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Nordstrom's Newest Chic Insults Blue-Collar Workers

Nordstrom's Newest Chic Insults Blue-Collar Workers
(Gene J. Puskar/AP)

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Friday, 28 April 2017 09:39 AM Current | Bio | Archive

If you’re a blue collar worker, or just part of the manual labor force getting your hands dirty every day, Nordstrom department store wants to market your look — specifically, they want the rest of the world to buy blue jeans that look like they spent the day at a construction site.

Rich urban yuppies pretending that they’re part of the working class isn’t a new thing, of course.

The trend started with ripped jeans, some of which cost as much as $200, $300 or even more for artfully torn and shredded jeans. The look was called poverty chic and it’s still a big thing in fashion. Today, you can spend almost $900 on destroyed skinny jeans.

Nordstrom describes its new muddy jeans as, "Heavily distressed medium-blue denim jeans in a comfortable straight-leg fit embody rugged, Americana workwear that’s seen some hard-working action with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating that shows you’re not afraid to get down and dirty."

The trend of ripped and pre-stained clothing is curious because at some level it’s an admission by the rich that they see working class people as more honest, trustworthy, and appealing. And yet, it’s more than a little offensive for elites to try to mimic the look of manual laborers when in fact they outsource such work to low-paid people to do for them.

When was the last time you saw a well-heeled Nordstrom customer digging a ditch?

Unfortunately this isn’t an isolated data point. The summer festival bohemian fashion trend that encourages women to dress as if they are 1970s hippies (none of whom actually had any money) or just back from Coachella or Burning Man as they toil away in office cubicles is similarly ridiculous.

The houses of the rich aren’t immune to such trends either; interior designers enjoy a booming (and expensive) business with wealthy clients paying premium prices for the perfect, artfully weathered barn door for their renovated kitchen or the brand-new distressed brass fixture to go with their farmhouse sink – all meant to evoke a rural, simpler time, even in the middle of a newly-built suburb.

Of course, for manual laborers who might dream of becoming members of the upper crust one day, the reverse is true: when they attend a fancy event, they tend to dress like the wealthy, with rented tuxedos for prom and formal gowns. An entire industry now exists, with services such as Rent the Runway and Bag, Borrow, or Steal, catering to consumers who want to dress as if they have more disposable income than they do.

These services rent high-end fashion and accessories for a few days at a time to people who otherwise likely wouldn’t have $500 to spend on a dress or a handbag.

Ultimately, what Nordstrom is encouraging is an unappealing form of class appropriation; it’s not so much insulting as it is stupid. You want to seem like an honest, blue collar worker? Get a job digging trenches, building homes, or serving food at a diner. Perhaps you’ll also understand the inanity of spending hundreds of dollars on pre-muddied jeans.

This article first appeared on Acculturated.com.

Dave Taylor is a long-time media commentator and writer, with a focus on consumer electronics and technology. He holds a Masters degree in Education and an MBA and has published over twenty books. A single father to two teens and a tween, he also moonlights as a film and media critic and calls Boulder, Colorado, home. Read more of his reports — Go Here Now.

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DaveTaylor
Ultimately, what Nordstrom is encouraging is an unappealing form of class appropriation; it’s not so much insulting as it is stupid. You want to seem like an honest, blue collar worker? Get a job digging trenches, building homes, or serving food at a diner.
chic, coachella, nordstrom
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2017-39-28
Friday, 28 April 2017 09:39 AM
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