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The Queen of Cool & the Sandman: The people who make our blue jeans

by Kelsey Timmerman, author of Where Am I Wearing?

In my global quest to answer the question "Where Am I Wearing?" I picked my favorite items out of my wardrobe and traced them back to where they were assembled. I went to Bangladesh for my boxers, Honduras for my favorite T-shirt, and China for my flip-flops.

I also tracked my All-American blue jeans back to a factory in Cambodia. This is what I discovered as I disappeared into endless rooms of workers and sewing machines:

The walls are lined with motorized grinding stones on workbenches. I watch as a young woman picks a pair of jeans from the denim pyramid at her side and starts grinding the cuffs and pockets. She stops to judge the level of fraying and, happy with her job, adds them to a smaller denim pyramid. In a way, this woman is the Queen of Cool. She takes a regular pair of jeans and bestows upon them just the right amount of fraying. She applies the imperfections just the way we like them. She is not a machine. She has a name.

At another station, a man sandblasts jeans with a sand gun. It's noisy and sand piles up at his feet. He wears glasses and something that looks like a blacksmith's apron. The legs of the jeans flop in the sandstorm. These are sandwashed jeans, and this is the sandwashing guy. He is not a machine either.

We enter another vast Blue Jean Land. Kan Chen Chin, the factory's manager, smiles and taps his watch. We've been walking through the factory for an hour, and he probably needs to get back to his business.

"My boss says it is time," his assistant says.

"Time to go?" I ask.

Before she can answer a voice comes over the speaker, and a thousand workers step from their stations. Club music pounds a rhythm in the background over cracking speakers. The voice directs calisthenics. The workers stretch their arms, necks, and legs before shaking them out. The voice stops after a few minutes, and the workers get back to making our pants.

If there were a blue jean machine, it probably wouldn't need a break.

Tuesday's Entry: Adventures of an Undercover Underwear Buyer

Go out and buy Kelsey's fascinating new book today at Amazon.com. (Seriously, it's great!) And if you want to see what Kelsey's been up to today, check out his website whereamiwearing.com.

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Animals
Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London
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Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


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Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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