Intentional style: brand new old fashioned denim

jeans, jumper, boots old by Aldo

jeans, jumper, boots old by Aldo

Remember when jeans were a thing that you had to wear in? And the best jeans, once worn in, had to be washed carefully to prevent bagging or shrinking once you’d finally got them perfectly soft? There was something sort of pleasing about having to put in some effort to making your jeans perfect, it felt like making friends with them.

For a good while now though, jeans have been all about that stretch. Although boyfriend jeans (and, I suppose, mom jeans, although I haven’t Gone There Yet) are marking a trend back towards actual cotton denim, which needs a little more wearing in and has a little more life about it, skinny jeans have, for obvious reasons, stayed firmly in the stretch denim category.

For a couple of seasons now I’ve had a hankering for a pair of skinny jeans that had some of the quality and weight of ‘old fashioned’ denim without sacrificing the shape. I wanted jeans that didn’t need washing every other wear, that could actually improve with age and that felt like the good old friends that jeans used to. Basically, all the advantages of modern denim with the joy of old school denim.

Step forward, Levi’s 721s, a higher rise version of their 711 skinnies.

Best. Jeans. Ever.

The weight is just a fraction heavier than any other jeans I’ve bought recently, and has something of the body of old school denim with all the benefits of modern stretch fabric technology. So none of that time spent wearing in, but they already feel like old friends. And the cut is brilliant, really flattering for my, ahem, less than gazelle like thighs. The only slight, and easily resolved, issue is that I’m 5’6” and slightly short legged for my height, and they are verging on being too long for me. If I wanted to wear them in summer without rolling up I’d need to get them adjusted.

But the best bit of all? They hold their shape. I’m not going to confess how many times I wore them before they went in the wash, but when they eventually did it was because they had got actually dirty rather than baggy.

Jeans are such a cornerstone of my wardrobe, and I only have a couple of pairs at a time, so I need my denim to work hard and feel good. These are ticking all the boxes so far. Already tempted to add a second pair, maybe in grey.

Not all of the colours in the 721 are made from the same fabric, for some reason, so I don’t want to speak for the quality of every colour way (mine are Amnesia), but presumably the cut is equally excellent across the board.

 

Intentional living: If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly

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No, that’s not a typo.

If you’re a perfectionist (and/or a control freak. It's faintly possible I'm both), you’ll know what it is to be fixated on doing a thing well. When I write, I know exactly how I want my voice to come across. When I decorate I know exactly how I want the finished space to look. And when I am planning my wardrobe I know the exact style of jumper that I need to make everything work. And so, when I am in the midst of that process, I frequently get completely bogged down in the detail and fail to actually, you know, do anything. In my case this is particularly true of creative endeavours, but I'm not fussy, I like to apply my perfectionism everywhere.

Now this is a proper ‘lessons from your mother’ moment, as when I used to get completely stuck on something in this way my mother used to say ‘if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.’ And I would eye roll. But in my own way and in my own time, I’ve come to see the value in her words (don’t tell her I said that).

Obviously I don’t actually aim to do things badly - ideally everything in my life would be beautiful and perfect and lovely first time round, but back here in the real world that doesn’t always go to plan. Sometimes, you need to just have a go. Yes, it might not be perfect first time, and you and the rest of the world may not stop and gasp in wonder at the marvel of what you have achieved, but actually, sometimes just doing it is enough. Sometimes, it might really be a bit of a crap job and you have to just go ‘huh. Oh well’ and start all over again, but actually that doesn’t happen too often.

Take my floor. Don’t take it, obviously. Just look at it, up there, all shiny and light grey and minimalist. When we moved into this house two years ago, it was carpeted in a delightful tapestry of salmon pink (hallway), burgundy (dining room) and brown (bathroom). I spent months agonising over flooring choices to replace it, debating between various quality products, getting in a twist about how we would merge the new flooring with the even newer flooring when we eventually extend the house, generally completely failing to make any sort of progress on actually improving our living space in the here and now. After a few months, I finally had a word with myself and decided that some progress was better than no progress (seriously, those carpets were something else).

I ripped up the carpet. Just like that. What was underneath was not, tragically, original parquet flooring or vintage tiles, but BLACK. The alarming blackness turned out to be bitumen coated concrete, as is the case with many 1950s ex-council houses. One trip to B&Q and many litres of floor paint later and a perfectly serviceable floor was created.

It’s needed a few touch ups over the past couple of years - our house is tiny and there are five of us living here, so every last square inch is well used and well worn - but it’s enabled us to save our money to get the whole of the ground floor done when we extend, and given me time to live in the house and get a better feel for the kind of finish we eventually need in these rooms. Done, in this instance, was very much better than procrastination in the name of perfection.

Another note about things that are worth doing. The unutterable joy of, just occasionally, doing something ‘badly’ and discovering that ‘badly’ (i.e. differently to the very controlled and precise vision in your head) is actually better than anything you had previously imagined. It doesn’t happen every time, but for a perfectionist like me it’s a good reminder that sometimes 100% control over every aspect of the creative process isn’t required.

Sometimes, you just need to make a start. Don’t let perfection stand in the way of progress.

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Intentional style. Intentional living.

 

So pleased to see you’ve stopped by. Grab a cup of tea, find a comfy seat and discover what it feels like to live a little more intentionally.

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What do I mean by that? For me, an intentional life means creating an environment where all the little moments and corners of our lives can become positive and pleasurable points of living in the present. It means not just drudging through each day, waiting for that one annual holiday or that one special meal out that is supposed to make the weeks and months of mundanity worthwhile, but rather working to create as many excellent little moments throughout each day as possible.

Perhaps it’s switching three cups of very average tea gulped down over breakfast for getting up fifteen minutes earlier and savouring one excellent in the quiet before everyone else wakes up, or passing over two pairs of ok-ish trainers for just one perfect pair that will bring on what I have rather scientifically termed ‘the daily smug’ - that feeling when you glance down and remember that yes, those rather well dressed feet do belong to you.

I’m still on a learning curve myself, but since taking the decision to live life a little more on purpose, I’ve realised that I don’t just want to live it. I want to share it. Not in a scary ‘newly converted zealot’ kind of way, more in a ‘writing about it over here and hope you’ll stop by occasionally’ kind of way.

I’m not going to delve into the whole process right here, or this would be one very long, very boring blog post, and I’d have nothing left to say next time, but I'll leave you with this; my journey started not with six months therapy or hours of solo meditation, but with my wardrobe. I think yours can too.