This one thing is true: everything I have ever done, good or bad, heartbreaking or mesmerizing, I have done in this one pair of Levi’s jean shorts. When I die, I’ve requested to be buried in them. When I travel, they are the first thing I pack. If I am home, they’re top of the rotation. If there is an adventure to be had, you can find me in these shorts. If they could talk, I’d pray to God they knew how to keep secrets.
I imagine everyone has something like this: a hat, a sweatshirt, a pair of shoes they ran their first marathon in, lucky underwear for football season. Sometimes I recognize these items on other people. I’m pretty sure my boyfriend might cease to exist without his jacket. It is a three piece combination of a hooded sweatshirt, wax canvas jacket, and denim vest that have melded together after circling the world a few times and riding a motorcycle through the Himalayas. In the picture of him I hold in my mind, he is twenty-five and wearing this jacket.
I find it amazing/odd/magical that some article of clothing could feel so ride-or-die and take on its own personality. After all, I pride myself on believing a thing is just a thing, in selling my belongings and moving, in not holding on to much. And yet these shorts have moved nine times with me to four different states, seen three great loves, weaseled their way backstage, hopped plane rides, kissed in courtyards, downed bottles of wine, attended birthdays parties, baby showers, and even a funeral. These shorts know me at my highest highs and no doubt have seen my lowest lows.
But, why this specific pair in a day and age where Levi jean shorts run rampant? Is it the fact that after eating my way across France they managed to still fit me? Or that I was wearing them at Warped Tour when I slept with that drummer? How about the fact that I was with my sister when I bought them, drinking iced teas in the basement of a thrift store in Minneapolis on one of the hottest days I can remember, and that the music literally stopped when I picked them up.
Maybe because I’m wearing them in those photographs he took of me when we met. And then again when we broke up and I walked home crying. Or because they helped me think of the right words when I was writing my thesis. Perhaps because I’m wearing them right now.
I’d wager it’s all of it. It’s all of the living and the dying I’ve done in them and will continue to do until I either get pregnant and they never fit again, or my seamstress tells me there is no way she can repair another rip in the butt cheek. Someone smarter or with better taste might suggest I retire them, but I’ve never been one for suggestions. And it might sound cliche and semi-inspirational to claim that it’s not the shorts that make all of this so special. It’s just that the best clothes get the best parts of your life. Even if they are just shorts or a jacket or a lucky tee, they’ve got the big memories that make you blush, the ones you take to your grave, the times you’ll hold close when the thing is gone and threadbare and just something you point out in photographs.
If you want your one perfect piece of clothing to be jeans shorts, here’s how to get them:
1. Buy a pair of Levis a size too big (be sure they are a little loose in the leg) and cut them. You want the cut to angle up slightly near the outside of the thigh, an inch longer in the middle. Cut them long and make adjustments because you can always make them shorter. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve butchered a pair by making them denim underwear on the first cut. Then cold wash and hang dry, wear a few times to create proper fringe and then don’t wash again until absolutely needed. The denim will begin to fit to your body the longer you wear them and the more fun you have.
2. Buy an already cut pair from a vintage slinger. My personal favorite is @turquioisetrailvtg — a small seller out of New Mexico, just south of Santa Fe. She somehow scores the best selection of Wrangler and Levi’s I’ve ever seen. Plus, she prices them fairly and has perfected the art of the right cut. Every pair I’ve ordered has fit like a gem. Shopping online can be a bit trickier with vintage, so save yourself some headache by taking your measurements in a precise way before ordering. Sizes can vary depending on the year so measurements are the only way to be exact. Scope out her Instagram or scour her Etsy page. (Be careful she also has the best turquoise.)