One of the many “life lessons” unemployment has taught me is, when it comes to frugality, either you’ve got it or you don’t, and if you don’t have it, you better get it, or you’ll lose what little you had in the first place (Got all that?).
I typed that grammar textbook-quality sentence from my home office in the Casa de Krebs after just having changed into a fresh pair of jeans. Why all the seemingly unnecessary information sharing about fashion choices, you may reasonably ask?
Well, I will tell you. By wearing this particular pair of jeans, I stand inexorably on the frugality side of the great personal spending divide that exists in our beloved Northbrook between the haves (as in “Have to show you I have money”) and the “have nots” ( as in “Have not bought anything for myself since I have not had a job” ).
I bought the jeans when, due to having “overdeveloped my abdominal muscles” (my explanation), or “porked up” (my ever-supportive family’s view), I simply had to break down and spring for some new pairs, regardless of my jobless status. The alternative was to pack myself into my existing denims, all the while acutely aware of the fact that at any moment the waist button, under pressure well beyond that which can be produced at Underwriters Laboratories, would let go and turn into a bullet-like projectile capable of maiming if not killing any unfortunate bystanders within a fifty-yard radius.
So, off to Kohl’s I went. I had experienced a rude introduction into the world of Kohl’s pricing years ago when I came home with jeans for my two boys crowing about the great deal I had gotten. Between gales of derisive laughter my loving wife managed to gasp out that “Everything’s on sale at Kohl’s, you idiot!” Thus, I have learned that, when it comes to Kohl’s, there are sales and then there are SALES.
At the time of my purchase, I was more than ready to plunk down my precious coin for another few pairs of straight-leg Levi’s 505’s, which I have been wearing for as long as I have had any decision-making input into sartorial matters. A timeless classic for not that much money. In fact, I had the aforementioned Levi’s in hand and was on my way to checkout when I stopped dead in my tracks.
On the shelf in front of me lay row upon row of Kohl’s house brand “Urban Pipeline” jeans. In the years since my first clueless Kohl’s purchase I have become a battle-hardened veteran of many of their sales. So, I ignored the ridiculous “regular” price, and the somewhat less-ridiculous “Everything’s on sale at Kohl’s you idiot!” price, and focused on the SALE price. My brain working feverishly, I quickly took into account my 30% off “wild card” coupon and guesstimated the “Drive it off the showroom floor today Mr. Krebs!” price. My heart skipped a beat.
My jeans cost $10.50 a pair. They are not fashionable. The distinctive beige label on the back of a pair of Levi’s containing their logo and sizing (never liked that part) is replaced on the “UP’s” (as I call them) with a blank label containing almost no information, the better to hide one’s off-brand shame. I love them.
There is a footnote to this story. A few weeks after my purchase, my wife and I were in an upscale men’s’ clothing store in a nearby suburb. I was there in the hope of using a coupon that my father-in-law had given to me. Arrayed in an attractive display on a table were pairs of jeans by a maker whose name sounded more like a tempting pasta dish to me rather than a denim manufacturer. Filled with naiveté, I glanced at the price.
$225! The missus immediately advised that $225 was actually pretty common in the rarefied air of high-end jeans. I had several reactions. First, I could have bought 21 pairs of UP’s for the price of one pair of “Mondo Rigatoni’s” or whatever they were. Second, if you are a guy with a wife and kids spending $225 for jeans, you should probably start snorting coke, because you’ll blow your money faster.
But most importantly, I could never, ever spend that much money for a pair of jeans, if for no other reason than this. Someday, I would be walking in them, and pass a group of women on the street. As they went their way, and I went mine, I would overhear one of them say to the others “Check out that ass in the designer jeans!” And believe me; I would know exactly what they meant.