The insolence of indecent denim has evolved into a prefab mannerism, a marker of “punk chic” or “grunge cool.” The holes can still reify a generation gap, I think, having heard a 35-year-old banker say that she cannot put on such jeans without imagining her parents’ disapproval: “You should have worn those dungarees all day long until you wore them out yourself.” But that purist’s objection misses the point. The patent insincerity of distressed denim is integral to its appeal. What to make, glancing around the waiting room, of the precision-shredded knees of a pair of plainly expensive maternity jeans promoted for their “rock ’n’ roll appeal”? No one supposes that a woman wearing an elasticized waistband to accommodate the fullness of her third trimester wiped out on her skateboard. The lie is not a lie but a statement of participation in a widespread fantasy. Contentedly pretending to be a dangerous bohemian, she is simply exercising the right to be her own Joey Ramone. We put on jeans with ruined threading in a self-adoring performance of annihilation.
Troy Patterson, “On Clothing”, The New York Times Magazine (3 May 2015), 28.