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View from Lodi, CA: Levis vs. Wranglers
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March 26, 2004, 04:00 AM
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No one was surprised when Levi Strauss shut down its last two North American factories last September. The trend for Levis had been straight down since 1996.

But the 150-year Levi history that preceded the San Antonio plant closings reminded me of what had been a pretty hotly debated subject among jean wearers for decades: are you a Levis or a Wrangler guy (or gal)?

Way back in the 1960s, jeans were all but forbidden. You couldn`t wear them to school. You certainly couldn`t wear them to church. And your parents would never let you wear them when you went visiting. On all social occasions, you had to wear slacks or cords and hope that no one you knew saw you.

But when the California-cool Beach Boys wore jeans on national television, everything changed. Before long, John Travolta Urban Cowboy made jeans the fashion statement of the 1980s. And the next thing anyone knew, a mint condition pair of Levi 501s became the hottest item in Communist Russia`s black market.

(Sharp-eyed readers will note that I have omitted any mention of bell-bottom jeans since that whole fashion era from the late 1970s is better off forgotten.)

By the late 1980s, Calvin Klein, Horace, Gloria Vanderbilt aggressively marketed their own jeans. We have lived through stonewashed, faded, distressed, machine-ripped and previously owned jeans. The current rage is relaxed or loose fit for "full figured" men. For the slighter built, Slim Fits are the choice.

Today`s buyers can choose from red, green, white, sahara, grey, black or sky blue. But in the final analysis, what it comes down to is the basic blue jean. And the question remains: Levis 501 or Wrangler 13MWZ?

Now as it comes to pass, I have turned this very question over in my own mind many a time without ever coming to a definitive conclusion.

As of today, I`m a Wrangler guy.

For one thing, I like it that Wrangler 13MWZ jeans have remained unchanged since 1962. Why should Wrangler fool around with a winning formula?

And of course the Wrangler cause is aided enormously whenever I see the famous bumper sticker pasted onto the fender of a pick-up truck: "Wrangler Butts Drive Me Nuts."

I`m in good company as a Wrangler-only wearer.

  • George Strait, Country Music star: "I`ve been wearing Wranglers since I was a boy because they fit me just right and they`re the best damn blue jean in the world."

  • Fred Whitfield, World Champion Calf Roper: "I used to wear Levis in high-school but it is just not the thing to wear. Besides, they don`t sponsor rodeos."

  • Chuck Norris, Tough Guy: "They fit the best for when I need to kick butt."

But whether you end up in Levi 501s or Wranglers, breaking in your new jeans is a critical moment.

Here, for tinhorns that never knew how to get comfortable, is the only way to do it.

FOR LEVI 501s:

  1. Fill up tub with warm water, put on your jeans and jump in
  2. Lounge a while and let the jeans form to your shape.
  3. Get out of the tub and walk around
  4. Hang up your jeans to dry.
  5. Walk around some more until you feel just right.
  6. Wash and repeat if necessary.

FOR WRANGLER 13MWZ:

  1. Buy your jeans at least two inches longer than the normal length. If you like the stacked look, get them four inches longer.
  2. Turn inside out before washing to preserve the blue color.
  3. Wash once in cold water.
  4. Take to a professional dry cleaner to have them pressed. Be sure to ask for heavy starch.

Wearing your well-broken-in jeans, you`re ready to honky-tonk all night.

[JOENOTE TO VDARE.COM READERS:  Another good reason for VDARE.COM readers to buy Wranglers is that they are made here in the USA unlike 96% of other apparel marketed here. Another company that makes all its denim products in the U.S. is Union Jeans. For more information on how to buy American, visit http://www.howtobuyamerican.com/]

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.