Chip Bergh, the CEO of Levi Strauss has not washed his jeans in over a year.
Why do we need to know this revolting fact? Interviewed at Fortune’s Brainstorm Green Conference, Bergh admitted it “sounds totally disgusting” but insisted “I have yet to get a skin disease or anything like that.”
But we only have Bergh’s word for it. And in any case, even in the unlikely event that he hasn’t contracted scabies or leprosy or Ebola or whatever as a result of his filthy laundry habits, it is surely going to be virtually impossible now for any of us to see a pair of Levi’s without imagining the rank smell and the accumulated dead skin cells festering and pullulating within the company CEO’s sanctimoniously unwashed jeans.
That’s the bit that really stinks of course – even more than Bergh’s jeans themselves: this idea that there is something virtuous about his high-end soap-dodging; that it’s something we should really all emulate if we wish to be better people.
Since when was it the job of a corporate CEO to make us all better people? If Bergh was a clergyman, say, or life-coaching guru, I could just about understand it. But he’s not. He’s in the rag trade. His job is to sell us jeans. Preferably cheap, reliable, well-made, fashionably-styled jeans – because if they’re not all those things there’s loads of competition and we can always go somewhere else, can’t we?
In fact I think I might have to go somewhere else, anyway, on principle now. I’m very fond of the three or four pairs of Levis I own – and which my wife, quite correctly, washes for me at least once every two months – but every time I put them on, I fear I may be traumatised by flashbacks to the video I saw at HuffPost (where else?) of Bergh burnishing his green credentials with that creepy, faux-aghast interviewer from Fortune, while off-camera the audience laughs sycophantically at the hilarious idea that this smug CEO with his gazillion dollar salary washes his jeans probably less often than the Head of Diversity, Sustainability and Sexism-Awareness at Occupy New York or even some tramp under Brooklyn Bridge.
“Ew!” I say, Chip Bergh. And again “Ew!”