In any rural province of a third world country, like the Philippines, wearing a pair of Levi’s pants is considered something beyond the ordinary for wearing a pair of new pants regardless of the brand is already a good subject for afternoon gossips outside a sari-sari store while drinking tuba (a local alcoholic drink made from fermented coconut bulb), shoktong (an alcoholic beverage imported from China) or quatro cantos (the popular name of Ginebra, a brand of local gin).
Owning a pair of pants can mean so many things: that it might be approaching Christmas time so there’s enough money from the 13th month pay, a balikbayan box has just arrived from the US or Italy, or the owner won the jackpot prize in the national lottery.
It can cause both admiration and contempt from people around. A simple thing as a pair of denim pants says something about the wearer. It can strengthen previous stereotypes or debunk assumptions
Wearing a pair of Levi’s 501 is a symbol of both wealth and taste. For a regular employee earning 4000 pesos ($ 86) every fifteen days, buying pants costing around 3000 pesos is just too much when other basic needs must be prioritized. No matter how good the quality or style of a Levi’s pants is, buying them will never justify sacrificing one’s family’s basic needs just so one member can have the coveted red tab.
When I was twelve years old, a friend of my mother, a noted buyer/seller, sold to my father a Levi’s 501 costing around 3,500 that would be paid on a lay-away scheme. Despite being overpriced, for a similar pair would cost roughly around 2000 pesos in a department store in the city, my father took it. He’s been a fan of this brand of jeans ever since he was in college, he told me, as he was always a recipient of hands-me-down from his richer cousins when he was still studying. And according to him, the best pants in the world are Levi’s, nothing else is better. The more you wear them, he added, the better they look.
This explains why now that all my blue jeans are made by that California-based brand I wash my pants only after a minimum of five uses.
Although it took him six months to be done paying the entire amount, the pride in his face wearing those Levi’s jeans was priceless. Sometimes when I joined competitions when I was in high school he would volunteer to lend me his precious pants as they were lucky. I never attributed my winning in any competitions during that time to the hard work I did in studying. For me, then, it was because of my father’s pants.
Through the years, those pants became shabby, and the last time I saw them was when I went back home for Christmas vacation, torn and faded. One day my father decided to cut them and made them into shorts.
I might have been influenced by my father for having this obsession with this brand of jeans. The first salary I received from my part time job in college was used to buy my first pair of Levi’s. And I must emphasize that being a college student was tantamount to being poor, at least in my case. But being impecunious did not stop me from purchasing a pair of jeans that took me a month of hard work and self-restraint. To date, since the time I considered my self independent from my parents, I bought no other brand of jeans but Levi’s. I am a loyal consumer. I do repeat purchases if the product has proven me its worth. I do not profess that my mind is advertising-proof. In fact I am just any other member of the pack they call market-base – I am vulnerable.
But for the case of Levi’s, it’s a different thing. It’s like every red tab pants that I wear has the approval of my father, that it can provide quality, comfort, and style that has made my father believe in the brand – my father who does not care about brand names, unless it is a pair of Levi’s jeans.