One piece of clothing
I only have one piece of clothing I actually deeply and truly care about. I mean, I have lots of stuff I like that I wear, but it’s not the same. No this is something utterly different for me.
In 1996 (maybe 97? maybe 95?) I decided I needed a good leather jacket. I’d never owned one, good or bad, and wanted one. So that summer, while wandering the West Village I came across one of those stores that had been shit all around the area. Those tiny, over-crowded, jacket/clothing/shoe stores that had too much crap and always had a “Closing Soon!” sign to try and get you to buy something quickly before they died.
I went in, just to look around and saw a Hudson Leather motorcycle jacket. I do not now, and never did ride a motorcycle. Doesn’t matter. The jacket called to me. So I tried it on and it fit, except the sleeves were a bit too long, which is a normal thing for me – I have wide shoulders but my arms are normal length so by the time I find something that fits one it won’t fit the other. Regardless! I decided to go ahead and buy it.
Keep in mind: It was dirt cheap. I could afford it. That wasn’t the normal state of affairs then. But when you look at thick leather jackets in the height of summer you can find a deal. I wore it out of the store, I loved it so much. Kept wandering another few hours. In the 90 degree heat. Wearing a thick (it weighs about 6, 6.5 lbs) leather jacket. Pretty sure I got heatstroke from that amazingly smart plan.
I’ve worn it almost steadily ever since. I mean it’s good up until about 60 degrees, and down to…it has a removable liner and all but I don’t know I’ve done sub-zero with it and a sweater under it, so it’s all good. Generally if I can wear it I do.
Which wasn’t the case for a bunch of years in the middle there. There was a period I felt I should be more “grown-up” for whatever fake value that means, so I tried wearing more “adult” coats? Stupid. Then I went back, because I will always go back to this jacket. That happened again, and a period I gained just enough weight it didn’t fit well so I didn’t wear it until I lost that. I would be telling lies if I didn’t admit that part of my “I need to lose weight” was to get back to being able to wear the jacket.
Here’s the thing, though: I don’t baby it. Never have. I solved the sleeve problem by wearing the jacket out in rain storm after rain storm, without protecting the leather, and pushing the sleeves up, then letting it dry, until they fit perfectly, with a permanent ripple to them so they are now exactly the right length.
This jacket has been, let’s see: Kicked under tables at restaurants and bars (and I mean kicked, like dropped on the floor without ceremony and kicked under something until it was comfortably out of the way). It’s been pushed under subway seats, crammed under airplane seats, dropped, nudged around, thrown into corners as needed – whatever.
I still treat it about once a year: a cleaning wipe down, some treatment (leather oil, or balm, a waterproofing spray some years). Outside of that though – the jacket needs to keep up. I didn’t go buy something to be precious with. I bought something to be a second skin. If I had to sit around in questionable bars, so did it. That was always the deal.
The pocket lining has been replaced four times now. The collar has been taken off and flipped around because it has some tears from wear that couldn’t be fixed, only minimized and hidden. The cuffs have been patched with new leather over the old, the back is cracked here and there from the various pains and temperatures and life.
Which is, to be honest, like me: I got bad hips and knees, one wrist is screwed up, my back isn’t great. And none of that stops me, anymore than it stops the jacket.
It’s in perfect condition as far as I’m concerned.
I mean, even if I were to sell it today that jacket would always be my jacket, my life has been imprinted on it in indelible ways. It is a second skin, and has been for literal decades, now.
I don’t wanna be buried in it, mind you, lord no. Why should it suffer and molder just because I will? I want a friend to take it, but they better wear it at least once a year and treat it like it always has been.
Like it’s part of a life.