Wednesday, February 12, 2020

$200 Jeans? Bureau of Specious Statistics Strikes Again!

Is the average price of a pair of blue jeans $200 in United States? I don't think so.

As I noted another posting, we recently ordered two pairs of Wrangler jeans for Mark from and they cost under $50 for two pairs ($19.95 each), including shipping.  I find the Wrangler jeans fit better than Levi's and other brands.  All those cowboys can't be wrong - right?  That's a hell of a deal.  I was perusing a sears catalog from 1974, and crappy "Sears" jeans were an astounding $10.99 back then.  That's over $60 today.  I wonder why Sears went bankrupt?

The Wranglers wear well and are a good value.  I usually have two pairs of them just as I have two pairs of  Merrell Moab sneakers.   The older pair of shoes and jeans for working on the house and mowing the lawn and whatnot, and the newer pair of shoes and jeans for more formal occasions like going out to eat or something.  Over time, the new pair becomes the old pair.   And since I am wearing the same shoes and jeans, it is easy to shop for them online and get the lowest price (as compared to say, going to a mall and then buying something different every time based on what they have in stock).

I made the mistake of clicking on a listicle online listing "Eight things you should buy at thrift shops." I was curious as to what they were going to suggest and I felt their choices were rather odd. I've acquired a lot of nice things at thrift shops over the years. I've managed to find vintage Tommy Bahama shirts in some stores down in Florida, when wives bring their deceased husband's clothing there. The silk shirts wear like iron and they are classic design, and when I'm dead Mark and probably sell them for what I paid for them.

Glassware and dishes can be pretty cheap, too, particular if you are furnishing a rental property or the like. Bear in mind everything at the Dollar Tree is a dollar, so if you're looking for a wine glass, you might want to look there first.  It depends on Thrift Shop, but sometimes they overprice things.

I was kind of startled that the article said that you should buy your blue jeans at thrift store.  I'm sure you probably can find a decent pair there for not a lot of money.  But what really shocked me was they claim that the average price of a pair of blue jeans in the United States is $160 for women and over $200 for men.   This struck me as rather ludicrous.

I'm sure if you go down to the shops on 5th Avenue or Rodeo Drive, blue jeans probably start at that price. Or if you go to some of the high-end malls or designer stores, they cost in that range.  The bulk of Americans are shopping in places like Target and Walmart, and blue jeans simply just aren't that expensive there.   I smell mendacity.  I smell the bureau of specious statistics!

What this does illustrate, is that you do have choices in life.  Too many people choose to buy more expensive things that really don't give them much more in the way of durability, service, style, or fashion or anything.  They simply pay more because they don't bother to look.  I know I was that way when I was much younger - buying whatever they had at the store that caught my eye, without looking at the prices too closely.

And we're not talking a savings of 5% or 10% here and there, but people willing to pay ten times as much for a pair of blue jeans than they need to.  And for what?   To have a designer label on the back?  To impress people we don't know?   Beats me.   But it is interesting.

People pay extra for these jeans that are already "distressed" or worn out - and I don't understand that. For starters, the "wear" or "soil" patterns on the jeans are obviously fake - they are in all the wrong places.  You can't have clean "dirty" jeans.   Besides, if you just use your jeans, over time, actual wear and dirt stains will show up naturally.  Why accelerate the process?

It was a fad for a while to buy jeans with holes in them which also struck me as odd, as my jeans get holes in over time anyway.  So why bother buying them pre-holed?  Just buy a new pair and let them wear out slowly over time.  Put a new clutch in your car, or install some hardwood flooring - before long, you will be the height of style!

Target wants $59.95 for this pair of jeans.
 This looks worse than the pair I just threw away after installing hardwood floors.
I should have sold those on eBay!

It reminds me when I was a kid back in the 1970s, when wearing blue jeans became a big thing. Prior to that time we wore nice Pendleton shirts and slacks to school and wearing blue jeans was a sign of rebellion.  And it would mark you as a dork if you showed up with a brand new pair of crisp dark blue jeans with no wear on them.

So what we would do is run the jeans through the washing machine a half dozen times, perhaps adding some Clorox bleach or even sanding the knees with some sandpaper.  Yes I know. it was stupid - but teenagers do stupid things.

What I found out, over time, was when you buy a brand new pair of blue jeans, they start to look pretty faded within about a month or so.  If you are really concerned so much that other people think you look dorky for a few weeks, then maybe you need to rethink your priorities.

We fully embrace the Walmart lifestyle - and it's a pretty decent one compared to the world standard  of living.  My $20 blue jeans work as well and last as long if not longer than the $200 designer pair.  Our $25,000 hamster has as many features as an E-Class Mercedes but it's a lot more reliable and cheaper to repair and insure.  And I don't worry about where I park it, either.

Sometimes, less is more, particularly when less allows you to have more.  Everything we buy and consume diminishes our independence just a little bit.  The more we want things the less freedom we have.   Maybe buying a $60 pair of "distressed" jeans won't bankrupt you - or even a pair of $200 designer jeans (ten times what I am paying!).   But that does mean you have to work ten times as much in order to buy them.   Add that up for everything in your life, and you will be dead before you can pay it all off.

But this also gets me to thinking - again, a dangerous pastime - how perception affects pricing.  The Target jeans, shown above, would be deemed garbage ready for a dumpster, or something worn by a bum or hippie (before we had "homeless" people) and worth absolutely nothing.   But today, it is perceived as worth not only something but three times as much as a pair of functional jeans.

It is no different than diamonds or Swaroviski "crystals" (which we used to call rhinestones).  Diamonds are not all that rare, and in fact, they can be manufactured today, for far less than they can be dug out of the ground (and flawless as well - which gives them away, ironically).   The diamond mining industry cornered the market and sold the perception that these rocks were valuable.   When I was a kid, rhinestones were deemed to be tacky knock-offs of real gemstones, or "costume jewelry".   Today, thanks to a well-engineered marketing campaign (and branding), people pay through the nose for "crystals" which we used to call "paste" or "glass"   It is all based on perception, marketing, and branding.

Myself, I find this fascinating - that people will pay not just a small premium, but ten times as much - or a thousand - to have a product that is deemed "desirable" simply because it is.   And it is desirable because they told us it was - and now dumpster jeans cost more than new ones.

The world is a crazy place.   Act rationally in an irrational world.