Wednesday, November 21, 2012

bleu. de. Genes

A staple in every wardrobe. A classic symbol of the American West.

With boots, slops, heels, sandals. Go casual. Go corporate. You can always (yes ALWAYS) rock them. Once you know what you love about them – you can buy a new version, cutting-edge colour, or exuberant print.

I don’t stop fantasizing about them through spring, summer, autumn and winter. Any given day or month – someone out there is wearing them. They are my absolute clothing obsession. I have tried on, washed, studied, pulled, opened up, dissected, conducted fit tests and compared brands of jeans.
And I don’t stop falling in love.

Jeans are just trousers made from denim or dungaree cloth. Jeans were invented by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss in 1873 and they were a particular style of pants called “blue jeans”.

The word ‘jeans’ comes from the French phrase ‘bleu de Genes’ meaning ‘the blue of Genoa’ which was made in Europe. The material, called jean, was named after sailors from Genoa in Italy, because they wore clothes made from it. In the 18th century workers wore it because the material was very strong and it did not wear out easily. It was usually dyed with a dye called indigo which made jean cloth a dark blue colour. In 1853, a man called Leob Strauss left his home in New York and moved to San Francisco where he started a wholesale business, supplying clothes. Strauss later changed his name from Leob to Levi. At that time a Nevada tailor called Jacob Davis was asked to make a pair of sturdy trousers for a local woodcutter. He struck upon the idea of reinforcing them with rivets and this proved them extremely durable and were soon in high demand. Davis realized the potential of his product but couldn’t afford to patent it. He wrote to his fabric supplier, the San Francisco merchant, Levi Strauss, for help. This is what he wrote (no jokes):

“The secratt of them Pents is the Rivits that I put in those Pockots,” he said. “I cannot make them up fast enough… My nabors are getting yealouse of these success.”

Levi’s, as the patented trousers became known, were made in two fabrics, cotton duck (similar to canvas) and denim. Denim sold because it was more comfortable, the denim changed as it aged and the way it wore reflected people’s lives. Because of its fading quality, denim was sold raw, unwashed and untreated, and each pair began telling the story of the worker and his work. Danny Miller, an unstudied anthropologist who published Blue Jeans says, “Jeans are the most personal thing you can wear,” says Miller. “They wear the body.”

In the 1930’s, Hollywood made lots of western movies where cowboys wore jeans. This made them popular amongst Americans. In the 1950’s denim became popular with young people. It was a symbol of the teenage rebel in TV programmes and movies (e.g. James Dean in his 1955 Rebel Without a Cause). A subversive counter-culture. Lynn Downey, who is an archivist and historian at Levi Strauss & Co says, “They freaked out the establishment of the United States because they were not conforming and they were wearing jeans.” Some schools in the USA even banned students from wearing denim. 

During the 1960’s jeans had also spread to the American middle class. Protesting college students began wearing them as a token of solidarity with the working class – those most affected by racial discrimination and war. Jeans were a symbol of democratization and put different classes on an equal playing field. Affordable, hard-wearing, looked good old or new and didn’t have to be washed or ironed often. This is where I believe jeans began being all things to all people. In the 1970’s, as regulations on world trade became more relaxed, jeans started to be made more and also became cheaper as workers were paid very little. In the 1980’s jeans finally became high fashion clothing as famous designers started making their own styles of jeans, with their own labels. Denim took to the catwalks and sales went up and up and up….

Levis. Guess. Sissy boy. Calvin Klein. Diesel. True Religion. Wrangler. Lee Jeans. Rider Jeans. Legendary Gold Jeans. Lee Dungarees. J Brand Jeans. Rustler Jeans. Black Orchid. DKNY Jeans. RedEngine. Rockstar. Stitchs. WESC. Antik. DenimofVirtue. Monarchy. Yanuk. IronArmy. Chloe Deschanel. Gridlock. Rock Revival. Brown Label Jeans. Ed Hardy Jeans… AND the list goes on…

The constant quality of creations, the obsessive attention to the fit. Preppy, edgy, styling, elegant, basic, durable, skinny, loose, high waisted, maternity, vintage washed, straight leg, super stretch, modern wide, tapered, flare, boot-cut, classic or flattering fit. Not dependent on height, race, intellect or athletic ability.

George W Bush and Tony Blair went out on the street in denim during their first summit meeting as they wanted to state that they were just regular guys. Not sure it worked very well (I can’t picture that at ALL) but the fact is that jeans can still be used to make a statement. For instance, Rockstar jeans have an ethos I love:

“Rockstar was born out of a never say die attitude and a belief that being a rockstar is an attitude not necessarily reserved for musicians only. A rockstar is someone who has an iconoclastic approach to the world. Rockstars follow their own path and do things their own way.”

I tried the rockstar thing in highschool. I decided to do something completely different with a pair of non-branded jeans I loved but was oh-so-bored with. At the time I was busy with a very detailed pen-and-ink piece for art. Hence, I decided to simply draw on my jeans (haha). I did a rather random design on the one leg and fell in love with those jeans all over again. My incredible workmanship got everyone asking where I’d bought them from which was a glorious surprise – specifically because East London is small and it can be tricky to find clothing that doesn’t blend into every other teenage girl.

I’m all about kick-ass, sexy, superb fitting, stylish looking, completely SWAG jeans. They must make me look skinny and my ass look amazing. Their quality should be off the charts to make their expense worth it. I have established a new standard of looking good and feeling good in jeans. Jeans reflect us and they reflect the lives that we’ve had in them.

In the words of Brooke Shields, “If my jeans could talk I’d be ruined” (1980 Jeans advertisement).

So here’s to the cowboys, farmers, teachers, doctors, mothers, students, retired folk, skaters, supermodels, presidents, hippies, punks, politicians and housewives…
Here’s to the jeans we wear.
Here’s to the stories they tell.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

A. Roof. Revelation.

Manual labour. I blame Adam and Eve.

You do know, right, that once you commit to something like painting a roof you can’t just back out? It’s a fact of life. Once you have verbally confirmed your commitment to a project of this calibre you must follow through. You have to. Especially when the painting party is made up of yourself and one other person.

So I shall afford you the opportunity to glimpse into the revelations and inspirations that can come from painting a roof. You, too, can throw yourself face-first into the hard-won glory of a completely painted roof.

Before resorting to techniques of distraction, I had to overcome my fear of heights. And I am generally NOT afraid of heights, but the combination of a rickety ladder together with the scorching furnace of a fiercely angled tiled roof and my lack of medical aid had pangs of terror coursing through my veins. Unfortunately, if I allow my imagination to roam free with a single disastrous idea à it tends to create headline stories in my mind. So not only was I shouting at my eyes, “DON’T LOOK DOWN”, I was also calming the headlines in my head, “Pastor’s daughter falls off roof” or “Freak accident in East London”… This was, of course, over-exaggerated by my father’s one liner of advice before he glided onto the other side of the roof, “If you feel yourself falling - drop the paint and hold on.” * big eyes, stifled gasp, headlines intensify *

Well, with summer fast approaching (despite the constantly emotional weather changes) I must say it is good to paint when there ARE clear skies. East London is known for its summer rainfall so you can have insane heat, icy wind and pouring rain all in one day. Gloriously surprising. NOT. However, we worked fast and efficiently in the 28 degree heat over two days. We, my dad and I, were a team to be reckoned with…. Bent backs, paint covered hands, oily sunscreen faces and bright smiles shining through pure exhaustion. * round of applause please *

Anyways, for your sympathetic smile I am going to share some of my thoughtful discoveries and ponderings. There were a few moments of profound revelation to be found in the bended back stance during those hours of each day. Perhaps they may add value to the way in which you view your roof…or life:

1)     Ugly days. Yep, we all have them. Those days you wake up feeling like a hedgehog… or a thrown-out rag doll. It doesn’t always have to be related to your appearance, it can simply be an unexpected feeling of self-disgust which affects your entire day. The answer I propose is simple: get on the roof!
Take a picnic basket, sunscreen and your ipod. Dream a little. As you take in life from another perspective your ugliness will feel less ugly. Plus no one will see you, endure you or have to interact with your ugliness.

2)     2 coats. Took us two days to paint our roof once. Whatya say? A good first job is really worth it? It takes twice the effort, twice the time and twice the amount of money to do it twice. Hence, my dad and I painted thickly and with stunning precision once and once only. Got me thinking about how often we face life with a sense of “two coats”. We don’t give it our best shot. We make excuses, procrastinate, wait for better options, second-guess everyone and everything, fail to live like today could be our last day. The truth is that if most of us live to about 80 years old – we get 42 075 901.3 minutes on earth. A good percentage of us are nearing 30 or over that which means we have about 50 years (26 297 438.3 minutes) left to give it stick. Let’s make it count. How about living with a one-excellent-coat kinda mentality?

3)     Another man’s shoes. Most of us are inquisitive about other people. The fascination with those who live differently to us. People’s stories. What they do and why they do what they do. What drives us? What haunts us? What motivates and inspires and pushes us? What keeps us looking ahead or sometimes drags us down? What we hope in and find satisfaction in? What moves us?
Keeping those questions in mind - - - Manual labour is not for sissies. Not at all. Yet a vast majority of people in our country do this for a living. This is their daily reality. Working until your body aches. Seriously. We can never fully relate to or comprehend what it feels like to walk in another man’s shoes until we have stood in them (even if for an hour) and felt the rough leather beneath our manicured toes.

4)     Qualify it. As I crouched over small sections of the great expanse of roof, I found myself feeling rather inadequate. I mean I knew that these small sections would eventually amount to a larger area but hey – it’s a slow process and in those moments it felt virtually impossible. I revert to imagination. I began inventing massive spray guns in my head and robotically engineered painting devices. But but but: Sweat soaking up every inch of clothing, back feeling as though it may crack in half and hands shaking from the exertion of monotonous movement. I guess that’s how we often feel in life?! Is faithfulness to a task or a job or a person even worth it? We’re full of instant-driven-societal-expectations. “NOW or never”. Tomorrow, next week or next month is far too late my friend. However, sometimes the best lessons we can learn are in the moments that seem insignificant. The daily disciplines that don’t simply quantify life but qualify it.

5)     Memories. Stop being such a girl riiiiiiiight? Nah, just hear me out. Life is to be shared.                                                               
I’ve reflected upon my rebellious highschool days when taking the burglar bars off my bedroom window and sneaking out on a weeknight or throwing a massive house party while my parents were overseas was sky-high-adrenaline-pumping fun. I’ve considered how it wasn’t healthy or wise and a million mistakes could have been made. I’ve thanked God for his protection. I’ve thought about what I will put in place to prevent my kids from ever being sneaker-outers. And then… I have to admit… I think about the memories. The moments shared with my best friend Amanda and an amazing group of friends who I’d only ever share being 16, 17 and 18 with. A tender and vulnerable part of life we should recall with a silly smile. Our statements, theories, raucous laughter, resolutions and complete “hacking” through teenagehood. And I don’t regret it at all.
Just like I don’t regret painting the roof.
With my dad.
In the summer of 2012.

“Sometimes the most ordinary things could be made extraordinary simply by doing them with the right people.” (Nicholas Sparks)

So those, my dearest friends, are my roof revelations.

In conclusion, I did sit there, staring at my dirty hands, takkies and bucket and thinking: “This had flippen well better be the best painted roof the world has ever seen.”

And, to be fair, I think it is.

Monday, November 12, 2012


Late afternoon.
It never arrives too soon.

Sun is slowly fading.
Car fumes disintergrating.
Possibility is parading.
Home-time is reigning.

City lights emerge over a canvass of smog.
Anticipation simmers against a setting sun backdrop.

The smell of spandex and cotton and laces.
ipod ready, playlist sorted, the blur of passing faces.
A route of familiarity or not.
Pounding the paving with everything I’ve got.

Pulse rate climbs, breathing anchors.
Sweat drenches the body like a salty blanket.

Time stands still in the beauty of the moment.
Running ends this day like a significant atonement.
Pushing up hills, through wind and rain.
Moving past the mental block and aching muscle pain.

Stress fades away, adrenaline soars,
Motivation in tact as freedom roars.

The road
and me,
A juxtaposed hue.
Raw and uncomplicated,
and true.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


One of the hardest things in life is learning to let go.

I’m not a parent but I’ve heard that the hardest part is not in having or taking care of kids. Childbirth, sleepless nights, endless nappies, school fees, teenage mood swings, discipline, sacrifice and everything in between. These are not the most difficult parts of parenthood.
The hard part is letting go of them.

The bumper sticker that says, “Let go and let God” isn’t a cliché.
It needs to be read and understood a thousand times more for what it truly means.
Letting go is not passive or inactive.
It means trust.
Having enough faith to let go.

I’ve been brought up as a dreamer. My Irish DNA speaks of attempting the impossible, always looking ahead, never giving up. I moved to Johannesburg with great strivings and ideals, allowing an image of what I desired deep within to build up in my head… and heart. And my admission, perhaps parallels to yours, is in wanting my significance to be found within a one-day-testimony of making it against all odds. The underdog finds glory. The small-town-girl makes her mark. Adding what I liked to the “one day” scenario when meeting or simply seeing someone in a spot I admired. I grasped so tightly to this goal and fought so hard to make it happen. As much as it was, and still is, my absolute passion – it became something so much more. Something that was my significance, my title, my initials…

Oh how toxic.
Planning my life as if I control the universe.

The weight of responsibility, the turmoil and pain in holding-on to make life’s dreams happen is overwhelming. Bearing it for the sake of broadening these skinny shoulders.
Drinking it up baby as there is no time for later.

I’ve learnt the hardest way. The way most of us are familiar with. The way that leads us to sitting in the darkness of a place we feel to be an ambush by someone high in the sky. Declaring His sovereignty when it makes us feel better but ignoring it when it matters most. He speaks everyday.
Opening your heart to the wrong person because you want marriage more than His perfect timing. Pushing for employment opportunities without proper experience. Moving cities with the desire for “big money”.

Oh to unwrap the bittersweet bubble wrap of tragic emptiness.

Do you ever wonder why Mick Jagger’s “I can’t get no satisfaction” had eighty-five thousand people chanting along? He had precisely the same conclusion that the writer of Ecclesiastes had. Delicious food, great sex, boundless fame, endless wealth, enormous power – don’t deliver. When our ultimate idols leave us begging to get on the next train.

There is true beauty in the midst of surrender.

I’ve heard that some people hold onto mistakes and replay them over and over again, allowing feelings of shame and regret to shape their actions in the present. Clinging to frustration and worry about the future, is an act of fixation actually giving people power. We are desperate for the next fix of control.

So I decided to google some advice on letting go and found a few suggestions as follows:
Channel your discontent into an immediate positive action, use meditation or yoga to bring you into the present moment, make a list of accomplishments and add to it daily, focus all your energy on something you can actually control, give yourself a vent window, remind yourself that anger hurts more than the person who upset you, metaphorically throw it away, use a stress ball, express yourself vocally, wear a rubber band on your wrist and gently flick it when you start obsessing on angry thoughts, visualize an empowered you, reward yourself for small acts of acceptance, replace emotional thoughts with facts, take a sauna break, imagine your life 10 years from now, organize your desk, laugh it out.

I also stumbled upon Dr Phil’s advice on letting go (of love of course), “Make a firm decision. Do what you have to do. Say no. Get out of my life. Stay away from me. Don’t call me. Focus on yourself.”

It’s a rather strange tug-of-war life we live, vacillating between good and bad, struggling to hold on and let go, attempting to understand the distinction between faithing and surrendering. Moving through gradual moments of release and then straight into catapulted clutching.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ.” (Phil 4:6)

There is a song enjoying huge radio play and doing well on charts around the world at the moment called “sweet nothing” by Calvin Harris and Florence Welch. Although it is a dance song it is quiet depressing as it is speaking about how the partner in a relationship is offering nothing in return to the love of him/ her. The lyrics go:
“So I put my faith in something unknown, I’m living on such sweet nothing, but I’m trying to hope with nothing to hold, I’m living on such sweet nothing.”

Giving up speaks of hopelessness. Giving in and shortchanging yourself.
Letting go is placing hope in someone or something else. Not being attached to a result.
Allowing hope and faith to grow in a person.
Not a train. Or a dream.
Allowing it grow in Him. Jesus Christ.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
(Hebrews 6: 19)

Perhaps there is something you have been holding on to for years, months, weeks or days. Perhaps the pain of holding on is greater than the pain of letting go. Perhaps right now, in this hour, you will begin to loosen the grip you hold on so many elements of this short life. Perhaps freedom is inextricably bound to letting go.