Blue jeans virtues

By Rob Blezard, January 5, 2012

Today I looked pretty sharp in a brand-new pair of Levi’s 505 jeans. Straight cut leg. Prewashed fabric the color of the sky at twilight in October, soft and snug. They replaced a pair that had mostly faded to a ghastly blue-white, that displayed splotches of paint from a fix-up project, that had frayed at the cuffs and that were literally splitting apart at the inseam. (“Air-conditioned,” my wife jokes.)

But my purchase of badly needed Levi’s signified much more than a wardrobe update. It helped me experience two virtues sorely missing in today’s voracious consumer economy: Satisfaction in doing without, and delayed gratification.

You see, as an experiment in thrift and voluntary poverty, I vowed to avoid buying new clothes in 2011, no matter how badly I needed them (underwear excepted). I was certain that the clothes in my dresser and hanging in my closet would be more than enough.

The experiment began well enough. Taking inventory of my wardrobe, I rediscovered and wore clothes that I had forgotten about for some time – years in some cases. Moreover, amazed at how many items I had that I didn’t need, didn’t really want or no longer fit me, I donated several enormous trash bags full of clothes to the local thrift store.

Even after giving away about half my clothes, I still possessed enough for any occasion – except one. I got married on June 5, and I really needed a new white dress shirt. So I bought a new shirt and a new silk tie. (They went well with the charcoal gray suit I had bought at the same thrift shop where I donated my clothes.)

All was well, except for the jeans. I live in blue jeans during nonworking hours. My one pair of Levi’s started the year tired, and they were pretty well spent by autumn. Despite this, I simply refused to buy a new pair, even as they became tattered and scruffy.  And then something funny happened. The shabbier they became, the more pride I took in wearing them. The jeans became a symbol of my thrift and resolution. So I learned the satisfaction that can come from doing without.

And I knew that after the New Year I would be released from my vow of “No new clothes.” So I waited. Delayed gratification is gratification, indeed.

Now every purchase occasions the simple questions, “Can’t I just make do with what I already have?” and “Do I really need it now?”

Two good questions that reflect good stewardship and good economic virtues.

Photo by Anirav, via

About the Author

Rob Blezard is the website content editor for the Stewardship of Life Institute and serves as an assistant to the Bishop of the Lower Susquehanna Synod, ELCA, in central Pennsylvania. See more posts by .

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