Comments & Curiosities: Tush-cam installed in a dressing room near you

This is huge, technologically speaking. Bigger than the iPad2, bigger than Playbook, bigger than iCloud, maybe.

Imagine you're shopping for jeans, something that is not fun if you are a male, and something you dread if you are a non-male. Finding a pair that fits is harder than finding something Sarah Palin says that makes sense.

The part where your bottom goes is always the issue. Too big, too small, too poochy. And we're talking about the jeans, not you.

The problem is unless they have one of those funhouse, eight-sided mirror things, you can't see what's happening back there. You twist, you turn, you bend, you twist some more. Nothing works.

Well, put down that coffee, sit up straight and get ready to make some calls. American Rag Cie in Fashion Island — a super-trendy, hip-and-happening vintage clothing sort of place — has cracked the code, solved the puzzle, moved the evolutionary process forward.

Here's how it works. When you visit American Rag's World Denim Bar, you pick out the 12 or 15 pairs of jeans you want to try on, head for the dressing room and step right into the 22nd century. You pull on the first pair, catch your breath, and while you check out the front view, American Rag's revolutionary butt-cam does the rest.

A small, discreet, wall-mounted camera streams a live view of your posterior part to a small screen behind the dressing room mirror. First your car has back-up video, now you do, too. How cool is that?

Don't thank me. Thank American Rag Cie. By the way, if your French is a little dusty, "cie" is the abbreviation for the French "compagnie" — i.e., American Rag Co.

The French connection is appropriate, because that's where "denim" gets its name. The fabric was first made in the French town of Nimes and was called "de Nimes," meaning "from Nimes." Isn't that interesting? OK, maybe not.

Wait, I have more.

Do you know who Jacob Davis was? He was the father of blue jeans. You thought it was Levi Strauss & Co. during the California Gold Rush, didn't you? Well it was, sort of.

Davis was a Russian tailor who left the borscht behind in 1868 and set up shop in Reno, Nev.

Levi Strauss had been selling denim fabric to miners in California and elsewhere for years, and Davis bought a lot of it. One day, a customer told Davis her husband liked his denim jeans, but they kept tearing in the seams because he was a little, umm, porky.

OK, he had his own ZIP code. Big deal.

Davis, who also whipped up a canvas tent for his miner customers now and then, got an idea. He made the woman a pair of 4-XL jeans for her husband but reinforced the seams and pockets with the same copper rivets he used on his tents.

The wife was thrilled. Sort of. And the husband went bonkers and so did the other miners. The modern blue jean was born.

But Davis wasn't just a good tailor. He was a smart tailor. He realized he didn't have the means to patent his idea, so he approached Levi Strauss and said let's do this together — you, me, partners. It's perfect. Levi Strauss said OK, secured the patent, and oddly for the time, was true to its word. Davis was now not only a good tailor and a smart tailor, but a really rich tailor.

So that's it. In Nevada, Davis and chubby miners. In Newport Beach, American Rag Cie and their tush-cam.

It's a breakthrough, but frankly, I'm not sure I'll be using it. There are some things better left unseen. I've seen what's back there, thank you, and it ain't pretty. I gotta go.

PETER BUFFA is a former Costa Mesa mayor. His column runs Sundays. He may be reached at

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