This is the story of me and a jacket I found in my girlfriend’s closet before embarking on a trip last fall.
“What do you mean you didn’t bring a jacket?” my girlfriend demanded.
I shrugged. “I don’t know; I just sort of… didn’t.”
“I thought Italy was warm”.
“We’re not going to be in Italy the whole time”.
“I brought a sweater”.
My girlfriend rolled her eyes. “Maybe you can find something in my dad’s closet. He has a lot of old coats”.
Reluctantly, I leafed slowly through Members Only jackets and multi-colored pastel windbreakers.
That’s when I saw it. The jacket that would change my life.
It was gray, boring, and exuded a certain senior citizen sensibility. Something about it spoke to me.
“No”, my girlfriend said. “No way. That’s from my grandfather. It’s hideous. We’re going to have to buy a jacket on the way”. But it was too late. I already had the jacket on, and we’ve been inseparable ever since.
The jacket, I mean. The girl and I split several months later.
From Berlin to Poznań to Prague to Venice and back again, the old-man jacket never faltered. Yes, it was hideous, and yes my girlfriend hated it, but the jacket provided unmatched comfort and convenience. Nearly every surface, inside and out, featured an easily-accessible pocket.
Wearing the jacket was like driving a clown car. You could keep stuffing things inside it until the laws of physics begged for mercy. From Venetian masks to Polish sausages, I basically had a wearable suitcase with me at all times.
The jacket’s Thinsulate polymer lining provided incredible warmth and breath-ability, while simultaneously weighing almost nothing.
The light weight meant I could cram it full of the aforementioned souvenirs and provisions without becoming overburdened.Conversely, I could also offload all my crap at the hostel and then saunter off to dinner comfortably at near-freezing temperatures with the free, easy-going gait of a nudist strolling the beach.
Another indispensable feature of the jacket were the adjustable Velcro cuffs. They allowed me to push up the sleeves at a moment’s notice and take care of business.
And believe me, I had a lot of business to take care of.
Whether going elbow-deep into a buttery crab feast or making an emergency pit stop to change out a greasy alternator belt on the Benz, this jacket never got in the way.
But the old-man jacket didn’t just make my life more convenient and my vacation better. It also taught me a little something about valuing things for their function over their form. Looking back, I don’t think it was a coincidence that I broke up with my girlfriend a few months after the old-man jacket entered my life.
Senior citizens are not exactly renowned for their aesthetic flair. Sometimes I used to see old people dressed in polyester pants, Hush Puppies®, and an old-man-jacket (like my own) and I would pity them. I would think to myself, “poor old people…they don’t realize how stodgy they look”.
Now, I have to think twice.
Maybe the oldsters are on to something. Maybe they’re looking at me and thinking, “poor young people…they don’t realize how uncomfortable they are… and how little of a crap anyone gives about how ‘cool’ they look”.
I have yet to purchase polyester pants or Velcro shoes, and I probably never will. But after my old-man-jacket experience, I’m not going to write them off.