Let Them Wear Diesel Jeans

In the last great meltdown, there were soup lines. Now they’re lining up for premium denim. A New York Diary.


I’ve resided in New York City for fifty years, and I fancy myself a guy who gets around, but I’m regularly surprised by what I see in the streets. I guess this is one reason why I love living here—the scene is always changing, always in motion, and often in conflict with the version of events that the daily newspapers and TV broadcasts depicts as “reality.”

This morning at 7 o’clock on my way to work at my writer’s hideaway, I saw about three thousand people (ranging in age from eighteen to thirty-eight) lined up to buy jeans at a shop across from Bloomingdale’s called Diesel. Although that shop has been at the site for years, I’ve never gone into it, for what it sells I’d never buy; but today, when I walked past Diesel, the front door was flanked by security guards controlling the crowds who wanted to go inside and pay $50 for a pair of jeans.

I talked to many of these customers on line—there were single men, single women, with young children in carriages, young men with girl friends, people of all colors and all talking on cell phones, or listening to iPod music, or eating bagels and sipping coffee from cups…all waiting to get into this store to buy a pair of jeans for $50.

We read about the city in financial ruin, and yet, here on Lexington Avenue (Main Street) there are three-thousand people wanting to spend fifty dollars on another pair of jeans.

I thought to myself: We read about the city in financial ruin, we read the daily press with its dire prognostications about the collapse of our economy, we watched Charlie Rose on TV last night interviewing yet another numbed-out economist predicting doom and gloom, and lamenting the loss of trillions not only on Wall Street but on Main Street…and yet, yet, here on Lexington Avenue (Main Street) there are three thousand people wanting to spend fifty dollars on another pair of jeans! What gives? Should they be saving the fifty bucks, or putting it into Treasury Bills, or buying their out-of-work single-mom mother a new pair of shoes or a frozen dinner?

I asked a lot of these people on line questions like that; and all they said, in essence, is that the $50 jeans were bargains they could not resist. The security guard told me that these jeans (Italian made) usually sell for one-hundred or two-hundred more. Still, I thought, must these people on line spend fifty-bucks on something they can do without? Apparently not. Moreover, they told me, they’ll also get for their fifty bucks not only a pair of jeans, but also a free pass to tomorrow’s concert somewhere in Brooklyn where the featured performers include M.I.A. and the N.E.R.D.S or whoever…(people I know next to nothing about, but my forty-year-old son-in-law told me these performers are “huge.”)

But what does this say about the economy? This shop Diesel, before the day is done, will earn several thousands of dollars selling jeans, and yet we’re told by the media that the economy is tanking, nobody is buying anything, all shopkeepers are in foreclosure or are releasing their employees, etc. etc…

Again, when I spoke to many of these people on line, not one of them said they were hurting financially, most of them were employed, none claimed to be worried about a lack of health care, and all were unconcerned about the financial state of the city or the nation.

If we had conscription, half of these people would be in the army. But we don’t. And so they’re lined along Lexington, slowly moving toward the Diesel shop anticipating a new pair of jeans…

You explain.