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CHALLENGE 0 – WEARABLE

My wearable is my pair of Outlier’s slim dungaree pants — the pants so good, they turned me into a pants evangelist.

These pants are advertised as a “21st-century take on jeans”: a thoroughly modernized version of a traditional item of clothing. Substituting denim for a technical fabric, the pants manage to be slim-fitting and flexible, durable and lightweight, waterproof and breathable. I’ve owned these pants for four years, and in that time worn them to job interviews and on backpacking expeditions.

As an object of design, these pants descend from the original blue jeans invented by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss in 1871. Made out of coarse dungaree or denim — a fabric from Nimes in France, or “de Nimes” — jeans were rugged pants ideal for gold miners and travelers. Part of American culture’s deep fascination with the old west, jeans evolved into an icon worn by the cool, the tough and the independent. Jeans reflect the pervasive influence of rebels, individualism and the working-class common man (and woman) on American society.

With widespread popularity, however, jeans have become another cheap commodity. Now they are made of thinner cotton fabrics, and sometimes even artificially distressed and faded. The past decade’s postmodern obsession with selvedge and vintage styles notwithstanding, most jeans are confused homages to the real thing. Outlier’s pants return to first principles, plus a few updates. Denim is replaced with a high performance, chemically-treated and synthetic Swiss fabric; the original rigid cut is replaced by a more flexible piecing.

Of course, these pants are also part of recent trends in manufacturing and design. While most clothing sold in America is still produced overseas — like most manufactured items in our post-Bretton Woods global economy — these pants are produced by a small company in Brooklyn, run by two bona fide members of NYC’s creative class (beards, cardigans, etc.). These pants are a small part of the revival of domestic industry, and with that a rethinking of the relationship between consumers and products.

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