As I struggled to keep my balance atop a bareback horse on a rustic ranch in Utah, I realized I had a problem. For starters, I was uncoordinated and nervous — a hazardous combination on its own. And it didn’t help that the horse I was on, Cricket, could sense my angst. At that moment, I felt particularly grateful for my pants. Let me explain.
Facing your fears is a tricky business, but usually, it starts with a healthy dose of self-confidence. The very clothes you wear can make or break your readiness to take on a new challenge. And in my experience, the right pair of jeans make me feel quite capable. Over the years, fresh starts in my life have been defined by the denim I was wearing. When I moved from my hometown to a big city, I wore a pair of loose-fitting knee-length jorts. On the first day of each school year in university, my favourite mom jeans reliably shielded my weak knees. Like a loyal friend, the right pair is always there to offer support and help you feel good when you need it. Buffalo David Bitton gets this. For 50 years, the denim company has been making an array of styles and fits with the goal of giving everyone that perfect pair-of-jeans feeling. To celebrate its half-century anniversary, the iconic brand brought me and a group of press on a sartorial adventure through the desert land of Zion National Park.
To the unfamiliar eye (mine), the rural locale appears almost supernatural. Time seems to stand still in this ultra-saturated atmosphere, covered with prehistoric mountains, textured rock formations and canyons of fiery red and vibrant purple. It’s a far cry from sky-scrapers and autumnal trees. But it’s this boundless backdrop where denim — the archetypal made-for-adventure material — thrives.
“We always come back to the word freedom,” Andie Lipton, Buffalo’s senior vice president of marketing and communications, told me earlier that day. “It has so many meanings for us. Freedom to express. Freedom to style. Freedom to be. Freedom to enjoy.”
As such, our exploratory itinerary involved climbing up rocky hills, late-night stargazing and the aforementioned horseback riding — with a different outfit for each activity, naturally. Full disclosure: this was not your average equestrian tour. It was a riveting excursion up jagged mountains, down treacherous bluffs and through fast-flowing streams. To prepare for the expedition at hand, we entered a series of “bonding” activities with the horses at the ranch. Cut to me riding (nay, wobbling) bareback. Luckily, I was geared up in Buffalo’s fall 2022 Collection. So even though I wasn’t quite at home on horseback, I at least looked — and felt — the part.
To commemorate its milestone 50th anniversary, the brand’s latest offerings put a modern spin on vintage ’80s and ’90s designs with nostalgic high-waisted styles, bleached shades and straight-leg silhouettes. There are ruffled blouses, cozy plaids and lush knitwear meant to be mixed and matched with their edgier dark wash slacks or rodeo-ready faded overalls. For my equestrian excursion, I opted for the Jessie Jeans as my denim foundation: a slightly distressed, asymmetrical design with a sturdy yet relaxed fit. In other words, the pants I needed to challenge myself.
As we ventured on our two-hour trail through Zion Canyon, I felt surprisingly accomplished, empowered and, yes, free. There I was: wet, mud-splashed and smiling ear-to-ear while trotting over craggy trails with my — now-saddled — trustee steed. A coordinated cowboy I am not (fooled ya!), but my comfortable-yet-cool wardrobe helped me muster up the courage to tighten my grip, let go of my nerves and become the main character in my own Western movie, even for just a few hours.
After all, there’s something about denim that demands you not take yourself too seriously. Whether you like a baggy silhouette or prefer a tight pair of skinnies (I don’t judge), when the right pair of jeans strike a balance between ease and style, it’s kinda magical. In fact, the ideal pair gives you the confidence to do things you didn’t think you could. Like, say, riding a horse down a rugged hill at a surprisingly steep angle.
Though social media is continually churning out new must-have aesthetics while the trend cycle moves at a head-spinning speed, denim will never go out of style. From the rise of Westernwear outfits to recent runways favouring Canadian tuxedos, the always-reliable, ever-durable textile continues to evolve with the fashion world.
“50 years ago, denim wasn’t for everyone. It was very workwear-centric,” reflected Lipton during our chat. “I think over the past five decades, denim has very much become a part of everyday wardrobes. It’s so versatile that it allows you to have the freedom to express yourself.”
Though I’m now settled back into my familiar metropolitan routine, I’ll take with me the lessons I learned in rural Utah. As I slip my jeans on at the start of the day in my high-rise apartment, I’m reminded that while staying comfortable is a constantly compelling choice, life is actually about trying new things. And as it turns out, believing in myself feels right — just like a good pair of jeans.
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