THE NEW BLUEBLOODS Beauty, Status and the Meaning of Jeans

The Tao of Denim: If It's Not Worn, You Have Nothing On

Measuring Jeans Length
Don't mess with imperfection: Mauro Farinelli at his Denim Bar in Arlington. (Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)
By Libby Copeland
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Second of two articles

At the new Denim Bar in Arlington, where the saleswomen are dressed like bartenders and you may get a free Yuengling if they like you, the owner says he sometimes turns customers away.

"You're just not ready to try on designer jeans," Mauro Farinelli tells them. Certain women try on pair after pair of premium denim and look great, but still complain. They're just not prepared, it seems, to be fabulous.

"We'll be here," Mauro tells them, hoping they'll come to their senses one day and allow him to fulfill their sartorial destiny.

No one would begrudge Mauro his noble cause. Premium denim is not just about beauty; it's about feeling entitled to be beautiful. It's about broadcasting your worth through the Swarovski crystals on your behind. Jeans have become diamonds, art, custom cars. Spend the rent money on a pair, by all means, but do not simply wear them. Know that you are wearing the Degas of denim.

Mauro, then, is an educator. He has studied tailoring and likes to talk about triple-stitching. His store is all dark wood and fine denim, some of it woven on decades-old looms, then blessed with hand-painted logos. Some jeans are so fancy they come in boxes or leather pouches. The most expensive are $645, though Mauro also sells "entry-level" jeans for $100.

Mauro has women who have followed him since his last gig, as a jeans specialist at Saks Fifth Avenue. They say he makes them look amazing. Mauro is equally loyal. He says of one customer, "She buys anything I tell her to buy."

Carolyn Lindsey, a lawyer, says: "I really wouldn't buy a pair of jeans from anyone else unless Mauro was there."

Amy Angelo, another lawyer: "I just completely trust his judgment."

Amy, 31, has jeans for all her moods. She has sexy jeans "that hug me in all the right places" and "Sunday-afternoon-party, not-too-sexy-but-dressier" jeans. She has a "comfortable pair," not to be confused with her "comfy bummy ones," which are designed to look dirty even when they're clean. "You feel like you look amazing but you're not really trying," she says of those.

Amy is willing to pay more to get cutting-edge jeans, jeans that other women don't have, because they make her feel "special." The most she's spent is $320, and she wouldn't take it past $350 unless she really, really loved them.

There are limits, she says: "There are so many other things to buy."

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