jeans almost every day.

Of course, because I buy my jeans at the same time, they all start to wear out at the same time. Inevitably, when I search for “my” jeans at the store where I bought them, the store has either changed their styles or no longer carries the brand.

As I set out for jeans shopping this weekend, I realized I haven’t been truly enthused about a brand of jeans since my college days, when I inherited a pair of button-fly 501 Levis from my sister. I used to buy them regularly until the stores stopped carrying them for women. Then I switched to Lees for a bit, then other types of Levis, then Old Navy. But Old Navy kept changing their styles too often. The last time I bought jeans there, what looked okay in the store ended up having too much extra fabric in the hips, and was too tight in the calves. I tried shopping online, but that was an even bigger disaster. Besides, I hate paying extra for the shipping.

So I decided to try a new store this time – one known for local, Duluthy-type clothing made from durable fabrics like firehose canvas. You’d think that a store made for active Duluthians would work for me, right? Nope.

So I headed for the mall at the top of the hill, where selection is more plentiful. With my college jean happiness in the back of my mind, I searched the last store where I bought Levis. They no longer carried Levis in the women’s section, but they still had them in the men’s section. They even had the 501 button-fly version.

I quickly scanned the clientele in the area. All men. Would it look weird if I bought men’s jeans for myself? How would the clerks or clientele know they were for me? But I would need to try them on. I couldn’t use the men’s fitting room.

In agitation, I picked at a hangnail on my thumb. I put the jeans down and walked back to the women’s section. It wasn’t far away. Why not just bring the men’s jeans into the women’s fitting room? Dare I?

After a little internal pep talk, yes, I dared to think outside the blue jeans gender box.

Now I have two pairs of jeans I am truly enthused about. And to think, I COULD HAVE BEEN DOING THIS THE WHOLE TIME. The wasted time over the years and jeans angst makes me sort of sick. But now I know.

However, with my luck, Levis will go out of business by the time I need jeans again.


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