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Rick Steelhammer: Weighing the high cost of dressing poor

As the income gap steadily widens, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s observation that the rich “are different from you and me” remains valid 93 years after those words appeared in his story “The Rich Boy.”

A case in point: the existence of the Screener leather sneaker by Gucci.

The Screener, a part of the fabled clothing designer’s Cruise 2019 collection, gets its name from “the defensive sports move,” according to Gucci’s online catalog, in which case the shoe technically should be called the Screen. It is fashioned from “materials inspired by vintage sportswear,” in its case, perforated off-white leather, and “influenced by classic trainers from the ‘70’s.”

The Screener is equipped with a colorful side stripe and distinctive Gucci logo, and has been machine conditioned to produce “an allover distressed effect,” according to the catalog, making it look a tad grimy and worn. To me, it looks like a 40-year-old bowling shoe that has rested in an old man’s closet for the past 38 years.

It retails for $870, or $930 for the high-top version. An optional accessory, a Gucci crystal chain, shown looped around the Screener’s heel and draped down its tongue where it is fastened with a shiny, brooch-like device, jacks the price up to $1,590.

You don’t have to be a millionaire to afford buying a pair of Screeners, which come equipped with a brush-and-lotion cleaning kit to freshen up the shoe’s fake grime. You just have to have run out of more interesting ideas for converting your cash into ash.

As part of a suggested outfit to be seen in as you strut your Screeners, the catalog includes an image of a pair of $1,200 Gucci ripped denim pants, which appear to have begun life on the starting line of a drag strip due to numerous burned rubber patterns imprinted on the once reddish denims. About 30 percent of the fabric on the front of the pant legs has been artfully ripped and shredded, giving the four-figure tog “a style that echoes the ‘90s punk movement.” Either that or a style favored by the victims of serial-killer truckers unearthed from shallow roadside graves after a 10-year investigation.

But it takes more than having money to burn to wear the stylish Gucci ripped denim pant. You have to be emaciated, too.

You can buy a pair with a 30-inch waistline online, but anything larger (sizes top out at 36 inches) must be scrounged from what may still be available in stores carrying the product line. The catalog copy snootily observes that the model shown wearing the raggedy Guccis “is 6’ 2” and is wearing size 32.”

“Thank goodness Levi’s still makes good-looking jeans that are built to last,” I thought to myself, as I continued reading beyond the article dealing with Gucci’s upscale, artificially crafted conception of poor peoples’ clothes.

My eye caught an article about Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh, who wore a 10-year-old pair of Levi’s 501s to the New York Stock Exchange last week for a celebration of his company’s new IPO offering. Bergh told reporters he had never washed the jeans, and recommended that Levi’s customers follow his lead. His idea is that the practice helps preserve the world’s water supply, while extending the wearable life of his jeans.

Bergh may be worth $4 billion or so, according to press accounts, but I think its his no-wash evangelism for his jeans that’s made him what he is:

Stinking rich.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

Funerals for Thursday, September 19, 2019

Amos, Carolyn - 3 p.m., Adams-Reed Funeral Home, Cowen.

Crane, Margie - Noon, Bartlett-Nichols Funeral Home, St. Albans.

Davis, June - 3 p.m., Tyree Funeral Home, Oak Hill. 

Dempsey, Freda - 11 a.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Given, Wanda - 1 p.m., Simons-Coleman Funeral Home, Richwood.

Riegler Sr., Russell - 2 p.m., WV Memorial Gardens, Calvin.

Turner, Shelbie - 1 p.m., Leonard Johnson Funeral Home, Marmet.

Williams, Ira - 1 p.m., Donel C. Kinnard State Veterans Cemetery, Institute.