I’m not materialistic. Nor am I vain. Alright, I’m a little vain. I do care what I look like. And I can’t help caring what other people think of me. I’d like not to care, but I do. So shoot me.

It was a pretty big test of my resolve when my ex-wife and I left to travel for eight months four years ago. We smartly decided to pack only a couple pairs of light hiking pants and wear our hiking boots most of the time (with flip-flops crammed in the side of the backpacks). We were trying to go light.

“Who cares what we look like?” we thought; we were going to be comfortable!

But here’s the thing. When you start making friends on the road and going out for dinners and drinks, you start to feel like a bum when everyone looks sharp and you look like you’re about to tackle Mt. Kilimanjaro.

The breaking point for us was when we got to Beijing, a good six months after we started our travels. I’m not sure how I survived that long without denim covering my legs. We made good friends with two Aussie couples who set the fashion bar slightly higher than us.

We became self-conscious. Off to the Silk Market we went to find us some cheap “evening wear.”

Photo byCarlo Alcos

The Silk Market in Beijing is a multi-floor market with aggressive vendors that won’t let you leave without buying something, sometimes even blocking your path out. (From what I remember, there were strict rules about vendors making contact with shoppers, a big no-no.) Buried beneath a pile of pants in one shop I found some lightweight jeans.

They were super-thin, like cotton, yet they were denim. They were perfect, and they happened to fit me perfectly. It was fate. I haggled the price down. Not as much as I would have liked, because I was probably too obvious in my excitement. She knew I wasn’t leaving without them. I’m a terrible bargainer.

I also managed to hook up a pair of brown Adidas kicks for $10. These two items would become my staples for outings. I had a New Year’s Eve outfit.

Once we got to Australia (to live for two years in Melbourne) I upgraded the jeans to something more durable and fashionable. My new jeans were the most comfortable, best-looking pants I’d ever bought.

I gotta say, my ass looked quite fine in them. I wore them like they were going out of style, even though I knew jeans never go out of style. Pants of mine tend to go first in the inner crotch area, probably because of the way my legs rub together when I walk. They wear thin there and eventually holes appear. This is around the time I usually let go of them.

But not these jeans. No, sir.

I brought them in to a tailor to get patched. Then the rear started to go on them, getting so thin you could almost see through the material. Back to the tailor for more patching. When we left Oz, I continued to wear them at the Vancouver Olympics, in Cuba, Mexico, New York, Halifax, Toronto, Montreal, and, finally, in my current home of Nelson, BC.

The holes started migrating to the front, just below the pockets. I met a friend who happened to have a sewing machine. She did her best to repair them, but the holes were now coming at a rate I couldn’t keep up with.

I kept wearing them anyway, convincing myself that hole-y jeans were all the rage. In the winter cold you could clearly see my thermal underwear through them. It’s hard to let go of a good pair of jeans.

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