Nordstrom’s ‘rugged Americana’ jeans cause internet fury

The retailer has come under fire for selling mud-caked jeans marketed as 'rugged Americana.' . Vincent Sandoval/WireImage

It looks like fashion is at it again. A line of men’s jeans that have been treated to look as though they’re caked in mud has social media users in a tizzy. Why? Because they’re marketed as “rugged, Americana workwear” and retail for C$605.

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The “Barracuda Straight Leg Jeans” are designed by PRPS and described on the Nordstrom website as denim that has “seen some hard-working action with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating that shows you’re not afraid to get down and dirty.”

PRPS Barracuda Straight Leg Jeans, $604.34 at Nordstrom

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Many people are taking issue with what they perceive as a trivialization of manual labour jobs by the fashion industry, and are especially incensed by the price tag. Mike Rowe, former host of the TV show Dirty Jobs, wrote a lengthy takedown of the jeans on Facebook. It has garnered over 14,000 shares and 32,000 likes, so far.

“‘Rugged Americana’ is now synonymous with a ‘caked-on, muddy coating.’ Not real mud. Fake mud,” he writes. “Something to foster the illusion of work. The illusion of effort. Or perhaps, for those who actually buy them, the illusion of sanity.”

He goes on to call the jeans “a costume for wealthy people who see work as ironic — not iconic.”

In addition to the more than 4,600 comments on his post, social media users took to Twitter to call out the jeans for being “cosplay” for rich people.

Of course, as fashion is cyclical, this isn’t the first time the style industry has offered up dirt-stained clothing as a trend. In 2000, Calvin Klein introduced “Dirty Denim,” jeans that were distressed and tinted to look as though they were well-worn.

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The designer described the jeans as “dirty denim [that] looks and feels like it walked a thousand miles, then crawled a few more,” to Women’s Wear Daily in 1999.

At the time, the jeans retailed for US$78, compared to regular Calvin Klein styles that hovered around the $50 mark. The designer chalked up the price difference to the amount of “hand-finishing” necessary to achieve a “dirty” result.

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Although Nordstrom has not responded to the uproar over the item, they have removed comments from their website, including one that asked if the store also carried items covered in cow manure.

CNN Money points out that the jeans have been for sale for some time (and are also available at Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus), but there’s no indication why they’ve only caught the internet’s attention now.

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It isn’t the first time the retailer has caught flak for featuring what have been perceived as absurd items. In December, internet users were up in arms over a leather-covered rock that cost $85, and earlier this month, they were slammed for selling torn jeans with clear plastic knee patches.

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