My Torn Blue Jeans

hose-lineart“What happened to you?” my wife asked.

My pants legs were in tatters.

“Ike raked me with his claws.”

Ike is the big Chesapeake Retriever who lives up the road. He is Scooter’s best friend and every day on our walk, Ike comes bounding out to greet us and let’s just say he gets a little carried away.

When he jumps up on me, his claws usually leave no more than a pale trace across my blue jeans, but as a result of almost daily washings, my jeans are no longer blue – nor Ike resistant.

“Hey,” I said, “now I’m stylish.  All the kids are wearing torn blue jeans.”

“Think again,” she told me, “their rips are horizontal, yours go vertical.”

“Is that a big deal?”

“It is everything.”

So I set about repairing my pants.

“What in the world are you doing?”

I thought it obvious. “Fixing my pants,” I replied.

“With duct tape?”

“Why not?”

She was speechless.

Patching pants used to be a big thing when I was a kid. I always wore patched pants. Everyone did. In fact, everyone had to. It was more or less mandatory.

We all attended the same Catholic grade school and in their infinite wisdom, the nuns required every child to wear a uniform. Only the patches made us unique.

The boys uniform consisted of a blue polo shirt spun from the finest steel wool. The corduroy pants were even tougher. Rumor had it they were woven out of recycled snow tires.  They felt like it too.

There was only one rule for wearing this uniform. You were allowed to appear clean and unfrayed all the way until morning recess on the first day of school.

After that, you were required explain to the nuns and your mother why your scuffed up knees and bloody elbows showed through your shirt and pants.  These explanations were a yearly ritual and everyone understood that the feigned expressions of shock and anger as well as the tearful apologies were less than sincere.

The next morning, we gathered to compare our patched uniforms – and thus determine our social status for the year.

What you did NOT want was your mother to cut up your last year’s uniform and carefully stitch a patch across the knees and elbows – because anything that pleased a mother was NOT something that pleased a schoolyard full of peers.

What you wanted was one of those iron on patches.

Remember those?

They were a rectangle of indestructible fabric, soaked in industrial glue. The glue was melted onto your clothing by heating it with an iron – and they never, ever, came off.

The preferred application of the patch was at an aggressive angle. An angle that spoke to the rage of a mother whose son had just destroyed a pair of pants that cost ten dollars of hard-earned money!!

But the very best patch, one that was worn with pride and jealously coveted, was a black band of electrical tape wrapped multiple times around the knee. These we sometime applied ourselves over the carefully stitched patches that our mothers spent hours trying to get just right.

Which brings me back to duct tape.

Ignoring the disdain of my wife, who is in fact a mother, I reverted back to my youthful knowledge of how to fix pants – and taped them up just right.

After I finished, she appraised my work and delivered her critique.

“You missed a spot.”


“Go into the bedroom. Stand in front of the mirror then turn around and look over your shoulder”

I did.

“Holy-Moly!!” I exclaimed, “how long have I been walking around with split pants?”

“Weeks,” she said, “I’ve been waiting for you to catch on.”

She then handed me the duct tape.

Author: Almost Iowa

51 thoughts on “My Torn Blue Jeans”

  1. That was priceless. Being female, I didn’t have patches on my pants. I wore dresses to school [public school no less]. However, my brother had patches on his jeans quite often.

  2. I always carry duct tape on my backpacking adventures. It is one of the cheapest most effective repair item you can find. Over the years I have repaired tents, clothes, sleeping bags, and even shoes! And yes, I remember the iron on patches. 🙂

  3. we had hideous uniforms at our school, too. When I went into 9th grade, girls were given the additional option of wearing blue chinos instead of the woven houndstooth potato-sack jumpers. I patched my worn blue jeans for weekends and special-event uniform-free days with hand-stitched layers of colorful and patterned fabric. None of that iron-on stuff for me!
    (Strolling down memory lane feeling 50 pounds lighter in her ripped and patched blue-jeans…thanks!)

    1. I patched my worn blue jeans for weekends and special-event uniform-free days with hand-stitched layers of colorful and patterned fabric

      Here is a real blast from the past. Remember slicing the seams on the cuffs of straight leg jean and fitting a triangle of paisley cloth in there to make bell-bottoms?

  4. I’d forgotten about patches on pants. They were at best unsightly, at worst a badge of shame. Now duct tape, on the other hand, shows a quiet determination to survive that we all should applaud. There’s a sense of creativity there!

  5. I remember the patches all too well. My mom never applied anything but an iron on. I was always cool since she couldn’t sew. I also had shoes where one sole would finally come loose. That is where the electrical tape came in real handy. I think you could get at least ten days out of a wrapped shoe before the job needed to be repeated. Fun post.

  6. We replaced the fridge when the duct tape would no longer hold the handle on the door. And the bath-tub when duct tape over duct tape was no longer making a good enough seal over the cracks. Window blinds are still successfully duct taped. As are floor coverings. But I’m guessing you’re writing about the good old-fashioned silver-colored tape. My husband won’t let me use that, so I repair everything with “clear” duct tape. I can see it. He can’t until it stops working, then we replace…

  7. Very good! i remember the iron-ons my mother used when I was a kid. A couple of days ago I went outside and felt the cold on my, umm, butt. I had put on my red union suit and first thought maybe the flap had come unbuttoned. I went back in the house only to find a small rip in the seat of my jeans along the pocket. It wasn’t that big, so I went back outside to do the chores. Later, I sat in the car and the rip became MUCH larger. Needless to say, I had to put on the other pair of jeans. Strange as it may sound, I only have two pair of jeans. One for working and one for when I go somewhere I don’t want to wear my dirty jeans. I had to go to the store and buy a couple of new pair of jeans. Now I have three pair! Well, when you are a bachelor you can get buy with wearing dirty jeans all week. I make sure I have enough socks and shirts I don’t have to do laundry but every couple of weeks.

  8. I remember the patches as “replacement knees” – I always tore out the knees. The last time I split pants at work, I stapled them. You have to be careful to get the ends well bent, but it worked for a day.

    “anything that pleased a mother was NOT something that pleased a schoolyard full of peers” True about so many things,

  9. Uh… I still use iron-on patches. Mine usually aren’t visible, though. They go on the inside to deal with the innumerable puncture holes I get from pieces of rigging: especially the cotter pins that keep things from flying apart. But what woman hasn’t used scotch tape to fix a hem in a skirt? Show her to me, and I’ll show you a woman who hasn’t worn a dress since she started dressing herself.

    1. Hmmmmm, academic types like to insist that gender is a social construct. If so, why do women hide patches and scotch tape from view, while males revel in the disaster that is their clothes? (Or at least some do) 🙂 🙂

  10. I remember those iron-on patches! And carefully stitching on real patches that would rip a week later. Never thought of duct tape though – that was kept on hand for patching up the car. Seriously. Time for new pants, Greg. 😀

    1. “Time for new pants, Greg.”
      “Have you any idea how much discount blue jeans cost at Wal-Mart?”
      “But aren’t you the same guy who wants to buy yet another tractor to gather dust in your shed?”
      “What are you getting at?”

  11. Sears Tuffskins were the Catholic school boy pants of choice. They sold iron-on patches. No rakish angles, either—warned the nuns.

    1. You mean Sears sold patches that “matched” the pants? Horror of horrors, I am so glad my mother never discovered them. Our preferred fashion statement was to have one red patch and one white patch on our blue corduroys. A kid once showed up with checkered patch and we had to take a vote on what to do about it – but a slide into first base solved that problem. 🙂

    1. The saying goes: there is no problem to great or trivial that cannot be solved by duct tape. I could think of a few applications in Washington DC. 🙂

  12. And naturally you’d use a stapler to alter the length of trousers. And drive over any trousers you wanted to have a leg crease.
    See, I’ve been educated by men too.
    My dad only ever ironed the collar of his shirt as the rest was covered by a jumper.

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