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Denimopedia: Jeans do have a memory

In spring and summer of 1996 a group of terrorist troubled the people of Spokane, Washington. They performed bank robberies to finance their actions. On the hit that would be their last, one clear image of one of the suspects, caught on the bank’s CCTV footage, became the evidence that would take the whole gang down. Even though the suspects made sure to cover their faces with ski masks to keep the police guessing, they forgot one little detail; their clothes, and particularly their denim.

For those of you who wear dry denim it’s no secret that the time you spend in your jeans will eventually show. A person’s denim tells us a lot about who they are, what they do and where they’ve been. Every pair of denim becomes a fingerprint of the person wearing them. This caught Dr. Richard Vorder Bruegge of the FBI’s attention when he analyzed the CCTV footage. The way a person wear and wash their jeans, the atari created on the bottom hem, on the side seams, and on the back of the knee, were all characteristics that could tie a pair of jeans to this crime rather than actual fingerprints or DNA. When searching the homes of the four suspects, they found the pair the CCTV footage and the suspects were brought to trial and convicted.

This showed that the physique of the suspect and the wear proved to be evidence enough to put the bad guys in the slammer, but during the investigation, Bruegge also discovered that one person’s denim would reveal a lot more. You could also trace the history of the denim back to the person who made the jeans. By analyzing wear patterns on the worn and washed denim, he found that every step of the process makes every pair jeans more unique. The way a craftsman cuts the pieces, pushes the fabric through the sewing machine and sets the rivets, could tie a pair of jeans to a specific manufacturing facility, and even a specific person. Most denim is sewn by hand by real people which makes it’s virtually impossible to make two pairs exactly the same.

When buying a pair of drys, we often forget the people making the jeans. We see the dry denim as a blank page, waiting to be filled with our own stories and memories. Claiming that a pair of jeans has no memory couldn’t be further from the truth. The jeans in the Spokane case were worn, loved and cared for by a person. And even though, he might have had questionable motifs, he loved his denim and let them tell his story, but through this wear, the denim also told the story about the person making the jeans, showing us that each pair is a fingerprint, and the appearance of a pair of jeans is a unique collaboration between, fabric, maker and the person wearing the jeans.

This is something to ponder as you start your next break-in project after the summer. Also remember to stay out of trouble.