Middle-class kids spend billions to project street cred; supermodels weigh as little as famine victims; designers channel the swagger of nomadic tribesmen; convicts set the standards for body art; the guerilla uniform of aviators, camouflage, and a knitted cap is a perennial favorite for celebrities incognito. Thus do the least oppressed citizens of the world express their imagined solidarity—expensively, in one respect; cheaply, in another—with the most marginal. You invert an hourglass when the sand runs out, and the fashion world inverts the social hierarchy when the trappings of privilege lose their glamour. But it’s also a conceit that we owe to the Romantics: in a civilized milieu, ferocity confers cachet. The upshot is a pair of jeans, pummelled by a bored animal—a slave laborer, you might say—with a four-digit price tag.
-Judith Thurman at the New Yorker writes about those zoo-animal-distressed jeans.