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5. Milford Haven's the Jeans Town

Milford Haven Jeans Town by e1womenjeans.com photo e8e96a8c-c5b8-4a1e-9b64-0df91151198e.jpg

It was years ago when I was on a business trip to Wales, arriving late in the evening after a ride of more than four hours by train from London. A short break by Swansea followed by a transfer by taxi and here I was, on a quality audit mission to the Elf Refinery in Milford Haven. I checked into the choice Lord Nelson Hotel that was the biggest available it seemed, perhaps the only one then. My arranged dinner was settled at a small café by the bay front.

I was up early the next morning on very chilly late September 1994. Hoping on the factory van, I was soon at the refinery just before 8 to attend a safety briefing before my host Chemist guided me to the lab and a short tour to the plant. I wore my class 1 Normax industrial safety jumpsuit and all ready to go. What impressed me were the surrounding meadows with daisies, neatly trimmed grass and sheep grazing around some large oil tanks in the yard. It was an oil refinery for Heaven’s sake and what’s with the meadows? I asked, with a dull mumble from my guide Stevens saying it’s for the environment.

Feeling like a total outsider, I began to realize after my tour rounds that I stood out being the only one in real uniform. Upon approaching the mess room, an army of workmen were returning for lunch break. Why is everyone in jeans too? The answer was for comfort. Lunch was dined in amongst a big crowd in the canteen all clad in jeans and yet again, I stood out in my dull grey uniform.

I had an opportunity to knock off early in the afternoon and headed for a short sightseeing on foot. There were two other oil companies surrounding this sleepy coastal town, a larger one across the bay. I did take interest in the church and buildings along the coastal road facing the bay having shattered glass windows, when asked; it was reminisce of an explosion from massive Texaco oil refinery 2 miles across the bay recently, an elderly jeans clad lady just out a cafe answered. Unknowingly I still had my Elf’s badge on a lanyard while strolling along. The old lady asked whether I work in Elf. Answering her that I was just on an audit visit, the old lady complained; tell your old rugged leader in jeans to stop polluting our town.

Milford Haven is surrounded by 3 refineries, 4, if one did not close due to environment issues as I was told. I’ll try, answering her while walking away I mumbled; old rugged woman in jeans. What did you say? The old lady replied with a raised voice. It wasn’t my intention to be rude but I have yet to see any jeans for sale. Almost every corner jeans were worn, the national wear or is it just the jeans era of the mid 90’s while shops after shops sold industrial boots, and anything else, just no jeans. I wore my Cats boots everywhere and here the English Doc Martens was in trend and Cat boots too, both could be suitably worn with denim but none in sight or did I miss seeing any?

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The following work day ended for me soon after lunch. I was on my way back to London and then, there was a rail strike going on while I was stranded with more rugged old ladies in jeans at the station. Some were grumbling about the strike as if I was auditing the tube as well. I was in a jeans strike era as it seemed too, leaving jeans townin a taxi, caught in a 7 hours traffic jam and poorer by £130 as I couldn’t wait to miss my 12 hour flight back home. Of course with a little time left, I took the opportunity to pick up a pair of English made jeans along the way to the airport.

Jeans as it seemed was not only comfy and rugged but made sense being a suitable industrial uniform as I had approved. Why not? as Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss understood this, when they first used this same rugged cloth now we wear to cover onions and potatoes in their godowns in Germany back in 1873.

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