Wednesday 11 May 2011

Jeans 1

John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band was his no-bullshit record. No overdubs, no nonsense poetry, no drugs, no magic, no I Ching, no Bible, no tarot, no Hitler, no Jesus, no Kennedy, no Buddha, no mantra, no Gita, no yoga, no kings, no Elvis, no Zimmerman, no Beatles. After all those years searching for answers from father figures, Lennon had seen the light. “I just believe in me. Yoko and me.” The Me Generation had arrived. There was no such thing as society, only individuals and their families. “And that’s reality.”

On both the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band covers, Lennon wears denim – on the latter a jacket and the former jeans.

In the 50s and 60s, jeans were an exotic item for Europeans. In America they had gone from being work clothes worn by the poor to symbols of the new youthful middle class rebellion. But they were almost impossible to get hold of in Europe. In Raymond Queneau’s 1959 novel Zazie in the Metro, the rascal Zazie is infatuated by the American surplus stall at the flea market and trembles “with desire and anxiety” at the sight of “blewgenes”.

By the 70s, jeans were readily available and became the everyday uniform for hippies. Jeans were easy, casual and unpretentious – not pompously tailored and sharp like trousers. You could wear them in the city or at a muddy festival. They perfectly fitted the hippies’ loose attitude and potheaded command to “be cool”, while at the same time retaining an implicit, revolutionarily-minded connection with the working class. Hence “reality”, hence Plastic Ono Band.
As the 70s progressed, hippies and their younger brothers and sisters stopped talking about changing society for the better and only talked about themselves. They pretended that this wasn’t a betrayal of the supposedly revolutionary hippie ethos. Unlike John Lennon on Plastic Ono Band, they couldn’t accept that the dream was over and they continued to wear the props of that dream as they insisted (as the punks would do later*) that the personal was political. Jeans came in all cuts and colours – from skimpy hot pants to entire denim outfits – exemplifying the permanent revolution of consumerism.


*Jeans were one of the few survivors of hippiedom throughout the scorched-earth policy of the punk years. When ripped, jeans were even more real.

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