Undanceable. Photo by Jen X
Undanceable. Photo by Jen X

Sounds Bad

Poor Levi's. When word came last spring they'd be teaming with Apple to invent the iPod jeans—jeans with headphones and controls that you could actually plug into your iPod (or t'other way 'round)—it seemed the kind of can't-miss partnership that "synergy" was invented for.

Now we have the jeans, and they are nearly as lame as using the word "synergy." Which is very much too bad; we still like Apple and we want to like Levi's—an original American brand still selling its signature product, the 501, even if that product is now made in China.

But the RedWire DLX jeans are just not good. The color is okay—a kind of indigo-saturated hue that must be overwashed. It's not far from the color of Levi's original dye, which was based on indigo. The cut of the RedWire is where things start falling apart: it's elephantine, a throwback to the baggy gangsta/raver profile of the '90s, when everything was XXXL. Now we wear skinny jeans, or maybe 501s. That's as baggy as it gets, and had Levi's been smart, they would have swiped the 501s silhouette, a nice middle ground. Skinny would have been too on-the-nose—but baggy seems instantly out-of-style, to borrow Tommy Hilfiger's recent catch phrase from his reality show.

Then there's the real purpose of these trousers, which is making it easier for you to play your iPod. They don't do that. They use invented parts that you shouldn't need to just stick your iPod in your pants—a weird, two-part plastic cradle that snaps together and then slides onto your iPod. Plug that cradle into the wire in the jeans, put it in the iPod pocket, plug the headphones into the plug in the change pocket, clip the headphones holder to your waistband, and you're wired. It takes about 10 minutes, and that fancy plastic cradle doesn't even fit my older-generation 10-gig iPod.

Why couldn't Levi's eliminate all that plastic and plug the iPod directly into the jeans? And what about the nipple-like joystick wired onto the outside of the change pocket? It only controls volume and song selection within an album or playlist. If you want to go to a different CD or playlist, you have to fish the whole iPod/cradle mess out of your pocket and then jam it back in there again. If they'd tested this on some real kids, it never would have gotten out the door.

The RedWire DLX should go down in history—I'm sure Levi's has already sent a copy to its own museum—as the company's most overthought, underengineered product ever. And it's out just in time for Christmas. Hmmm.


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