Goodbye Old Friend

There should have been a 3 day wake. There should have been a New Orleans jazz band joyfully trumpeting my friend from home to the burial spot.

There should have been a procession, led by police cars, and complete with numerous limousines for those who were close to the deceased.

There should have been a majestic funeral pyre, with the flames licking at the feet of angels, who were ecstatic, yet a little jealous, to finally have worthy company.

There should have been a memorial. A 8 foot high Celtic cross, inscribed with the personal history and telling the story of a life cut short.

Instead, I simply took my friend of 20 years from his place in my dresser drawer, walked him through the darkened house, said a few words (“I can’t believe you’re making me do this” said in a solemn tone to my wife), gently placed him in the kitchen garbage can, and said my goodbyes to my original Levi’s 501 jeans, the best pair of jeans in the world.

I can still remember how excited I was when I first met these jeans. Having a mother who had to feed and clothe 4 kids, and who valued longevity at the cost of constant playground mockery, severely limited my clothing options, as a kid. My entire childhood, I was forced to live with the horrible indignity of wearing Toughskins and, on really stylish days, my one pair of Wranglers. I would have settled for a pair of Lee’s, and hoping for a pair of Levi’s was to Dream the Impossible Dream.

Finally, one day my Great Stylistic Famine of the early 1980’s came to an end. As a result of nearly 6 months of constant whining, testimonials from friends and siblings as to my serious fashion deficiencies, and in the remnants of the Olympic spirit, I was able to finally purchase a pair of Levi’s jeans for Christmas.

It took me 45 minutes of searching to find my friend. Being tall and skinny (I prefer “waspish”), the first 30 minutes was spent finding a pair that would fit, and then trying on those that were close. However, the first time I put on my friend, I knew we’d be together for a good long while. Even though they were a size too large around the waist and legs, (my mother insisted that I buy a pair with “room to grow” to ensure longevity), they fit comfortably. They looked great. And, they had the red tab that meant so much to me. I had finally found my one true pants-mate.

I could spend pages talking about our life together. How every tear (I couldn’t even begin to think about taking a scissors to them in a fevered attempt at "being cool), every fray, every stain told a story. How they outperformed my mother’s demands and lasted over twenty years. How they were there for my first kiss, my first night at college, my first drunk grope, my first love, my final exams, my LSATs, the first time I met my wife, my honeymoon, the birth of my first child…

They were there for my entire adult life.

And now they are gone.

Goodbye Levi’s 501 jeans. Rest well, knowing that you’ll be the first thing I put on in heaven. Even before the wings.

Bummer. :frowning:

But, a very cool post, Hamlet.

Perhaps a kindly seamstress in heaven can fashion your wings out of your trusty and beloved 501s.


That was beautiful, man. Just beautiful.

I’m still rather surprised at how a rather sentimental article of clothing such as that was hurting anybody in a drawer.

Oh, I feel your pain brother. When my first 501’s died and went to heaven, I was completely devastated.

Mind you, by the time they went, there was more hole than denim. They probably should have been ‘put down’ years before.


This is sick.

Which is why I have never thrown out a single pair of Levis in my entire life. My future kids will probably think these torn and faded pantaloons are the ne plus ultra of fashion statements when they get their grubby little hands on them.
And they’ll be right.

Which is why I have never thrown out a single pair of Levis in my entire life. My future kids will probably think these torn and faded pantaloons are the ne plus ultra of fashion statements when they get their grubby little hands on them.
And they’ll be right.
Great post there, Hamlet.


Why’d you have to throw them out?

Were they named Yorick?

::ducks & runs::

Dry thy tears, all…
weeping with all
Hamlet ! Thy 501’s are in the Great Museum in the Sky!
Nay, they have not been tossed - merely lingering in yonder window!

Bless thee, they, and them that understandith plight. The clouds of sorrow will remove and open, five—hundred—and—one times, in honor of the depth of life given up.

(my niece will retrieve them tommorrow for her modern art apparel)

Oddly enough, as I was gently placing my dear friend in the garbage, I was overcome with guilt. But it was not the guilt over our parting, but guilt that I forced them to stay too long.

You see, when I first got them, I wore them almost every chance I could. Playing football in the rain, cleaning gutters at home, and, most importantly, going out on weekends. And after having them for 2 years, they fit me, . . . No, instead let me say, we fit each other, as comfortably as if I we came out of the womb as twins. I had grown into them, just as they had grown around me. They had faded a bit in color, to that perfect hue of blue that reflects perfectly the energy of youth. However, it was the wild abandon of my mid-teens that eventually caught up to us: that feeling of immortality that overwhelms teenage boys. I thought my jeans would last forever.

It was a slight tear, more a seam popping really. But during the summer before college, the right rear pocket of my jeans needed stitching. In one fell swoop, my infallibility, nay, my innocence, was wrest from me while I endured having to watch my mother repair the pocket. She did a fine job, and they looked as good as nearly 3 years old, but I knew then I had to be more careful with my dear friend.

At college, I had finally purchased additional pairs of jeans, all Levi’s. I no longer had to wear my one pair every time I left the house. However, my 501’s were given the place of honor in my scant clothing collection. It was my “lucky” pair of jeans, I didn’t have to wear them every day, but I’d be damned if I was going to wear something else on those days that really mattered. They got me through finals, marathon studying sessions, even-more marathon like drinking sessions, and dates. They saw me at my best… and my worst. They know secrets I couldn’t even tell my wife. Putting on my 501’s was like putting on my skin. I was home.


It was Madison, Wisconsin. Halloween. Anybody who has been to Madison for Halloween will understand the strange vibes of that place, on that day. It’s weird, fun, but somewhat dangerous, definitely drunkenness, and high energy with little release. I had worn my 501’s for Halloween night, little expecting that they would never be the same afterwards. I will not share, nor can I completely remember, the details, but it involved copious amounts of alcohol, poor weather, a stolen ninja sword, a painful fall, and, worst of all, ripped jeans. When I awoke the next morning, I had a tear in the right knee of my jeans. And a tear in my soul.

Somehow, we survived. And prospered. I wore the tear as a badge of honor, an ode to the comfort and longevity of my 501’s. I could not wear them for all special occasions, they became my oldest, most comfortable friend. I wore them to LSATs, and I was wearing them the day I went on to law school. Although I wore them less, I loved them more.

By the end of law school, they had developed other signs of wearing and tearing. The sparseness of the fabric on the right rear was noticeable. The tear in the right knee had gone seam to seam. The fraying at the hem stood out. And I no longer wore them out and about much. After law school, they primarily were my “driving jeans”, which I would make sure to slip into after work on Friday for the 3 ½ hour drive to see my Cute Sweatshirt Wearing Girl. And the hour and a half on the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago was just a tad bit more comfortable for them.

After being my driving jeans, my 501’s became my work around the house jeans. The left knee tore, the hems were even more frayed, and the butt wore down, with a tear on the left cheek. On the rare occasions I wore them out, I had to wear boxers. Yet they were still … well, ME.

The wear and tear got worse, and, using a technique that kept me in Toughskins as a kid and taught to me by my mother, I had an aborted attempt to patch up the rear. I should have recognized it for what it was, Extreme Lifesaving Measures. And my jeans needed an DNR. But it was too painful to let go.

Last month, I put them on for the first time in about 6 months. Laundry was well overdue, and I needed something to wear. As I slid my left leg, my toes caught the tear in the left knee, and, with an enormous RRRRIIIIPPPP sound, I pulled the tear not only seam to seam, but down the seam a good 2 inches.

I fell to the ground, and just stared. Slowly, my eyes welled with tears as I realized how far my 501’s had taken me. And how they deserved a better than sitting in a drawer, unworn. It was like watching Michael Jordan miss an easy dunk at the All Star game. Or seeing Sir Alec Guinness forgetting lines in a tiny Branson, Missouri theater. Or hearing Cecil Adams settle disputes at an afternoon tea in Podunk, Vermont. It hurt too much.

Although it took me another 3 weeks to actually get rid of them, there is no doubt it was the right thing to do, to finally end it. To be able to celebrate the great times, without having my 501’s living in their current shape. We both want to remember them as they were before. I want to remember the way they felt as they hugged my body. I want to remember when it was the most important thing in the world to be able to wear them.

I want them back.