Wednesday, January 7, 2009

These Pants Were Made for Walking

Levi Strauss & Co.
1155 Battery St.
San Francisco, CA 94111

To Whom It May Concern:

I wish to inform you of an exciting new business opportunity. Levi Strauss, long an established and respected leader in the casual clothing industry, has yet to move into the couture sector of the marketplace. I have developed a failsafe plan to change this. Why not offer your customer a garment with a life of its own, with a story to tell?

Here is how it will work: you will send me two pairs of standard Levi’s 501s, one for me and one for my travel companion. We will then wear them on far-flung adventures and write up a detailed report of how travel has matured the pants into entirely new and one-of-a-kind garments. You will then be able to sell them under a special label (called perhaps Jeans Beyond Borders or maybe simply Passport, Please) for no less than $800 per pair.

During a recent trip to Vietnam, I prepared two prototypes for you. Both pairs of blue jeans were put through the most rigorous of aging processes. Over thousands of kilometers and two and a half weeks of non-stop wear, they have been meticulously shaped into objets d’art. Here are a few descriptive details that will hopefully capture the kind of exemplary craftsmanship you can expect from us.

-small stain on one knee from the juicy drippings of a freshly-wrapped spring roll dipped in fig-green banana-peanut sauce

-splotches of mud along the shins from Sapa, where we followed two Black H’moung adolescents on a hike through terraced rice paddies and bamboo forests

-grime and slight fraying along the cuffs from a rainy day of walking through the ruins of the Imperial Enclosure in yesterday’s capital, Hue

-wear below the back pockets from leaning against a tree at a mammoth outdoor Catholic Christmas Eve mass in today’s capital, Hanoi

-minor fading on the thighs from a damp kayaking foray among the limestone rock formations of Halong Bay

-deep and musky smell from the hours spent at markets and street stalls eating noodle soup and drinking Bia Hoi and apple wine

-front pockets ragged and ink-stained from the constant poking presence of note-taking pens

-sagging around the knees and hips from too many successive days spent on outmoded buses and rickety sleeper trains

-small tear (on the calf of male garment) from a wee motorbike accident that ended in a heap of dirt at a rural construction site along the mountain pass to Lai Chau (This is actually a fib. There was, indeed, such an incident, but the tear is from some heedless grappling with a guardrail during an attempt by the wearer to take a leak by the side of the road. This lie should not undercut our authority, but merely prove to you our commitment to both dramatic flair and your own subsequent financial gain.)

I am even willing to throw in a few extras to add to the air of authenticity:

-one $2 replica of a VC issue belt bought from the army surplus market in Saigon

-one map of Cuc Phuong National Park, home of a 1000-year-old tree, the Silver Palace cave, and a primate sanctuary for special breeds of Vietnamese langurs that look like they’re wearing sporty Bermuda shorts

-a random assortment of Cambodian riel and Vietnamese dong stuffed carelessly into the front pockets, totaling approximately 66 cents in US currency

We will, of course, split any profits with you, enabling our next pant-weathering excursion. I am pleased to inform you that I have also met a number of travelers who are willing to be employed by you in a similar capacity—sweet young French Canadians, exuberant students from Singapore, Australian geneticists, and many more. An enthusiastic workforce and a boost to your bottom line are yours for the taking. I await your reply and anticipate a long and profitable business partnership.


Shannon N. Dunlap

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