A lot has been made this week of Levi Struass & Co.'s CEO Chip Bergh's admission that he doesn't wash his jeans. Speaking at Fortune's Brainstorm Green conference in Laguna Niguel, CA, Bergh announced that he hadn't washed the pair he was sporting in a year, and chided consumers to join him in eschewing the washing machine in favor of spot cleaning and air drying.
Now look, I'm all for spot cleaning and air drying! These are great things to do, and it's true that we tend to overuse our washing machines. (We also overuse the dry cleaner, but that's another subject for another day.) But there's an inherent elitism in Bergh's soapboxing that's troubling: Yes, if you're wearing your jeans to an office, spot treating and air drying is just fine. But what of people who wear their Levi's for farming? Or while doing construction work? Or while manning a fryolator?
In the post that follows, I used almost 2,200 words to talk through the choices one has when it comes to caring for denim. It's far more nuanced than Bergh's preachy toss-off at a conference. Won't you read it? If you're in need of a shorter version, I spoke with CNN about Bergh's statements.
Not all jeans are created equal, and not all of us employ them in the same way. Issuing a blanket statement just so you can get all preachy about individual water consumption without taking a moment to consider why people might choose to machine wash their jeans is infuriatingly small-minded. But whatever, I always liked Lee's better anyway.