The wealthy still have clothing that denotes status, but only within their peer group; to the casual observer, their duds appear ordinary. [...] Take jeans, the garment that is worn universally, from the boardinghouse to the boardroom. Blue jeans used to have a life cycle resembling ours. They were created, worn, washed, beaten up, frayed, torn, patched, had their legs cut off and then discarded. If they were lucky, they were even reincarnated in a far-off land. There were several brands, with little to distinguish them. But then designer jeans arrived, allowing dungaree diversification on a mass scale and a fashion of stealth wealth. One way jeans evolved was into luxury dilapidation.I remember as a child getting new jeans so stiff it was hard to walk in them. After a few washes they fit, and after some months they acquired a fine feel and patina. In the sixties such patina became important, and the wear, tear and patches of jeans began to symbolize one’s degree of hipness. [...]In the end, distressing, like tattoos, is a longing for experience, for an authenticity that has become unavailable.