With the world as it currently is, travel has become a true luxury. Scrolling through old photos is somewhat of a sore point, and I’m still trying to work out whether being jealous of my former self is healthy or not.
And as I stand in my room de-cluttering my wardrobe, as I tend to do at the dawn of each new year, I find myself staring at a pair of torn jeans for a little too long. Oh, the places they’ve been and the streets they’ve walked down.
When we went to Europe just before Christmas in 2018, all I packed was two pairs of jeans. And a handful of jumpers, coats, scarves and boots, of course. But they were the first thing I slipped on every day. It was a simple choice between black and blue. I’ve got photos in these jeans on the rooftop of a brewery in Bruges, at brunch in the backstreets of London, and in front of the Berlin Wall.
I remember the night we visited Hofbraü Wirtshaus after spending sunset wandering the Christmas markets in Berlin, and I ended up pouring half a litre of beer on these jeans. It’s not that I was drunk (although to be fair, I was) but it was hard not to douse yourself in your drink when in a room filled with 300-odd guests giving the live band a run for its money.
They’re the first thing I pack when I head anywhere regional. It’s the ultimate wardrobe staple for the “I’m-a-city-girl-who-loves-the-country” look. That and a pair of R.M. Williams and a freshly pressed Akubra.
I’ve waded through long grasses and over farm fences in these blue jeans, whether in attempt to lure a horse to the grass in my hand over what it’s already eating, to have my photo taken with an aesthetically-pleasing crop, or to get to a waterfall or dam or some other body of water. No rogue nail on a fence post, or thorn on a prickle can compete with my blue jeans.
I’ve worn them on walks in the Blue Mountains when I was silly enough to forget my gym gear. They’re not as aerodynamic, but they do the trick. Some even say they look stylish with trainers, though I’m yet to perfect that look. Plus they do a better job of protecting your skin when you accidentally drop your freshly hot apple tart from Logan Brae on your lap. Not so silly now, hey.
I’ve worn these blue jeans in almost every state in Australia, I’ve worn them in Japan, across Europe, in New Zealand, and more places I can’t quite think of. I’ve worn these jeans on walks, on the back of horses, at bars, at friend’s birthdays and to Christmas’. Heck, I’ve even worn these jeans to classy establishments.
I wore these jeans until they were so thin they tore. (Thankfully not while I was wearing them.)
As I look to my ‘keep’, ‘donate’, and throw away’ piles, it occurs to me that the journey of these jeans is not quite over. In 2021, it was reported that every 10 minutes, about 6,000kg of textiles end up in landfill in Australia. Natural fibres can take years to break down, and some synthetics never will.
I searched ways to recycle denim, and it was confusing. So I thought I’d write this story, to help anyone else looking for a new journey for their jeans that just won’t do up anymore, that have new holes they didn’t intend as a fashion statement, or perhaps that pair of cutoffs you’re ready to admit serve better as underwear than shorts.
From my research, I was surprised to discover what I believe to be the easiest and most accessible way to recycle your jeans, was H&M. Yes, the humongous fast fashion store, and arguably biggest contributor to waste and overproduction in the industry. But then again, I guess they’ve got the most to prove.
Since 2013, every store has had a recycling bin where you can bring clothes in any condition and from any brand. You can even redeem ‘Conscious’ points to spend in store too, if that tickles your fancy.
The company has partnered with I:CO who then sort the clothes – donate what can be worn again, separate textiles that can be refashioned into new clothes, and shred the rest to make, for example, insulation materials.
This sounded like a good option to me. I like the idea that my blue jeans could become a jacket or a handbag, or could help keep a family home warm. Though I’m sure there are other options out there. I hope there are. Would love to hear if you know something I don’t.