Jeans and the godly
If you think imagine jeans are faith-neutral, think again
BAD-TEMPERED and befuddled, I can sometimes be observed on my knees, head to the floor, arse pointing skywards. This happens when I am forced to poke about in the undergrowth of computer cables buried under my desk, in the hope of finding out why my Internet connection has suddenly been lost, or why my computer has declared that it “cannot find printer”.
On one occasion, in a moment of irrational, juddering fury, I swivelled the computer screen around, pointed it at my so-last-century Hewlett Packard and bellowed:
Look! It’s right here, you stupid fucking machine – just where it’s been for the past five years!
The same position has to be adopted when something goes awry with the linked hi-fi and TV set-up in the downstairs living-room. But here I have an added complication in the form of our huge, demonic, golden-eyed, black Persian cat, Smirnoff, who interprets my descent to floor level as an invitation to cavort in the bolognaise of wiring dragged from behind the tellie – his purrs almost drowning out my growls of frustration.
Now there’s two things I’ve learned about these periodic explorations: that my knees ain’t what they used to be; and that assuming the Muslim position while in denim jeans – which I wear practically all my waking hours – is excruciatingly uncomfortable.
What I really ought to have on hand is a pair of Al Quds jeans (pictured above) designed especially for devout Muslim men who have to point their derrieres heavenward five times a day while mumbo-jumboing to the moon-god, Allah.
I happened across Al Quds jeans when I Googled “furious Muslims” – something I do at least once a day in order to find out what on earth, lately, has slithered under the exceedingly thin skins of the Sons of the Prophet.
While Al Quds are generally approved of – they are high-waisted and baggy enough to accommodate keys, wallets, mobile phones … and, I suppose, small incendiary devices – it’s the name that has needled some. Al Quds, you see, is the Arabic name for Jerusalem, which is regarded as the third holiest location in Islam.
Why? Because Mohammed was “miraculously” transported there from Mecca by the Angel Gabriel who wanted him to behold the “Furthest Mosque”, Al-Aqsa. Having seen it, the suitably-impressed Prophet was then taken by tour-guide Gabriel to heaven, where he had a lengthy chin-wag with prophets who had gone before, then led this congregation of celestial holy rollers in prayer, before being returned to Mecca.
(The Koran gives no inkling of what Mohammed may have smoked or imbibed on that eventful night to provoke such vivid hallucinations.)
Al Quds sparked a minor controversy because many considered the brand name “disrespectful” and “insulting”.
Pakistan’s top Islamic cleric, Grand Mufti Rafi Usmani, praised the thinking that went into the creation of the jeans, but said the name Al Quds could cause offence.
I’m pretty sure that the company which makes the jeans knows how dear Al Quds is held by the Muslims. We have never heard about any products named after the Vatican, Knesset, or the Wailing Wall.
Has the man never heard of Jesus Jeans which are made in Luxembourg?
They are not, to my knowledge, designed to aid prayer, facilitate strolls across water, or even save your arse from the cloven-hoofed hordes of hell, but they are, nonetheless, very popular – with one notable exception. The UK Patent Office in 2003 refused an application to register “Jesus” as a trademark for the company because the name has “religious significance and its use as a trade mark would be seen as morally offensive to the public”.
But, never mind the British and their absurd leanings towards the politically correct, Jesus Jeans has successfully registered “Jesus” throughout most of the rest Europe.
For the record, the UK Patent Office rejected the trade mark under section 3(3)(a) of the Trade Marks Act 1994 (the “Act”), which states that a mark should not be registered if it is:
Contrary to public policy or to accepted principles of morality.
Not long after, jeans were back in the news when a leading Polish clothing company invoked the anger of the Catholic Church with a nationwide advertising campaign featuring a priest wearing its denims and a clerical collar.
According to KAI, Poland’s Catholic Information Agency, Professor Janusz Krolikowski, from Holy Cross University in Rome, claimed that the company had “dragged the clergy into a game of market forces”, and quoted him as saying:
It’s an absurdity and an abuse. The firm is using something which doesn’t belong to it, for purposes which are wholly unacceptable. This firm has deliberately used a priest, knowing that men of the cloth avoid publicly expressing their fashion preferences.
Is the professor unaware of the fact that Catholic Fuehrer, Pope Benedict XVI, is an enthusiastic fashionista with a penchant for expensive designer labels? The Pope has, for example, been seen sporting pricey red Prada loafers (camp) and Serengeti sunglasses (cool).
The American eyewear – the preferred brand of the Hollywood film star Val Kilmer – cost at least £200. And the 78-year-old Vicar of Christ’s normal reading glasses have been identified as Cartier’s demilune Santos model, guaranteed to take a sizeable bite out of your bank balance. Other sharp accessories include a stylish but simple wristwatch, with black hands, a black face and a black strap. So far no one has identified the make or the model but it has been described as “retro”. And occasionally, the Pope wears swish black and gold cufflinks.
But back to jeans, and the theological pickle Levis ran into in New Zealand three years ago as a result of its 501 Jeans Born Again TV advertisement, in which a young woman throws off her skirt and is submerged backwards into a lake, assisted by a youth who pushes down on her forehead. As she emerges, fastening the top of a pair of Levi jeans, onscreen words state: “BORN AGAIN”.
One of several angry viewers wrote to the Advertising Standards Authority saying:
I find the use of the baptism imagery to be highly offensive. Christians view this as a sacrament – something sacred and, while iconoclastic advertising shocks and is effective – I’d be very surprised if advertisers were able to mess around with Muslim or Buddhist symbols in the same way. Would they toy with holy war and jihad with impunity? Not a chance! In pluralist, multi-religious, tolerant NZ … the Christian faith should receive the same respect and care and space accorded to other religions.
The Complaints Board:
Was unanimously of the view that the Levis Born Again advertisement portrayed people in a manner which, taking into account generally prevailing community standards, had caused serious offence on the grounds of religious status. and the ad was banned.
If you want jeans that are unashamedly anti-religious, go in search of the Cheap Monday brand, created in Sweden in 2004. They feature a distinctly ungodly logo: a skull with an inverted cross on its forehead.
The logo’s designer, Bjorn Atldax, declared:
Atldax said he had a purpose beyond selling denim: to make young people question Christianity, which he called a “force of evil” that had sparked wars throughout history.
I’d buy a pair tomorrow, but am put off by their cut – “a punk-rock style, trendy tight fit.”
Assuming I could actually shoe-horn myself into a pair of skinny Cheap Mondays, then dropped to my knees, it’s highly likely that I’d end up having to pay for several expensive sessions with an osteopath.
• This slighted edited piece first appeared in the February 2007 edition of the Freethinker.