Youth embrace ‘damage’ jeans to make a fashion statement

John Mukisa bounces majestically as he strolls from one shop to another on Quality Shopping Mall in Naalya, an affluent Kampala suburb.

The first impression one gets from observing him is that he is a restless person,

Yet what has most caught my attention is the pair of black jeans that he is donning.

To put it colloquially, it is full of “holes”. It is torn at the knees and the upper thighs.

One could be forgiven for thinking that Mukisa has just come out of a fight or tango with someone.

“I love these jeans because they turn people’s heads,” he told me when I asked about what some could call a weird sense of fashion.

“It is about freedom.”

Over the last couple of years, damage fashion trend has taken the local fashion scene by storm.

The trend is very popular among urban teens and youths in their 20s and early 30s.

Mukisa, 23, said his parents at first did not approve of the fashion saying it was for “bayaye” or hoodlums.

But later they relented and accepted that it is what he liked.

“I used to leave home wearing a proper pair of jeans but along the way I would change into damage jeans,” he said.

Now he does not have to do that.

In downtown Kampala, new damage jeans cost between $ 5 (Shs 20,000) and $ 45 (Shs 150,000) depending on quality, make and brand.

However, some people buy plain jeans and then proceed to ‘damage’ them in various places using sharp objects like knives or scissors.

This option is cheaper and it is what Annette Kamugisha, 20, prefers.

Kamugisha is a student at one of the universities and among her collections, she says, are several pairs of ‘damage’ jeans.

Most, she says, have been ‘damaged’ by her.

“I buy them [jeans] cheaply then I use a pair of compass (from a mathematical set) to create several patterns. They come out well,” Kamugisha said.

Kamugisha says whenever she wears the jeans, she just feels cool.

Mukisa and Kamugisha are among thousands of youths in Uganda and globally who have adopted the fashion trend of “damage jeans.”

Globally a number of female celebrities have embraced the so called “damage fashion wear”.

From Kim Kardashian to Jennifer Aniston to Justin Theroux, they all just can’t get enough of the jeans.

Still many people, especially the old fashioned, still view the trend with a sense of apprehension.

Given the strong cultural and religious sentiments in many societies in Uganda, the fashion trend has been frowned upon as indecent.

Among the people who has weighed in on this trend is the First Lady, Janet Kataha Museveni, who wrote in July that the trend mocks poor people.

“If you are an adolescent boy at school like the girl I just talked about, you ensure you are an astute student, you lead others to refuse to wear torn trousers because Uganda does not respect those who mock our poor people by making a fashion of what our people wear because of poverty,” she wrote in July in response to messages from young people who were wishing her a happy 73rd birthday.

With or without protestations, it appears the damage fashion trend is not about to fade, for now at least.

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