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The Golden Lobe Awards!

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by Maggie Koerth-Baker, Ethan Trex, Jenny Drapkin, and Mangesh Hattikudur

Forget the Nobel Prize, the Fields Medal, the Grammys, the Emmys and the Oscars. The only awards worth winning are Golden Lobes — the super-special awards we hand out in mental_floss magazine whenever there are worthy nominees. With the Golden Globes happening tonight, we figured now was a good time to look back at some past Golden Lobe winners.

Creepiest Reality TV Show Idea

Das Dorf (The Village)

What would some people give for 15 minutes of fame? Try their entire lives. In 2004, more than 26,000 people willingly applied for Big Brother: Das Dorf, a German spin-off of the popular reality show that centers around locking a pack of histrionic strangers in a house together for several hundred days. The fine print? The new show, which premiered in March 2005, was supposed to last a lot longer than a year. In fact, the producers built a whole village for the set, where contestants were supposed to work, engage in orchestrated class struggles, and hopefully, get down to baby-making. The plan: To keep the show going indefinitely. Luckily for the future of all humanity, the show failed to find an audience. Das Dorf was mercifully canceled in February 2006.

Honorable Mention: Susunu! Denpa Sh?nen

A man is locked inside an apartment and commanded to strip naked. The apartment is empty, except for a large stack of postcards. To be permitted to leave, he must raise 1 million yen (about $8,000) by using the postcards to apply for free offers and sweepstakes. Also, he’s only allowed to feed, clothe, and entertain himself using his prize winnings. Amazingly, this reality TV plot captured the hearts and minds of the Japanese in the late 1990s. For more than a year, about 17 million viewers tracked the man’s progress every Sunday night. His name was Nasubi, and his winnings were impressive—including free lobsters, steaks, and vacuum cleaners. Oddly, he never acquired any clothing, so a computer-generated eggplant covered his genitalia for the duration of the program. Although his naked “winning dance” became all the rage in Japan, Nasubi later said he felt great despair and dreamed of escape almost every day.

Honorable Mention:The Big Donor Show

Purporting to be a real contest in which three kidney patients vie for the healthy kidney of a terminally ill woman, this Dutch show aired to moralistic jeers in the spring of 2007. But there was a twist. The “donor” was actually an actress, and the potential recipients were real kidney patients who’d signed on knowing there was no kidney to win. The point? To beef up awareness for organ donation and, perhaps, to prove that reality shows can occasionally be used for good as well as evil.

Nerdiest Beer

Midas Touch Golden Elixir

Illustration by Dongyun Lee

Of the hundreds of bottles of beer on the wall, only one provides a history lesson in every pour. And for that, you can thank brewmaster Sam Calagione and molecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern. For the past decade, these Indiana Joneses of the brewing community have dedicated themselves to whipping up the tastiest beers in history—all of history—and they’ve got the archaeological evidence to back it up.

The story starts in 1997, when McGovern began investigating crockery samples from the tomb of King Mita, the Turkish royal who inspired the King Midas myths. After running a chemical analysis on some of the king’s cups, McGovern realized that the man with the golden touch liked his ale. Determined to figure out what the king’s beer tasted like, he took the analysis to Sam Calagione of Delaware’s Dogfish Head Brewery. Together, the pair sought to reconstruct the 2,700-year-old beverage using authentic ingredients such as Muscat grapes, saffron, and honey. The result? An ancient ale they dubbed Midas Touch Golden Elixir.

This old-fashioned beverage has become a modern-day hit. Dogfish Head describes the drink as “somewhere between wine and mead.” But the beverage isn’t just popular at bars; it’s also a hit with critics. The drink nabbed a silver medal at the 2005 Great American Beer Festival and a bronze at the 2008 World Beer Cup. The success has also inspired Calagione and McGovern to dig deeper for historical recipes. Today, Dogfish Head offers an entire Ancient Ales series. The line includes Chateau Jiahu, based on a spiced beer found in 9,000-year-old crockery from northern China, and an Aztec beer called Theobroma, which was recreated using residue from 3,000-year-old pottery in Honduras. The former contains rice flakes and chrysanthemum flowers; the latter boasts notes of cocoa, chili, and annatto. And while we have no idea what annatto is, we’re not questioning it. Each sip just makes us happy that history is repeating itself.

Sneakiest Charity

Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy

For most charities, a $100 donation is a small, if welcome, drop in the bucket. But for the Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy, it’s enough to work miracles.

The group got its start in 2005, when writer Courtney Martin received a six-figure book advance and decided she wanted to give a portion of it to charity. Rather than just writing a check, she gave nine friends $100 bills with the directive to use the cash for creative acts of kindness. Thus, the Secret Society was born.

It may not be the Red Cross, but what the Secret Society lacks in size, it makes up for in pure whimsy. One “secret agent” spread 400 quarters on a school playground before recess and then watched as the children marveled at their good fortune. Another stood on a sidewalk and offered passersby $1 apiece to have a pleasant one-on-one chat with a stranger. Yet another agent enlisted the help of friends around the country to drop 10,000 pennies on the ground in various places, just so lucky folks could find them later. The agents had so much fun trying to brighten strangers’ days that they began recruiting others to join them.

But not everyone is thinking about the short-term. One man deposited his $100 in an interest-bearing account and then wrote a letter to his great-grandchildren telling them to give the pile of cash (and all that accumulated interest) to charities in the year 2100.

Beneficiaries of the charity are occasionally skeptical. (One agent had trouble giving away free umbrellas during a rainstorm.) Still, the idea of small-scale creative giving has captured the imaginations of do-gooders around the country. The Society now has chapters in New York, California, and Georgia. Using novel ideas to generously spend a $100 bill? We’re pretty sure Ben Franklin would approve.

Best Use of a Conch Shell by a Marine Mammal

William the Concherer

Illustration by Dongyun Lee

If you think all those show dolphins at Sea World are bright, check out the brains on William the Concherer. William is a bottlenose dolphin in Western Australia that catches his fish using a conch shell. Scientists the world over have been stunned by his special technique. William waits for a fish to swim into his shell and then races to the surface with it. After giving the shell a few stiff shakes to stun the fish, he dumps the shell’s contents into his mouth and gobbles up his meal.

Researchers call this fishing behavior “conching,” and it’s unbelievably rare. In 25 years of observation, scientists have only logged seven confirmed sightings. But William is particularly skilled at it. He modifies his tools, changing the shape of his shells to make them better-suited for fishing. It also seems that William may be eating higher quality food than his fellow dolphins. Tests of William’s blood have shown that he has a different fatty-acid profile than dolphins that don’t conch, suggesting that his technique allows him to eat much healthier fish.

Craziest Rumor that Turned Out To Be True

The Existence of the Duck-billed Platypus

Furry, egg-laying, and web-footed, platypuses were noticed pretty quickly by the native aborigines of Australia. But despite flaunting their weirdness all over the continent, the platypus went unnoticed and unappreciated by Europeans. That is, until the tail end of the 18th century, when the British Empire turned Australia into one big, oversized penitentiary. Almost overnight, the island acquired a large, felonious European population, which quickly sent home reports of the fantastic creatures they’d found there. By the mid-1790s, the first descriptions of what would later be called the platypus reached European shores. Naturally, nobody believed it.

Then, in 1798, British Museum zoologist George Shaw received a cask filled with liquid preservative and one dead platypus. Despite the evidence, Shaw still suspected shenanigans. Apparently, he cut the unfortunate creature open and peeled and prodded the skin around the bill—feeling certain he would discover that it had been artificially sewn on. But even after Shaw became fully convinced, many of his colleagues remained dubious. According to one source, a prominent British surgeon challenged Shaw’s findings, dismissing the platypus as nothing more than a practical joke pulled off by Chinese sailors.

Worst First Week on the Job

That Guy From Mizuho Securities in Tokyo

On December 8, 2005, Japanese trading company Mizuho Securities made a huge financial blunder—or rather, its young new employee did. The newbie intended to sell a single share of stock for 610,000 yen, but instead sold 610,000 shares for one yen each. Yikes. Worse, there were only about 14,500 shares of the company available for sale. All told, the affair cost the company an estimated 40 billion yen ($340 million) and plunged the Japanese stock market into a day of crazed anarchy. We can’t find any info on what happened to the (we assume) ex-employee, but we do know that the president of the Tokyo Stock Exchange ended up stepping down.

Noblest Weekend Project

Chen Si

Illustration by Dongyun Lee

The 4-mile bridge that spans the Yangtze River in Nanjing, China, is an engineering marvel. But like many tall structures, it attracts its share of suicide jumpers. By some estimates, at least one depressed citizen leaps from the bridge every week. Amazingly, that number would be even higher if not for one committed guardian angel named Chen Si. Mondays through Fridays, he works at a transportation company. But on the weekends, Chen convinces people not to jump.

Chen’s career as a lifesaver began in 2003, when he first heard about the horrifying number of people leaping from the bridge. Armed with little more than a cell phone, a moped, and a pair of binoculars, he decided to patrol the bridge and talk jumpers down from the rails. During the past seven years, he’s proven to be startlingly effective. By the end of 2010, Chen estimated that he’d saved nearly 200 people from taking the plunge.

How does he do it? First, Chen identifies those who are likely to jump. “It is very easy to recognize,” he claims. “A person walks without spirit.” Sometimes, however, the clues are less mystical. Once, Chen sniffed out a jumper after noticing the man had on very expensive shoes but no socks—a giveaway that he didn’t intend to walk home.

If Chen sees someone who looks suicidal, he rushes to their side to get them to back off the ledge. One key to his success is that he’s willing to do anything to stop a jumper. Often, he’ll begin with a comforting talk, simply reminding the person that no matter what they’re going through, the leap isn’t worth it. But when jumpers are combative, Chen—a large, stout man—isn’t afraid to tackle them. In his mind, a cut or a black eye is a small price to pay for saving a life.

Chen’s job isn’t over when the would-be jumpers are back on the safe side of the guardrails, either. Sometimes he takes them to lunch, other times he’s spent years helping them straighten out their lives. He’s gotten unemployed jumpers new jobs, and he’s helped people in debt pay off loan sharks. Many of the jumpers return to the bridge—not to jump, but to thank Chen for his help.

These stories originally appeared in mental_floss magazine. Get a free issue!

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Giovanni Rufino - © 2012 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved
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XOXO: 20 Things You Might Not Know About Gossip Girl
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Giovanni Rufino - © 2012 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Ten years ago, Gossip Girl became appointment television for America’s teenagers—and a guilty pleasure for millions more (whether they wanted to admit it or not). Like a new millennium version of Beverly Hills, 90210, the series—which was adapted from Cecily von Ziegesar’s book series of the same name—saw The O.C.’s Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage trade in their west coast cool for New York City style as the show followed the lives of a group of friends (and sometimes enemies) navigating the elite world of prep schools and being fabulous on Manhattan's Upper East Side. In honor of the series’ tenth anniversary, here are 20 things you might not have known about Gossip Girl.

1. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A LINDSAY LOHAN MOVIE.

Originally, the plan for adapting Gossip Girl wasn’t for a series at all. It was supposed to be a feature film, with Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino writing the script and Lindsay Lohan set to star as Blair Waldorf. When those plans fell through, the producers approached Josh Schwartz—who was just wrapping up work on The O.C.—about taking his talent for creating enviable high school worlds to New York City’s Upper East Side.

"The books are a soap opera, and TV makes a lot of sense," executive producer Leslie Morgenstein told Backstage of the decision to go the small-screen route. "When we made the list of writers who would be the best to adapt Gossip Girl for television, Josh was at the top of the list."

2. PENN BADGLEY INITIALLY TURNED DOWN THE ROLE OF DAN HUMPHREY.

Barbara Nitke - © 2012 THE CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Though he was hardly a household name when Gossip Girl premiered, Penn Badgley had been acting for nearly a decade—and had a lot of experience working on first season TV shows that never took off—when he was offered the role of Brooklyn outsider Dan Humphrey, and his initial response was: thanks, but no thanks.

“The reason I turned it down initially was because I was just frustrated,” Badgley told Vulture in 2012. “I was frustrated and I was broke and I was depressed and I was like, ‘I cannot do that again. I can't.’ … Stephanie Savage, the creator [of Gossip Girl], she said to me, ‘I know you might not want to do this again, but just take a look at it.’ And I actually was like, ‘I appreciate so much that you thought of me. I just don't want to do this. Thank you for understanding that I wouldn't want to do this.’ And then they couldn't find anybody for it—which is weird, because a million people could play Dan Humphrey—and she came back around, I was about to get a job as a waiter, and I was like, ‘Okay.’”

3. ULTIMATELY, BADGLEY PROBABLY WISHES HE HAD FOLLOWED HIS INITIAL INSTINCT.

Badgley told Vulture that, “I wouldn't be here without Gossip Girl, so I will always be in debt and grateful. And I've said some sh*t that ... I don't regret it, but I'm just maybe too honest about it sometimes.”

But executive producer Joshua Safran had a different view on the situation. “Penn didn’t like being on Gossip Girl, but …. he was Dan,” Safran told Vanity Fair. “He may not have liked it, but [his character] was the closest to who he was.”

4. THE CREATORS GOT THE IDEA TO CAST BLAKE LIVELY FROM THE INTERNET.

According to Vanity Fair, when it came time to casting the show’s main roles, they cruised some of the online message boards related to the Gossip Girl book series to see which actors fans of the books were suggesting. One name they kept seeing for the role of Serena van der Woodsen: Blake Lively, who had starred in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. “We didn’t see a lot of other girls for Serena,” Schwartz said. “She has to be somebody that you believe would be sitting in the front row at Fashion Week eventually.”

5. LIKE BADGLEY, LIVELY WAS ON THE VERGE OF QUITTING ACTING.

© 2008 Warner Bros. Television

Like her onscreen (and eventually off-screen) love interest Penn Badgley, Blake Lively was also considering leaving Hollywood when Gossip Girl came calling, so she turned the producers down.

“I said, ‘No, I want to go to college. Thank you, though,’” Lively told Vanity Fair. “Then they said, ‘OK, you can go to Columbia [University] one day a week. After the first year [of the show], it’ll quiet down. Your life will go back to normal and you can start going to school. We can’t put it in writing, but we promise you can go.’ So that’s why I said, ‘OK. You know what? I’ll do this.’”

As for that going back to school and life going back to normal? “When they say, ‘We promise, but we can’t put it in writing,’ there’s a reason they can’t put it in writing,” she said.

6. LEIGHTON MEESTER DYED HER HAIR TO GET THE PART OF BLAIR.

Because Blair Waldorf and Serena van der Woodsen were both best friends and occasional enemies, it was important to the show’s creators that the characters did not look like the same person. That fact almost cost Leighton Meester the role of Blair.

“She came in and she was really funny, and really smart and played vulnerable,” Schwartz recalled of Meester’s audition. “But there was one problem: she was blonde. And Blake was blonde, obviously; Serena had to be blonde. So, [Leighton] went to the sink and dyed her hair. She wanted it.’” (Sounds like something Blair would do.)

7. THE NETWORK WORRIED THAT ED WESTWICK LOOKED LIKE A “SERIAL KILLER.”

Giovanni Rufino - © 2012 THE CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Ed Westwick, who originally auditioned for the role of Nate Archibald but ended up playing bad boy Chuck Bass, almost didn’t land a role on the show at all. Though the show’s co-creators, Schwartz and Savage, loved the darker edge that Westwick brought to the group of friends, The CW worried “that he looked more like a serial killer than a romantic lead.”

“He's menacing and scary, but there's a twinkle in his eye,” casting director David Rapaport told BuzzFeed. “You want to hate him, but you would also probably sleep with him. He's one of those guys you hate for always getting away with things, but you also want to hang out with him and see what he's up to next. He's the guy that's going to give you a joint for the first time or get you drunk for the first time, so you know he's wrong for you, but he's fun.” Fans clearly agreed.

8. WESTWICK CHANNELED HIS INNER CARLTON BANKS TO PLAY CHUCK BASS.

In order to perfect his posh American accent, Westwick—who was born in London—looked to another iconic American television character for help: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s Carlton Banks (Alfonso Ribeiro). “There’s a slight thing in Carlton Banks,” Westwick told Details Magazine in 2008, “that kind of über-preppy, that I did pick up on.”

9. GRETA GERWIG AUDITIONED FOR THE SHOW … IN OVERALLS.

In 2015, Golden Globe-nominated actress Greta Gerwig—who just wrote and directed Lady Bird, starring Saoirse Ronan—talked to HuffPost Live about the mistakes she made early on in her career as an actress. “I have had moments when I was starting out when I was auditioning for things like Gossip Girl," she said. “And they would look at me like, 'Why are you wearing overalls to this audition?' And I'd be like, 'They said she was from a farm!' and they would be like, 'Well, this is Gossip Girl.’” (The role she was auditioning for, Eva Coupeau—a love interest for Chuck—eventually went to Clémence Poésy, who played Fleur Delacour in the Harry Potter movies.

10. BLAIR WALDORF HAD TWO MOMS.

© 2008 Warner Bros. Television

In Gossip Girl’s pilot episode, Blair’s mom—popular women’s clothing designer Eleanor Waldorf—was played by Florencia Lozano. In episode two, and throughout the rest of the series, Eleanor was portrayed by Margaret Colin.

11. IT WAS ONE OF TELEVISION’S FIRST STREAMING SUCCESS STORIES.

Years before House of Cards changed the way we watch, and even define, “television,” Gossip Girl served as a sort of precursor to the streaming generation. While the show’s Nielsen ratings were mediocre, New York Magazine reported that, “New episodes routinely arrived at the No. 1 most-downloaded spot on iTunes, and then there were the hundreds of thousands who were downloading free week-old episodes on the CW's site. Even executives at Nielsen threw up their hands and admitted that Gossip Girl appeared to be speaking to an audience so young and tech-savvy they hadn't really figured it out just yet.” (Lost and The Office had followed similar tracks.)

12. THE SHOW WAS BANNED BY SOME NEW YORK CITY SCHOOLS.

Giovanni Rufino - © 2012 THE CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

According to Vanity Fair, some of the elite New York City private schools that might have shared some similarities with the show’s fictional Constance Billard and St. Jude's banned their students from watching it. (Which, the outlet noted, “only served, in all likelihood, to make the students want to watch it more.”)

13. THE SERIES TURNED ITS CRITICISMS INTO A MARKETING CAMPAIGN.

Even by 2007’s standards, Gossip Girl—for a show about high schoolers on what was mainly known as a teen-friendly television network—seemed to relish in pushing the boundaries of what might be acceptable. It didn’t take long for parental advocacy groups like the Parent Television Council to take very public, and vocal, issue with the show's in-your-face sexuality. When it was criticized as being “mind-blowingly inappropriate” and “every parent’s nightmare,” the show turned those critiques into a marketing campaign to help promote viewership.

14. A WRITERS STRIKE HELPED THE SERIES GROW ITS VIEWERSHIP.

While the show struck a chord with certain audiences immediately upon its release, the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America Strike proved to be a boon to the series. “The CW, because they couldn’t just run repeats or game shows, [Gossip Girl is] all they had,” Schwartz told Vanity Fair. “They kept re-running the show during the strike so more and more people were watching.” Which led to even higher ratings when the show returned for a second season.

15. DESIGNERS WERE BEGGING TO SEE THEIR FASHIONS WORN ON THE SHOW.

Giovanni Rufino - © 2012 THE CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Just like New York City itself, the fashions in Gossip Girl essentially served as another character. According to a 2008 article in The New York Times, “Merchants, designers, and trend consultants say that Gossip Girl … is one of the biggest influences on how young women spend."

“When we came back with Season 2, so many designers were lining up and wanting to be a part of it,” the show’s costume designer Eric Daman told Vanity Fair. “They wanted their stuff on either Blake or Leighton.”

16. IT SPAWNED ITS OWN CLOTHING LINE.

To capitalize on the show’s influence in the fashion world, Daman and designer Christine Cybelle (a.k.a. Charlotte Russe) created a Gossip Girl-inspired clothing line.

17. KRISTEN BELL PLAYED AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE SERIES, BUT WAS NEVER CREDITED.

Though viewers had to watch all 121 episodes of Gossip Girl to learn the identity of the titular tattler, Kristen Bell provided the voice for “Gossip Girl” for all six seasons, without credit. And while she sort of hoped that the finale would have revealed that she was indeed “Gossip Girl” all along, that ending was not meant to be. “I’m sure that it would’ve been really cool had I got to play some vicious part and actually come out as Gossip Girl, but I think it was appropriate for one of the main cast members to have surfaced as Gossip Girl,” she told Perez Hilton.

Though she was a key part of the series, she didn’t learn GG’s true identity until the very end of the show—and she was surprised. “I don’t know that I ever forethought it being Dan,” she admitted. “That was a bit of a shocker!" (If it makes her feel any better, Badgley reportedly didn’t learn Gossip Girl’s identity until that scene was actually shot.)

18. JANUARY 26 IS "GOSSIP GIRL DAY" IN NEW YORK CITY.

© 2008 Warner Bros. Television

At least it was in 2012, when then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg proclaimed January 26 “Gossip Girl Day” in celebration of the show’s 100th episode. “I don’t have a whole lot of time to follow what New York magazine has called ‘The Greatest Teen Drama of our time,’” Bloomberg said. “But I am interested in finding out who the real Gossip Girl is—Serena’s cousin, maybe? And I don’t see how Blair could marry Prince Lewis while she is clearly in love with Chuck, although she and Dan became pretty close when they interned at that fashion magazine. And I just wish that Nate and Vanessa had been able to work things out, I guess Nate was preoccupied with everything that was going on with his father and Jenny and, I mean, it was a tangled web, I guess Dan would have ended up making their relationship impossible anyway, but I’m just a casual fan.” 

Super-fans of the show can still take a Gossip Girl tour of New York City.

19. IVANKA TRUMP AND JARED KUSHNER MADE A CAMEO.

Over the full course of the series, plenty of familiar faces popped up, but two in particular seem kind of funny in retrospect: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner played themselves in a club scene. (Ivanka was apparently a huge fan of the series.) “They did it for the money,” a chuckling Schwartz told Vanity Fair.

20. IN AN ALTERNATIVE UNIVERSE, SERENA IS A SERIAL KILLER.

In 2002, von Ziegesar published a bloody take on her famed book series with Gossip Girl: Psycho Killer, which she said she’d love to see adapted. "I took the original text of the first book and whenever I saw an opportunity, I layered in this story of Serena coming back from boarding school as this coldblooded psychopath, which, to me makes total sense,” von Ziegesar told Entertainment Weekly. “She’s sort of like the Ryan Gosling of Gossip Girl world. She has that deadpan style, doesn’t seem to have much personality, and she’s really gorgeous, but then underneath she has this kind of scary ability to kill people. So she’s murdered people up at boarding school. She’s always had this dark side and everyone is a little bit scared of her.”

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Natasha Zinko
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This Just In
This Jeans-Inside-Your-Jeans Look Will Cost You $695
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Natasha Zinko

Besides a few updates here and there, the classic style of denim blue jeans hasn’t changed much since the late 19th century. Now, a London-based fashion designer wants to disrupt the wardrobe staple. Their revolutionary new idea? A second waistband sewed on top of the first one.

According to Mashable, these high-waisted double jeans from Natasha Zinko are retailing for $695. Wearing the pants makes it look like you forgot you already had jeans on and put on a second pair on top of them. But buying two pairs of designer jeans to wear at once would probably be less expensive than owning this item. The double jeans are actually one garment, with the high-waisted inner pair stopping at the hips. Boasting seven pockets, they’re not entirely impractical, but having to undo two sets of buttons and zippers sounds like more trouble than it’s worth.

Model wearing double jeans.
Natasha Zinko
There is a market for high-end blue jeans disguised as fashion crimes, as Nordstrom proved earlier this year with their $425 pants covered in fake dirt. The Natasha Zinko double jeans have already sold out on shopbop.com.

[h/t Mashable]

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