One fashion item that has caught my eye recently is the ripped knee jean. This has been around for some time, but it seems particularly overt these days. No self-respecting student can be without a pair.
This seems like a new twist on the old practice of buying pre-faded and pre-distressed clothing.
In the olden days, poor people saved to buy up nice, clean, and pressed clothes that could be worn in public. Worn or ripped clothing would be a huge embarrassment. Jeans were reserved for heavy manual labor, and they became faded and ripped through hard work and unavoidable abuse. In other words, the wearer of faded and ripped jeans had to pay a personal price to get them in that condition, and the jeans were evidence of pain, sweat, and endurance that reflected the character of the wearer.
Most young people today don’t do manual labor and they have few ways of experiencing or demonstrating their personal growth and virtuous overcoming of obstacles. Perhaps some young people wear pre-faded and ripped jeans to connect with a (misguided?) ethic of solidarity: “I may be rich and educated, but I am no better than the day laborer who wore a similar pair of pants in the past.”
Or, maybe it's to signal that "I don't care about clothes!--that's so superficial..." (The photo here shows a concern for style, regardless of ripped clothing.)
I wrote about “authenticity” recently, and there seems to be a yearning for a connection to it, or at least the appearance of it (yes, that’s a contradiction).
Of course, many people adopt the style of ripped knees simply to fit in, and not for any symbolic or stylistic message.
What’s next—pre-dented cars?