I braved the mall for you, walking past the guy pimping the Rosetta Stone, the girl demonstrating the hair crimper, and that odd place that sells weirdly-patterned…what I guess are cell phone protectors. The kiosk salespeople are getting more hawkish in these difficult economic times. Some even dared to speak to me as I hurried by. They were probably high on amphetamine, or the waft of Cinnabon coming from the food court, but I was unswayable in my quest toward our destiny. I only have thighs for you.

How I remember the first time I slid you on, the fluorescent-lighted dressing room making me worried someone could see our intimacies through the slats of the door. It was your cut that clinched it for me. I’m loyal–despite the vagaries in sizes from store to store–to 34” x 30”, and I was instantly comfortable with your standard-cut-chino-self. It was as though you were made for me, or that I’d worn you in a previous life. No alterations were needed, my snug (but not too snug; I need my space) little compatriot. My body has an odd hitch in the middle–my ass juts backwards where anyone would want it to stay home–but you offered no gripe at my physical deviations, contorting to my hills and valleys without so much as a bind, pinch or ballooning in the crotch. We fit so well together, I sometimes wonder if J. Crew might be J. Cupid in disguise.

(Your tag says you were made in China, but let’s keep that between ourselves when we visit my parents.)

We were inseparable for weeks. You were game for anything–a park stroll, a trip to the grocery, a night out–always looking comfortable and classy. With a collared shirt I could wear you to work, and in the evenings I chose you instead of sweat pants. Trips to the coast required only the slightest adjustment to your cuffs. Oh, sweet black chino, those were heady, heady days.

Still, it wasn’t long before time bred familiarity, and you started looking tired and a little sad on our sojourns back home. Your former tautness seemed to give way to slack. The casual insult of a mustard stain never quite went away, and–perhaps it’s improper of me to mention–I started noticing wrinkles. You seemed to have quit trying.

In light of this, I have a surprise for you. While you were in the wash, I ran out and bought two more pair! Now, don’t be jealous. Yes, the grey slim cuts are thinner, but that’s only material, and haven’t we learned size doesn’t matter? I also sprang for a pair of blue corduroys (corduroy, by God! Crew has me in corduroy!) on sale for a mere $24. They had copper ones too, but they looked trashy. My tastes are more conventional, as you know.

All three of you will be cleaned and folded every Sunday, and stacked amongst each other on the closet shelf, where you’ll await my choice. I want no static from any of you, and hopefully this rotation will keep you all fresher longer. You have to admit, dearest, our relationship needed a bit of breather, and no matter what transpires with these new additions, you will always have been my first.

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ART EDWARDS's third novel, Badge (2014), was named a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association's Literary Contest for 2011. His second novel, Ghost Notes, released on his own imprint Defunct Press in 2008, won the 2009 PODBRAM Award for best work of contemporary fiction. His first novel, Stuck Outside of Phoenix, has been made into a feature film. His writing has or will appear in The Writer, Writers' Journal and Pear Noir!, and online at Salon, The Los Angeles Review, Word Riot, The Collagist, PANK, JMWW, Bartleby Snopes, The Rumpus and The Weeklings. In the 1990s he was co-founder, co-songwriter and bass player with the Refreshments.

29 responses to “To J. Crew’s 34” x 30” Men’s Black Chinos”

  1. Matt says:

    Ahhhh yes, I feel much the same way about my Levi’s 517s. So comfy, so practical, and they flatter my physique in all the right places. But damned if they don’t start to get a little baggy around the thighs as they age.

    • Art Edwards says:

      So glad you relate, Matt. And I get the attraction to 517s. I may have had a 517 phase earlier in life.

      Can we expect it to last forever? I think no. I dread the day I have to give up my J. Crews. After which I’ll just have to go on living, I guess.

  2. Favorite lines:

    “J Cupid.”

    “my ass juts backwards where anyone would want it to stay home”

    welcome to the renegade world of corduroy my friend.

    • Art Edwards says:


      Way love the corduroy pair. I got them between Xmas and New Year’s last year for next to nothing and couldn’t believe I talked myself out of the second pair.

      By the way, I took the online tour of John Helmer, and now I’m pining for the excuse to drop half my life savings there. The idea of buying a suit and hat there made me start a bucket list.

  3. Nat Missildine says:

    These are the kind of love letters that get me all misty-eyed. Me and my short legs never find the right pair, but when on those rare occasions I do, it’s romantic bliss.

    “No static from any of you.”

  4. Gloria says:

    There really is nothing, absolutely nothing, that compares to a proper fitting pair of jeans or slacks or any comfy thing to wear on your bottom half. You’ve inspired me to write a thank you note to Levis 501s, begging them to come out of retirement.

    • Art Edwards says:

      It’s my raison d’etre, Gloria: to remind everyone how fucking integral that perfect pair of pants was in their lives. Write that thank you note. It’s the least you can do for that magical pair of 501s. They’re out there somewhere, and they need to hear it from you.

  5. “I only have thighs for you,” ha! This is hilarious, Art. HI-larious.

  6. My wife complains because I never wash my jeans and never buy any new ones. I have the same pair I bought in South Korea back in 2008, just after arriving. I bought them because the holes in the knees of my original pair wore so far threw that they became jorts. Now the holes in the crotch of my Korean ones are threatening something much worse.

    But I hate shopping and I hate ill-fitting clothes. I get attached to things I like and wear them to death.

    • Art Edwards says:

      Your wife’s right, David. We all reach a certain age and don’t want to buy new blue jeans. Mine are from at least 2008. Probably 2007. To wear them in public is a crime against humanity, but I can’t make myself go through the highs and lows of searching out a new pair. It would take all day, and J. Crew’s jeans are too expensive.

      Thanks for chiming in, and for representing TNB in far-away climes.


  7. Gregory Messina says:

    That was awesome! And this line just perfect:
    (Your tag says you were made in China, but let’s keep that between ourselves when we visit my parents.)

    • Art Edwards says:

      Thanks, Gregory.

      Truth be known, I’m really not comfortable writing about race, even in jest (maybe especially in jest). It’s something I’m working on. I was waiting for someone to mention it.

  8. Great stuff, Art! I could picture this piece as one of Jemaine’s spoken-word parts during the breakdown from a Flight of the Concords tune…

  9. Joe Daly says:

    Funny stuff, Art! Yeah, the august chino- comfortable and functional to the point of being prideful. I love that you doubled down. You’re good for the next five years.

    Btw- will you be wearing them at the Portland LE? If so, we’ll be needing pictures of the famed trou.

    • Art Edwards says:

      Thanks, Joe. You don’t think I’m bragging, do you?

      Alas, I will not be at the TNBLE on Monday. Out of town, for the reading and for Wordstock, which is sort of like leaving town when Motorhead is playing. Definitely need to work out a different schedule for next year.

      Thanks for reading.

  10. Meg Worden says:

    I know my comment here will be redundant, but….

    I only have thighs for you.


    And others. So many others.

    This piece is actually bringing on my “astounded face” right now. The one that has been lovingly immortalized in digital after Kerry’s launch party. The one where we both look like we have recently smoked some crack cocaine. Or perhaps were saying awesome things. Hard to say, really.

    • Art Edwards says:

      I may have spiked out the dork-o-meter with the thighs line, but it just fit too well to pass up.

      I’m always shooting for the astounded face, one way or the other.

      Hey, kick some ass on Monday!

  11. Rachel Pollon says:

    I like this just from the title. But I’ll go back and actually read the whole piece and surely like it even more.

  12. Rachel Pollon says:

    Do you troll the J.Crew website three or four times a week like I do? It’s intoxicating. I tend to think things look better online and in the catalogue most of the time but every so often there is a sweet, sweet piece that happens to fit just right, and what can one say? Magic. (Heather grey cashmere cardi, I’m talking to you.)

    I’m sure all Westfield malls are the same — the kiosks, the Cinnabuns, the J.Crews, but by chance were you at the Century City mall for this purchase? I was there a few weeks ago and got COMPLETELY ACCOSTED by a kiosk guy selling flat irons. I was with both my dogs, clearly harried, and he insisted I come over, calling me “Hey, Supermodel!” over and over (I blame my own initial weakness towards flattery) and then, even though I was pretty sure he was gay, and was definitely younger than me, tried plying me further with flattery by suggesting I leave my husband so we could go back to Israel (he found out — god, he was smooth — that I was Jewish, we both were) together. When I finally told him I had to go, and that while I respected he had a product he believed in there was NO WAY I was going to buy it because I already straightened my hair with the Brazilian Blowout, he turned on me fiercely. Acting as though we’d already been to Israel together and he found out I’d had an affair with a Palestinian curling iron salesman. (I might need to revisit this in a piece of my own. Repeating myself, perhaps. I like to think of it as perfecting myself.)

    In closing, adorable piece that so many of us can relate to. Our fave pieces of clothing that make us feel oh so good. Those chinos are lucky they found you.

    • Art Edwards says:

      Yes, I do troll their website! I get an email about one every five minutes from them saying things like 90% OFF AND FREE SHIPPING ENDS IN THIRTY SECONDS, and I click on it like some Pavlovian dog.

      I have to admit, the trip to the mall is part of the whole shtick for me. Having to claw my way through a jungle tackiness to get to Trouser Valhalla is somehow a necessary rite of passage.

      Thanks for reading Rachel. I’ve got another one coming out on Monday.

    • Art Edwards says:

      It wasn’t the Century City mall, but yes, it may as well have been.

      Those flat-iron guys know how to work it, don’t they? The don’t stop me, but they eye me for longer than necessary considering I’m male, not overly concerned with style, and well on the path toward baldness.

      “Acting as though we’d already been to Israel together and he found out I’d had an affair with a Palestinian curling iron salesman.”

      I, for one, would stop everything to read this piece.

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