Jeans: My Mom’s Story

How many pairs of jeans do you have in your wardrobe? I have at least three or four pairs. The first one was bought for me by my mom when I was 12 years old. I still remember how excited I was about that. It was back in 1997 when jeans represented social status. But at least back then, «claiming» that status wasn’t such a big issue. If you had the money, you could buy them. But when I think about how my mom got her first pair, it always brings a smile to my face. Deep down, I think Generation Z and Alpha probably don’t understand why their grandparents hold clothing in such high regard.

My mom’s name is Tursyn, but everyone has called her «Bakyt» since childhood. She was born in March 1955 in Bayanauyl, Pavlodar region. She grew up and made a name for herself in a region rich in history and picturesque nature. My mom was a fashionista who paid special attention to her appearance and beauty. She wore makeup, painted her nails, and always wore high-heeled shoes. It was probably around 1978 when she was actively involved in Komsomol work. One of her relatives and good friends named Sultan got a trip to Czechoslovakia. Upon hearing this, my mom immediately ordered jeans for Uncle Sultan and sent him 80 rubles. At that time, my mom earned 120 rubles and worked as a merchandiser at the district trade base. Can you imagine spending 60-70% of your income on jeans?

Uncle Sultan brought her a pair of straight dark blue jeans. So, my mom was one of the first in Bayanauyl to have jeans. She even shared those coveted pants with her friends. «When we met with our Komsomol friends, we always discussed the fact that in America, jeans were work clothes, but here, they were formal attire,» she would laughingly recall every time. My grandmother was far from such fashion, she hardly wore pants. So, the tradition of wearing pants in our family started with my mom. What particularly interests me is the immersion in society’s transformation through changes in one’s own family. My grandmother bought the first pants for my mom when she was about five years old. They were green velvet pants with buttoned legs. They had a lining. And since they mostly wore uniforms at school, my mom didn’t wear pants much back then. So, she only bought the next pair after finishing school. To be precise, they were custom-made. «Small black squares on dark brown pants,» my mom would say.

Looking at old photos of my mom, I noticed that she was very stylish in her youth. There are many outfits with fashionable pants. However, in my childhood memories, the image of my mom in a dress or skirt remains. I only remember her occasionally wearing trousers at home for comfort. At some point, she also thought that married women shouldn’t wear pants.

A radical transformation in my mom’s clothing occurred in the late 1990s. At that time, my mom worked at the market for about two years. Wearing pants for everyday work became the norm for her. It was probably a change driven purely by pragmatic necessity. Perhaps it was necessary to carry huge checkered bags and work outside in the cold. Besides, thick clothing was needed to withstand harsh winter frosts. Many years have passed since then. My mom changed jobs, then retired. The habit of wearing pants in everyday life hasn’t changed. There is always at least one pair of jeans in her wardrobe…

Author: Asel Bitabar

Translator: Kymbat Kalieva