May 20, 2018
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Since when did mud become high fashion?

By Julia Bayly, BDN Staff

FORT KENT, Maine — I’ll just say it upfront: I am undeniably among the last people who should offer any fashion commentary.

Heck, there are days when my notion of hitting a “fashion do” is matching socks.

But every so often something so fashionably egregious makes its way into my radar, and I just can’t let it go.

To that end, I offer the PRPS Barracuda Straight Leg Jeans, described as “a heavily distressed medium blue denim” that embody “rugged Americana workwear that’s seen some hard working action with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating that shows you’re not afraid to get down and dirt.”

Or not afraid to pay for it either, apparently. The pre-laundered, pre-muddied jeans go for $425 per pair from — among other places — Nordstroms.

Actually, where available, because a quick check of the clothing retailer’s online site list them as sold out.

But for those wanting to look like a working stiff without going to the trouble of actually working, there’s good news: The jeans are available on the PRPS company website. Along with myriad other ripped, patched and otherwise “distressed” looking jeans ranging in price from $150 to $425 per pair.

Based on that, my future retirement could be funded in part by what is in my closet.

I guess there is no huge surprise that garments with faux mud is something of a high-end fad.

After all, we are a society in which “glamping” — luxurious camping trips that incorporate the joy of the outdoors without the actual inconvenience of being outdoors — has become increasingly popular.

More recently the fashion fad of the “lumbersexual” swept across the country in which hipster Paul Bunyan wannabes grew beards and donned plaid shirts and L.L. Bean boots to show off their inner lumberjack at the local microbrew.

But shelling out several hundred dollars for faux mud?

“I think the trend you’re describing is a form of fetishizing — or commodifying or romanticizing — working class culture,” according to Dr. Lorien Lake-Corral, associate professor of social science at University of Maine at Augusta with an expertise in pop culture. “I’m thinking of Urban Outfitters, whose president once [infamously] described their aesthetic as ‘upscale homeless.’”

These days, Lake-Corral said, poverty is viewed as “cool” by some who are young and wealthy, with a huge caveat.

“They can combine that ‘simple’ existence with something the poor don’t have access to,” she said. “The kind of financial security that allows you to pay $400 for a pair of jeans.”

The problem arises, Lake-Corral said, when the symbols, objects and experiences that make up the true working-class lifestyle are divorced from their original contexts and repackaged and rebranded in ways more appealing to the elite.

“As a result of this, they are stripped of their cultural meaning — a hard day’s work — and assigned an economic value, instead [like] $425.”

Now I’ll totally admit to spending probably too much on a pair of shoes or shirt that really caught my eye a time or two.

But I draw the line at forking over hundreds to look like I just walked out of a St. John Valley potato field at the end of a long day of picking rocks.

Then again, who am I to say how someone who has that kind of money spends it?

With that in mind, I am prepared to offer — for a limited time — my own line of Rusty Metal Farm spring fashion, pre-muddied with genuine, organic, northern Maine dirt.

Each one-of-a-kind pattern includes designs created as a direct result of personal contact with said mud following daily chores with the Rusty Metal chickens and sled dogs during our recent bout of rainy, mud-producing weather.

As an added attraction, each item contains “mystery” stains. As anyone who takes cares of critters knows, only on a good day is mud the sole soiler of your clothes. Most of the time, I’m washing out stains derived from contact with things I’d rather not consider.

Unlike the PRPS duds, the Rusty Metal fashions will not hold up to being laundered — clean water is the enemy of local mud. But for the do-it-yourselfer, I’m willing to throw in a baggie of dirt for reapplication when needed.

Heck, make an offer and I’ll throw in a chicken.

Then again, those who want to look like working stiffs could, I don’t know, maybe go out and get their hands and clothes dirty undertaking a worthwhile project.

They could always donate the $425 to a good cause.


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