This is something that happened back in May, but I’m still proud of it and still want to share.
I put on a pair of jeans for the first time in over a year. I got them at a clothing swap back in March in one of the University areas in my town. It was held at an English cafe and organized by an American teacher/expat/migrant worker (I don’t know what to call all of the ESL teachers living abroad nowadays).
Korea is many things and it is also the land of consumerism. Imported brands are expensive but cute little boutique shops are everywhere, things are cheap and appear to be locally-made. It is a daily struggle of numerous migrant teachers like myself to not buy anything and everything with Hello Kitty and Rilakumma on it, as well as one-dollar ankle socks with images of PSY dancing to his iconic Gangnam Style or any over-sized T-shirt that reads “I don’t do Wednesdays.” It’s just all so cute and indulgent.
I realized sometime this past winter (after settling into my second apartment of the year, and moving to yet another place in Asia) that I hadn't worn a pair of jeans since I left Montreal the previous spring (I wasn’t sure if I’d worn a pair of jeans at some point during my last weeks at home, but I assumed I did). I looked through my Korean closet at the thin articles of clothing I brought to the country with me; the few items I picked up in Beijing along with a few funky shirts from Thailand and I realized I'd been living a jeans-less life for over eight months. I was surprised at myself for not even realizing it. It’s not very common nowadays. I told my neighbour, co-worker and friend Barb on our walk to work the following day. “Did you know I haven't worn or even put on a pair of jeans since last May?” I boasted. She's from the west coast of Canada and she says I'm more of a hippie than most of her friends. I take that as a compliment, I think.
Jeans are like the staple of the wardrobe for the First World in the 20th century and now in 2015, everyone's wearing them. I had no time for jeans last year when I tried to pack light and move myself yet again to the other side of the world, and I had way too much time for them the year prior. Living at my parents house with ample closet space and lots of weekends spent lounging around instead of hiking, hopping trains or exploring a new city, one could say that I dressed the part. I guess I love to balance things, too. After leaving that life I left my jeans at home.
A gal has to pack light, you know. I always bring a lot of books with me and I routinely go through a wardrobe cleaning/makeover whenever I decide to leave town. I pack the books that I feel like I should read on the particular journey (that book of short stories, that new biography, that Jane Jacobs book). I go through my year, my regrets and my longings, as I (throw out) old clothes away from my old wardrobe and pack up what I need to survive for another time abroad. I never know where I'll end up but I know that a pair of leggings is always good to have on any side of the world. So when I decided to travel again I packed my traveling shorts, a few pairs of leggings and flew to New York, then to Bangkok via Tokyo.
With the combination of being completely broke and having little time to shop in between my 12-hour workdays and Korean weekends filled with beaches, random adventures, visitors and playing Ultimate Frisbee, jeans just didn't make their way into my life for a while.
And between beautiful, intense heat, monsoons and smog in South East Asia and China, I led a jean-less existence for the greater part of 2014 and into 2015. Only when I felt the mild chill of Busan in the winter and the mindless-ness of my daily routine did I finally feel the need to put on a pair of jeans. I waited for my year anniversary and as a celebration I put on my new/old pair of jeans. It had been almost exactly 370 days and I was running late on a Korean Friday morning. I was out of bottom wear. My leggings were all in the wash and I was in no mood for a dress or skirt. So I picked up the jeans and slid them on. Faded, worn and comfortable, I wore them with a blouse to work and the rambunctious twins I teach in my morning homeroom class (Korean 5 year olds, the cutest little girls around) played with the holes in them and jumped on me, like they do everyday.
So I'm back in the game. I still value my minimalist wardrobe that got me through the year. I'll never forget it.
Leave your jeans at home sometimes, why don't you? See what else is out there.