May 1999
s m u g
by Scott Cohen

Cargo Pants
(or I just can't help myself)

Let me start by saying that I have never cheated on my jeans before.

I can tell myself that it's just a passing fad, that it's just boredom on my part, that it's okay to look at the menu as long as you don't eat. I talk at length about how nice my jeans are, how much I love them and would never leave them. In my heart I know I'm lying. I know what I want, what I crave more than anything else.

God help me, I have no shame about it.

I suppose I should explain that I was - I am, I most definitely still am, regardless of what happened - a blue jeans guy through and through. They're my comfort pant of choice. They've always been there for me - whether Jordache straight-leg dark, acid-washed, torn at the knees, easy fit, baggy fit, whatever. While I'll occasionally don corduroy slacks during the absurdly cold Boston winter, it's jeans that I keep coming back to, time and again. They're all I could ever want in leg-covering garments. They make me so happy.

cargo pants

Recently though, I discovered cargo pants.

I must admit, I was cool to them at first. When I first saw them in the Gap, I paid them no mind. Soon after, I noticed their proliferation, like Britney Spears and cell phones. My roommate John was partial to their baggy wonderness, extolling their virtues as the all-purpose pant of the '90s. But c'mon - I mean, they're just pants, aren't they? Aren't they just khakis with pockets stapled to the side? Ha! O cruel pant! If only you were just khakis.

I suppose it's obvious, being a jean guy, that I abhor khakis. Paying lots of money for nondescript pants you could steal from a homeless guy astounds me. Furthermore, Gap's insane ad campaign, attempting to coerce America into actually liking their beige workslacks left a bad taste in my mouth and only increased my hostility towards those accursed cargo pants - stupid khakis with pockets on the legs! Like those sneakers from the '80s with the little pocket on the side - totally pointless. I had jeans!

But the cargo pants, were patient.

So. Flash forward to April 17, 1999. While perusing the local mall for spring/summer clothing, my girlfriend and I stop into Old Navy. Sadly, neither Morgan Fairchild nor that old woman with the X-Ray specs were there extolling the virtues of drawstring shorts. I innocently browse, selecting some shorts -- denim, of course -- guaranteed to make me the mack daddy this summer. I also grabbed a few pairs of jeans to try on, since some of mine were beginning to show their age.

There they were. Racks and racks of cargo pants. Just hanging there, not caring if I paid them any attention - making them all the more alluring. I sneered at them - lousy cargo pants! Who needs you? I started towards the dressing room to try on my new jean products.

But something happened, and heaven knows if I understand what it was: as I walked past those rows of plain, drab-colored pants, everything changed. Like an elementary-school adversary who suddenly turns into a high-school crush, they transformed before my eyes. I blinked, stared and started looking for my size.

I walked to the dressing room in a daze. Shucking my trusty, fading jeans, I reached numbly for the cargo pants. It's okay - they'll fit bad, or they'll be stupid-looking, or, or, or ...

I tried them on. I had been lost.

O, the fit! O, the roominess! O, the freedom! Even the pockets on the side - my God, they're not stupid, they're wonderful - enraptured me. Then I knew, as much as I might want to deny it, that these were the Perfect Pants.

I looked at my jeans, and the jeans I had yet to try on. I tried to apologize, to make the sting go away, but I couldn't. I didn't want to.

The cargo pants were the most expensive purchase I made that day. I didn't care. Like Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity, I was in. I suppose I had always wanted to be in.

The rest of the day was spent singing Old Navy jingles out loud. That night, I wore them dancing. When faced with the uncomfortable-soft-pack-of- American-Spirits-in-the-pocket dilemma, I placed my fragile smokes in one of the leg pockets. Perfect.

I'm wearing jeans as I write this. New jeans - stonewashed, baggy, quite comfortable and stylish. And yet, my thoughts turn towards my cargo pants, laying in my clothes hamper, waiting for the time when I might wash them and wear them again, the soft legs, like chamois, lightly caressing me as I walk.

I know that in 15 minutes I'll be out the door and running towards a Gap, or an Old Navy, or even an Abercrombie and Fitch, because one pair won't last - I need more, and I need them now. It's not rational, it's not emotional - I still love jeans, I'll never leave them, but the cargo pants have possessed me, and I have no choice but to obey.

Damn you, cargo pants. I'll see you in Hell.

in the junk drawer:

feature car
ac/dc gun
compulsion vise
posedown cheese
and such
and such
blab fan

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