My jeans today bear the Asbury Park label, constructed from sturdy, raw selvedge denim that itself came together, thread by thread, on an antiquated Draper Flyshuttle Loom on the second floor of Cone Mills’ White Oak Plant, perhaps two miles from my front door, in the Denim City.
They’re structured in classic five-pocket style, with a button fly, and they’re a bit too long — when I first got them last year I let them bunch around my knees and hips, and now when I roll the cuffs a little the faded whiskers really stand out.
One of my talents — something I was born with, I think — is my ability to break things in, wear them down, season them to my liking. Jeans. Shoes. Belts. Catcher’s mitts. I could break in a new pair of dark blue Levis in one weekend behind the bar. These Asbury Park jeans took a little longer.
I suppose I have been wearing them, with little exception, every day for at least 10 months. As far as I know, I have washed them once: cold water in the gentle cycle with no detergent, line dried.
I don’t mess around with my jeans, not after I burned through a pair of Raleighs in 16 months after near-constant wear and frequent washings, blowing out the rear pockets and creating a… situation with the button fly that keeps me from wearing them outside the house.
My affinity for blue jeans — a lifelong thing — is one of the things that binds me to Greensboro, where from about 1900 until January of this year, the finest denim in the world came from the White Oak plant’s looms, notably the mechanical Draper flyshuttles, which local scuttlebutt insinuates are earmarked for Mexico or Japan since Cone shuttered the mill.
When Wrangler announced a relocation from Greensboro to Denver, I feared the last tie had been severed.
But Wrangler, the city’s last vestige of the denim trade, sold off its denim line to Lee Jeans — itself a legacy brand — which in turn will be moving its headquarters here.
Let’s call it: Not a Total Loss.
If I were CEO of Lee’s denim operation, I’d try to get my hands on as many Draper looms as I could. I know for sure there’s one on display in the Greensboro History Museum.
Because I can feel it: I’m gonna need a new pair of jeans pretty soon. And just like shrimp from the gulf, pizza from New York and tacos from the mercadito, I prefer my denim comes from Greensboro.