A Red Pants Event

Starting 6th grade was kind of a big deal to me. I had just come off a year that involved a 6month relocation to Baltimore, 3 surgically broken bones that over the span of 6months straightened my left leg and lengthened it over 4inches, and a full year of physical therapy. I was able to walk into the 6th grade without crutches or a wheel chair. I got to pick out regular shoes that didn’t require a cobbler to add a couple inches of length to the bottom for me to be able to walk. And I was able to wear regular clothes — not the athletic shorts or the handmade or altered sweatpants that my mom very lovingly made & altered for me (thanks, mom! you rule!). When I went to the store school shopping — so proud and excited — I saw the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen before. Red jeans.

These red jeans were wild. They were crazy bright and they felt like they were meant just for me. They said, “Sarah, you just conquered some incredible challenges and you deserve to be seen!” They were bold and unlike anything I’d seen before and it was just love at first sight. I grabbed an equally bright pair of yellow jeans and we checked out.

When the first day of school arrived, I put on my red jeans and my regular shoes and I walked so proudly into that classroom. As we all know though, 6th grade girls can be tough. And my red jeans — my declaration that I’d went through a tough time and come out stronger, my celebration of all that I’d made it through — were met with ridicule by my classmates. I was teased. Mercilessly. Growing up with the leg issues I did, I was used to not fitting in partly because this kind of handicap is like wearing a billboard stating that you’re different in an atmosphere where fitting in is supposed to be paramount and partly because having this kind of handicap just forces a kid to see the world very differently, so I was not like every other kid in a lot of ways. Even though there was hope that my leg being fixed up would maybe magically change that, at that point in my life I’d been through enough to meet the disappointment with a little bit of maturity. Of course, it hurt a lot, but I loved those jeans. And I wore them anyways because I loved them.

To my surprise, later that school year colored jeans made their way into the mainstream. The very pants I was mocked for at the start of the year were suddenly the height of fashion in small town Wisconsin. At the time, I was pretty sure it was because secretly I was a trendsetter. I was clearly the kid other kids wanted to be like, but no one was bold enough to admit it. I had a lot of delusions like that as a kid, but on the bright side it taught me to always just go with what I like. I might not be an oracle (although I may or may not still be on the fence about that), but I might as well follow my instincts since the general public will eventually get there. Give it 6months and I’ll be totally cool.

I told Mr Knitting Sarah this story early on in our relationship when something similar happened. As I’ve gotten older, the teasing is mostly nonexistent, of course, because in adulthood who really spends their time with people who might gawk and tease about what you wear, but I still stick out a fair bit from time to time because I am occasionally ahead on a trend. And I still don’t care. Give it 6months or a year and we’ll all be on the same page.

Mr Knitting Sarah finds the story of the red jeans hilarious, though, largely because of my being convinced at the time that the fact that colored jeans became popular were a direct effect of my deciding they were cool and rocking them (obviously, that 6th grade delusion does not still exist in my head, but it’s fun to joke around with it). He likes to refer to it as a ‘synchronicity’ — meaning the two events are meaningfully related, but not causally related. So, in plain English, he thinks it’s true that I like trends that often become mainstream, but they don’t become mainstream because I like them. We’ve come to endearingly refer to such events as Red Pants Events in our house and it never fails to make my husband laugh and shake his head as I declare triumphantly with wide (read: crazy) eyes that I have once again been a trendsetting catalyst.

Last night, Mr Knitting Sarah handed me his latest Backpacker Magazine. Now as much as I enjoy ‘camping light’ (aka car camping), I’m not the hardcore 4-season all-weather backpacking enthusiast my husband is, so I was a little skeptical. Usually being handed an issue of Backpacker means he is going to attempt to convince me that taking our family in a canoe over a waterfall sounds like a great idea or that our next dream vacation is going to somehow involve wild polar bears. Instead, he just handed it to me and said, “Our worlds are colliding.”

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This article entitled Homegrown Gear: Made in America Makes a Comeback focuses on and explores the ‘new’ push toward paying a bit extra for higher quality items that are made domestically. Hmmm. As I continued to read, I discovered the article talks a fair bit about woolens and how domestically grown and manufactured woolen items are a kind of booming business in the USA currently. My husband couldn’t resist pointing out this Red Pants Event with a bit of a snicker — I’ve been hand-making our woolens for the last 12years, after all, often seeking domestically sourced wool and now it’s apparently en vogue to have such items. I’ve done it again!

This fantastic graphic shows you how the manufacturer Voormi sources, processes, and manufactures its Access Pullover “From Sheep to Shelf.”

IMG_8732For those of us who are knitters, this process looks awfully familiar. For those of us who spin, we recognize even more of the flow chart. And for those fiber artists who source their own wool and wash and card it — well, there’s not really any step there you haven’t really gone through (except maybe the ‘superwashing’). Now in all seriousness, I take no credit for this Red Pants Event (or do I?) and if you’re reading this blog post you are probably in the exact same boat as me (one that is not going over a waterfall, thank god), but it’s pretty fantastic to see this article — and especially the ‘sheep to shelf’ explanation — in a mainstream, non fiber arts periodical. A definite indicator that locally sourced, handmade or smaller scale manufacturing is becoming more mainstream in the USA and that items such as domestically grown wool are once again in demand is just tremendous news. I just think it’s great on many levels and I am so glad that this trend in product awareness is reaching more and more people.

Β I’m ecstatic to say have spent the last 12years honing my skills for this trend and many of you have probably been knitting and spinning away longer than that. I’m interested to see how far this trend goes, how long it stays popular and mainstream, and how long it takes for us to get handknit socks into the mainstream. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all made our own socks, or at least some of them? If we all had a little sack of knitting that we brought along on our camping trips, our road trips, our commute to work or school? Until that Red Pants Event occurs, I’m going to stay the course…

IMG_8731-4The general public will come around eventually.

15 responses to “A Red Pants Event

  1. I really enjoyed reading this! Thank your sharing your Red Pants story, it made me smile quite a bit! And it’s so nice to see that the rest of the world is becoming more interested in natural fibers again β€” hopefully it’ll start catching up to the slow fashion movement as well. Great post!

  2. Oooooh I love this post/story. ‘Slow fashion’ is something I feel very strongly about and I’m so happy it’s coming around. I mouth off about the wonders of wool all the time and do my best to avoid synthetic petroleum-based products (polyester and acrylic, I’m looking at you) because we really don’t need another reason to burn up more fossil fuels and because truthfully, wool just does it better. Yay sheep to shelf!

  3. I love this story! I’m currently coveting a pair of red skinny jeans.. and I’m looking for the perfect pair of mustard yellow ones!

    • Confession: I can’t do skinny jeans. My legs are wildly different sizes (thanks to the issues mentioned in this post) so they look so weird on me! One leg is tight and the other is baggy. Always. I have to hang in there until boot cut comes back in style. It’ll totally be another Red Pants Event then, too. πŸ˜‰ Hopefully when they come back in style so will bright colors!

  4. Loved your red pants story. It reminds me of how I was single handedly responsible for making Levi’s popular. It was 5th grade for me & I was tall & skinny. So tall & skinny I had to resort to shopping in the men’s department & having my pants special ordered. And Levi’s were the only pants the store could order in a 24 waist & 36 inch inseam. (Did I mention being weirdly tall & weirdly skinny??) I showed up to school in my Levi’s & for weeks, everyone teased me about the tag hanging off my butt. I caved in to the pressure & cut the tags off. A few weeks later, Levi’s & that bright red butt tag were THE ‘in’ thing and I had to beg & beg my mom to go buy me more pants to replace my now tagless ones. Ahh…. the price we pay for being trendsetters. πŸ™‚

  5. Terrific story! It made me smile. It is wonderful that you didn’t let the other kids dissuade you from rocking the red jeans.

  6. Red Pants πŸ™‚ Fantastic. Also on the course with you and the sock knitting…just keep knitting, especially in public! Influence the masses πŸ™‚

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