Penkava: Rugged Americana workwear for the dirtless

Nordstrom. You’ve heard the name. I originally thought that a Nordstrom was a type of Scandinavian weather phenomenon, as in, “Yumpin’ yiminey, dars a Nordstrom comin’!”

It also sounded like a Viking-style buffet: “Nordstrom’s got the best salted herring and horse meat kebabs around, and its mead would make Erik the Red’s beard turn white.”

Alas, there is no Nordstrom blowing in from the Norwegian Sea, nor is there a Nordstrom restaurant catering to the buffet pillager inside of us.

Nope, Nordstrom is, sigh, just a department store.

But it’s not just any department store. Although I personally have never been in a Nordstrom store, I recently visited its online site, and there’s stuff there that would scare your credit card out of your wallet.

For example, they offer a men’s sport shirt for $265. There’s a pair of trousers for $295, sneakers for $320 and a faux leather baseball cap for $390. Oh, and they carry a cologne called “Noir de Noir” for $595. That’s almost $2,000 to look good and smell good, and that’s not even counting the Lorenzo Uomo Flamingo Mini Stripe socks and the microfiber men’s thong underwear.

While I was on the site, just for fun I checked out Nordstrom’s jeans, since recently my wife said if I didn’t get some new pairs soon she was going to donate the old ones to the nearest hazardous material storage facility.

So I browsed their selection: Rock Revival Alternative Straight Leg Jeans, $189; Hudson Jeans Skinny Fit Moto Jeans, $252; Diesel Krooley Jog Slouchy Slim Fit Jeans, $348. I kind of liked the Topman Extreme Ripped Stretched Skinny Fit Jeans, but they looked worse than my old ones.

But then I saw them – the weirdest jeans on the planet.

They are called the Barracuda Straight Leg Jeans.

Here’s the description of them – “Heavily distressed medium-blue denim jeans in a comfortable straight-leg fit embody rugged, Americana workwear that’s seen some hardworking action with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating that shows you’re not afraid to get down and dirty.”

These jeans are just like me – heavily distressed, a piece of Americana and crackled. At the price tag of $425, they also are like me: exorbitant and discomfiting.

I sat there staring at the photos of these jeans: The front view, the rear view, the side view, the close-up back pocket view, the Google Earth satellite view. Whichever way you looked at them, these jeans just oozed down and dirty.

I started to fantasize about the reaction I would get when the common people in their mundane pants saw me:

“My, my, that man must work ruggedly hard!”

“Mom, look; it’s Capt. Americana!”

“Honey, can I get a pair of jeans like that distressed guy?”

“Hey, Betty, if you think I’m a slob, check out that guy!”

“Frank, I think I saw that man on Google Earth!”

Then I heard that Reebok was selling a T-shirt with sweat stains and even odor. And get this: the shirt also sells for $425! For just $850, I have the perfect combo: dirty pants and a stinky shirt – all without having to lift a finger and do any work! Just go into the closet and pull out rugged, dirty, crackled, sweaty, reeking Americana workwear.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I think we may be getting a little ahead of ourselves with this extreme clothing stuff.

As for me, if I want to be dirty and smelly, I’ll earn my sweat and grime and go out and work in the garden.

Then when people see me they’ll say, “Hey, look at that guy with the dirty pants. Betcha he shops at Nordstrom.”

• Michael Penkava taught a bunch of kids and wrote a bunch of stuff. His first car cost less than that pair of pants and was a lot cleaner. He can be reached at

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