Horse Butt Jeans

Do five-year-olds pay close attention to high fashion for adults? Can you pull a kindergartner out of coloring and ask him or her about Louboutins? No and No. But somewhere between Scooby Do and reruns of the Brady Bunch, the marketing geniuses at Jordache figured out a way to get this child just a few years clear of diapers, to covet dark rinse, high rise, denim. The commercial stressed the thing everyone who was anyone wanted: The Jordache Look.

They were the exact kind of pants disco queens of 1980 rocked NYC in on a Saturday night. I was five, but I knew disco. I watched Solid Gold and TV. Lots of TV. I remember noticing these dark indigo denim wonders everywhere. Between Jordache and Sergio Valenté, suddenly the rear ends of average Americans from coast-to-coast were covered in dark denim and often with a horse on the butt. And these folks at either designer were quite smart—they didn’t leave kids out. Now your entire family—dad, mom, kids—could all look like disco queens! And believe me—that was the epitome of cool.

While other girls were saving or begging for Strawberry Shortcake dolls and Wonder Woman Underoos, I set my heart on having a galloping horsehead embroidered on a burgundy strip of fabric emblazoned on my behind. (But I also craved Strawberry Shortcake dolls and Wonder Woman Underoos).

Designer jeans in those days cost you a cool $35 or so, including the kid’s versions. Considering I can get a five-year-old a pair of jeans at Target for $15 today, that was a pretty hefty bit of coin for a child to be clad in designer denim. But did I mention how badly I wanted them? Every time we went to Bamburgers (suburban New Yorkers of the 80s will know), a department store akin to Macy’s, we’d enter through the side closest to the kids’ section. And every time, I’d beeline to the rack with the Jordache jeans. I can still see it—a circular rack of hanging denim in one resplendent shade of very dark blue.

Around this time—kindergarten in the 1980-1981 school year—I was dealt the news that was to change my existence to that point. I was going to be a big sister. To be honest, I wasn’t upset about that. By that time most every child my age had a younger sibling, so this news was a long time coming. But that wasn’t going to get in the way of my quest of my Jordaches. My parents wised up to the idea that they could channel my horse jeans hunger for their gain. I was told they’d spring the $35 if I’d do a few chores for payment and saved that money toward the pants. Even at age 5, I was no dummy in the face of opportunity.

I did some household tasks my parents likely had to redo when I wasn’t looking, but I was diligent and managed to save $5. I don’t know how long it took me, but it happened. Realizing I wasn’t likely to make the rest of the $30 anytime soon, and likely motivated by the fact that I was going to cease to be the queen bee child and they wanted to offer me a consolation prize, the ‘rents called it even. All that was left was that hard-earned foray to Bamburgers to change my life forever.

The day finally came. Straight to the rack in the girls’ section with blessed jeans went me. As wise parents often do, my jeans were selected a size up for them to last beyond a season. That meant belt-wearing and cuffing in the interim, but I didn’t care. The Jordache look wasn’t limited to one style of horse on the tag on the rear pockets, oh no. They featured several different stitching options—sometimes the embroidered horsehead directly on the pocket, and others more traditional: embroidered patterns on the pocket, with the horse and Jordache on a burgundy tag. I went the traditional route. Always bet on the classics.

When I got those jeans home, I tried them on and pranced around. They were hung in my closet with the admonition that they were not to wear to go over to Gary the next-door neighbor’s house to play in. They were for special occasions only. I loved them so.

So much so, that I used commercial breaks during afternoon Flintstones to trot to my closet just to look at them.

I finally got to break them out for that special occasion: April 2, 1981. The day my sister was born.

Alas, I was burning with a fever that day. A psychosomatic reaction to this disruption in my life? Maybe. But I’ll tell you what rallied me up and out of bed: my Jordache jeans. This baby sister of mine was going to meet me clad in my hard-won power suit with the horsehead on the butt or not meet me at all. Such was the depth of my love.

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