Why Are Ripped Jeans More Expensive? – Cheddar Explains


Iggy Pop was the king of the underground punk scene in the early 1970s. As the front man for the Stooges, his live performances were certifiably insane. He would flail around on the ground, stage dive, and bleed throughout the course of a single show. Understandably, this performance style caused a lot of friction, and as a result, the jeans he wore on stage night after night developed holes and tears. But instead of tossing the damaged denim, he kept it. Letting the holes get bigger and bigger. Fast forward 40 years, and a pair of jeans that look like they just finished a set with Iggy, will cost you $2,000 from Dolce and Gabbana. No stage diving required. Distressed denim, that is jeans that come pre-aged, faded and torn have permeated modern fashion. But why are we willing to pay so much for something that appears so damaged? The reason might have as much to do with economics as it does with fashion trends. For much of their existence, jeans were exclusively working wear. In the second half of the 20th century, they became part of the uniform of protest and rebellion. Greasers, hippies, and punks, all have close associations to their denim styles. But it was the antifascist dirtiness of grunge music that introduced the wider world to ripped jeans. The rise of the music video beamed grunge style on to kids living rooms, and the look took off. But today, distressed jeans have become more of a statement piece for their price tag than for their protests. Pre-distressed denim is more labor intensive. Slashing and sandblasting those perfect holes raises the price. But higher prices can also be attributed to the rise of athleisure. Jeans are being ditched for yoga pants and sweats. Denim sales have declined over the past several years. So, designers have rebranded jeans as being vintage and chic, and are leaning into the nostalgia of 90s styles to charge higher prices. Here’s where the funky economics come in. During the height of the Industrial Revolution, economist, Thorston Veblen, observed that the emerging wealthy business class was buying goods simply to show how rich they were, to set them apart from the working class. This behavior is exemplified in what economists now call veblen goods. Typically, the demand for a product decreases as the price increases. But with veblen goods, the opposite is true. The demand increases with the price. What separates a veblen good from a regular good is the snob value. Items above the snob value are believed to be higher quality or exclusive, which is what drives their demand upward. Luxury cars and jewelry are the most common examples of veblen goods. They’re coveted because they are believed to communicate status and importance. Distressed jeans from well-known designers might drive their demand, but what makes them unique among veblen goods might also be tied to the idea of authenticity. As expensive as they are today, jeans remain associated with the working class and rebellious roots. So, your distressed jeans might cost $1,000 but you still seem like a relatable bad ass. Veblen also described how the desire for luxury goods trickles down. Meaning less affluent people are also willing to pay more to display their importance. Distressed jeans find themselves in a strange feedback loop where the higher and lower classes seem to be trying to fit in with each other. Ironically, retail designers are offering more affordable distressed jeans options as a result. High priced distressed jeans will most likely stick around as long as they continue to be viewed as nostalgic luxury items. So, who knows, the next Iggy Pop might have to jump around stage in a pair of yoga pants to stand out. How much would you be willing to pay for a pair of distressed jeans? Comment below, and like, and subscribe for more Cheddar deep dives and breakdowns.

100 comments

  1. i age my jeans on my own. the concept is idiotic.. my problem is that the holes usually form near my testicles on the back pant corners from sliding in and out the Jeep.abrasive materials I suppose. LOL. Are patches still used by you guys? i can just patch my crotch and ass and keep going. nothing like old Levis!

  2. I just pick up an SMG and hang my jeans on the wall. After a few seconds, my pants are ready, and i can sell em for 2 grand 😉

  3. Screw paying $1000 hell screw paying $100 lol! ok long comment alert, but I have a point by the end, I promise.

    ~I will go to the thrift store & buy a $10 pair of nice USED Jeans (actually you'd be surprised at some brands u can find are really good higher end brands) annnnywho…. After buying my USED Jeans (ohhh another side note here… used Jeans also may have some uninformed wear & tear as well) bring them hine & put my own disstress into them (used also helps to kno where the best spots are to break down the jeans knees, sides, butt, ect all will have color distress if the jeans were worn & washed a few times. 😁 U can used a rag wit bleach on it to fade color, & another neat trick is sandpaper… it creates those nice holes that look like u have worn the jeans every day and the hole took jus as long to create itself lol! There are vids here on youtube as well that give u tutorials on how to create really nice wear & tear denim. 😉

  4. Sees you're lines of demand
    Me triggered as an economic student not seeing the demand line in blue and not being straight.

  5. You know how hard it is to find jeans that are in no way distressed? It's fucking impossible. Even a normal pair of jeans will come with faded patterns in the waist area as if the jeans have begun to fade from sitting

  6. How to get cheap ripped jeans:
    1. Buy jeans
    2. Get scissors and probably some knives
    3. Get sandpaper
    4: You know the rest

  7. Y'all wanna buy my naked and famous 22 oz denim thats beat up and faded ? I got em for 200 but I'll sell em for ummmmm…. 1,000 sounds good

  8. Why the fuck do you keep saying 2000$?? I buy some of my jeans distressed and they cost the same as the non distressed jeans I buy

  9. I’m cool if u wanna buy jeans pre ripped for the rugged look if you’re not “rugged” yourself. But why buy jeans where there’s deadass no front except at the knee to keep the jeans together. Like that don’t make no sense. And it costs more than to go buy the same brands unripped jeans and then cut out the holes urself

  10. Ima pay UP TO $90 but I know I can get really good stuff from MNML for $50 to $70 and get high quality that also looks good at a decent price

  11. There’s so many good looking pairs of distressed jeans for cheap nowadays it’s not even about the brand anymore, as long as the fit is on point

  12. None. Why would I pay more for someone to destroy my jeans? I could do that myself if I wanted to. I won’t tho because it’s impractical and is a dumb trend. Not very versatile as well so you have to buy even more stuff to fill up your wardrobe.

  13. i think noobs who only got money dont understand the idea of distressed jeans. your denims are supposed to become distressed over time due to wear and tear of use. thats how its yours and it tells your story. each tear in your jean has a event attached to it. you dont go pay for a distressed pair of jeans and obviously not for a thousand dollars. Fashion makes people dumb which is a fact

  14. Fucking hell, I'd just fucking wear normal jeans, go do some tactical infantry drills for a month, and sell that shit to cover my ammo and spare parts, and get replacement jeans and still have money left over!

  15. Whats the point in paying so much for ripped jeans? People must be to lazy to wear them out on there own. Hell, I could make several pair like that just by bailing hay over the summer, maybe I should be selling them on ebay. lol.

  16. I promise you if you buy ripped jeans you have nothing in common with the working class. Pur clothes maybe similar but our personalities couldn't be more different.

  17. many people here just assume old worn out jeans are the same as the new ripped jeans people buy… worn out jeans are exactly what they are, worn out. The colors aren't sharp anymore. Unless you never wash your jeans, they will be dull. Making holes in new ones however, that should work, but if they aren't nice fitted jeans, they may still look unflattering.

  18. $0. Would you pay more for a 'distressed' (and broken) car because it shows 'status'? Of course not, this trend is absurd.

  19. It’s interesting that people are actually buying these, considering the only opinion I’ve ever heard from real people is that paying more for holes is dumb.

  20. Those triple digit and 4 digit prices on pants that look used and old simply due to Iggy's performances? No thanks, just use a simple pair of shorts and you pay next to nothing for that.

  21. I often shop online and I see jeans and denim jackets that I'd love to buy, but if I see a rip or a distressed area, it stays on the rack.

  22. I've never once in my life bought distressed jeans. I'm working class and I need them to last. Only distressed through overuse.

  23. Does anybody know where to buy good, unripped jeans? The distressed variety are all I seem to find in stores these days

  24. I got really sad when distressed jeans became a trend… I'm really clumsy and has torn a lot of jeans and decided to trash them or made them into shorts.. Had I just known that in a few years I would look trendy in them and not poor..

  25. One things that history teaches us is that we should never underestimate human stupidity, it's one of the most powerful forces in the world. – Yuval Harari

  26. To be honest this conundrum isn’t really a thing for me. I grew up in a world where ripped jeans were as common as plain ones. Learning about the history of the trend is really cool, but some people are overreacting. if you buy your jeans at low to mid priced retailers there won’t be much of a price difference in price between distressed and undistressed denim (for women at least). I promise you the vast majority of people walking around in distressed jeans do not think it makes them look like they do cool things nor did they pay $1000 for them.

  27. Please for the love of god understand that 99.9% of people buying distressed jeans are not paying $1000 for them. This is a non-issue.

  28. I don't know why people would spend so much to look poor honestly. And let me give a moment of silence for the people who wear ripped jeans in fucking winter.

  29. Ah… I will never understand fashion and why some people care so much about how they look to others…
    For me I just wear what is the most comfortable and practical, and just roll out :3

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