CultureLove & Humor

Should You Do It in Jeans?

No one can stop you from skiing in jeans. And really, doing lots of other things in jeans.

Here is an analysis, which no one asked for, of the appropriateness of wearing jeans for several selected sports. (Photo: Brendan Leonard)
Here is an analysis, which no one asked for, of the appropriateness of wearing jeans for several selected sports.

The bumper stickers about politicians skiing in jeans were first created more than a decade ago, but skiing in jeans has a much longer history than that. Whether or not it’s a faux pas is arguably in the eye of the beholder (or the wearer), and the fact is, no one can stop you from skiing in jeans. And really, doing lots of other things in jeans. Are they the ideal pants for, say, running an ultramarathon? Or ice climbing? Well, I was thinking about that the other day. Here’s an analysis, which no one asked for, of the appropriateness of wearing jeans for several selected sports.

Skiing

Ideal pants: Those designed for skiing anytime after, say, 1970
How bad could it be in jeans? Hypothermia
Could you do it in jeans and be just fine? Absolutely
Possible worst-case scenario in jeans: Death by hypothermia due to wet jeans on a backcountry ski trip, or being forced to quit skiing two hours into the powder day of the century because your jeans are too waterlogged

Whitewater Rafting

Ideal pants: Shorts or sometimes a drysuit
How bad could it be in jeans? Pretty bad—at the minimum, a soggy butt the entire day
Could you do it in jeans and be just fine? Sure
Possible worst-case scenario in jeans: Swimming the Colorado River’s Lava Falls from the top in a blizzard in early January in denim

Ultramarathon Running

Ideal pants: Running shorts or tights
How bad could it be in jeans? DNF bad, and potentially ER-visit-level chafing
Could you do it in jeans and be just fine? A 50K could be done in the right weather conditions; if we allowed jorts instead of full-length jeans, then definitely
Possible worst-case scenario in jeans: Probably California’s Badwater 135

Bouldering or Rock Climbing

Ideal pants: Anything that allows for unrestricted movement
How bad could it be in jeans? Too tight jeans or too loose jeans could ruin your send—and also your jeans
Could you do it in jeans and be just fine? Definitely
Possible worst-case scenario in jeans: You live somewhere far from Yosemite. You save money for months or years to finally take a trip to Yosemite, hoping to climb Midnight Lightning. You finally get to the Valley, and on your first day of climbing, you try Midnight Lightning. You get to the mantle, and your tight jeans prevent you from pulling through it. You fall and somehow break a bone in your hand and your heel, meaning you can’t climb, or even hike, for the rest of your trip. 

Surfing

Ideal pants: Swimsuit, wetsuit
How bad could it be in jeans? Anywhere from not great to fatal
Could you do it in jeans and be just fine? Kelly Slater did it to promote his clothing company, but I don’t think that was supposed to be taken literally; if we allowed jorts instead of full-length jeans, then definitely
Possible worst-case scenario in jeans: Drowning in cold ocean water because you chose to surf in flannel-lined jeans instead of a wetsuit

Backpacking

Ideal pants: Usually pants or shorts made of a lightweight, quick-drying material; sometimes rainpants
How bad could it be in jeans? Hypothermia
Could you do it in jeans and be just fine? Definitely
Possible worst-case scenario in jeans: You decide to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail, packing no shorts, just two pairs of double-front denim work pants. It’s unseasonably hot when you start your hike in the California desert (so your jeans become soaked in sweat and then chafe) but you also run into the biggest snowfall in 50 years in the Sierra and the Pacific Northwest, and you did not bring gaiters, so you posthole and your jeans soak up moisture from the snow as you hike. It then turns out to be the wettest summer and fall in 50 years in Oregon and Washington, and, alas, jeans do not perform like Gore-Tex. In fact, they are basically the exact opposite of a pair of Gore-Tex rainpants, which you did not bring. 

Competitive Cycling

Ideal pants: Lycra and chamois
How bad could it be in jeans? Hot, sweaty, and chafing, restricting movement
Could you do it in jeans and be just fine? Of course, but very likely not quite as competitively. People ride thousands of miles in jeans every year, just not often at races in which everyone else is wearing cycling kits.
Possible worst-case scenario in jeans: You’re in a position to win the Tour de France (without doping) on the morning of the final stage. You show up in non-stretchy bell-bottom jeans, and you refuse to ride in anything but those jeans. Your jeans make you slow and keep getting caught between your crank and your chain. You lose. You’re fired.

Ice Climbing

Ideal pants: Warm, waterproof, or at least water-resistant ones that are narrow enough at the bottom that you can’t catch a crampon point on them
How bad could it be in jeans? Fatal
Could you do it in jeans and be just fine? Yes
Possible worst-case scenario in jeans: You wear JNCO jeans from 1998 and take a catastrophic factor-two fall while leading a multi-pitch route, because you lost your balance when you kicked your front point into the cuff of your enormous jeans. You die in JNCO jeans in the year 2020. 

Brendan Leonard’s new book, Bears Don’t Care About Your Problems: More Funny Shit in the Woods from Semi-Rad.com, is out now.

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Filed To: Clothing and ApparelSkiingRunningRock Climbing
Lead Photo: Brendan Leonard

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