They’re shelved away in a wardrobe in my memory. Rows of jackets in different sizes, each attached to a person and a time.
In menswear, so often lacking in opportunities for experimentation, a jacket is like a costume. It’s a persona shrugged on over one’s own. Cinematic heroes are defined by their jackets- think Drive, or The Wild One or Bender from The Breakfast Club (or, less appealingly, Neo from The Matrix..). I’ve a terrible, shallow habit of judging men by their menswear; I barely remember men who dress unmemorably, but strike up conversations based on tweed or gold buttons or a vintage trench. Sometimes the wearer doesn’t live up to the jacket, but sometimes they suit it all too well.
Every 16-year-old girl dreams of dating a boy with a leather jacket, chief signifier of the senior school bad-ass. After Marlon Brando on his motorcycle, there was Tyler Durden and the red leather blazer he wore in Fight Club. The very first boy I dated wore its replica.
It was a strange wardrobe choice for a teenager. That jacket took guts and an almost heroic eccentricity. We watched Japanese horror films together, drank coffee and occasionally alcohol. We learned to act like grown-ups, except that grown-ups don’t wear red leather jackets or drink cooking liqueur robbed from their parents kitchens.
Their adverts used to say ‘When you put it on, something happens‘. I met Members Only after exams had finished, in that long anticipatory summer when you awkwardly pretend to be fully grown, and wait for something,anything, to happen.
Members Only jackets are a beloved eighties joke, now stocked at Urban Outfitters. They are worn by retro fetishists and back-of-the-classroom rebels, misunderstood art students and boys in vainglorious guitar bands. Members Only guy was all of the above. He did not take the jacket lightly; he wore it on sunny days and in the frigid depths of winter (true rebels give no thought to weather forecast). There was a gentle flamboyance to that jacket and its strange vintage shop smell, like leather and smoke and the rebellions of its previous owners.
Not the cake, but the jacket, and its oily, plummy-voiced wearer. Red to match the rope in the VIP area, the carpet leading up to the door. Buoyed on champagne and self-belief, pasty from lack of sunlight, he paired the jacket with matching trousers and a ghastly pair of Gucci trainers.
To describe Red Velvet Suit Man makes him seem yet more outlandish: in fact I sometimes doubt that he exists in daylight hours, or outside of the district of Soho. My time with him was a blur, lost in untagged Facebook photos. No doubt he’s wearing it still in a bar somewhere, angling for a walk-on role in series six of Made in Chelsea.
Parka Boy is full of secrets. He swathes himself in heavy fabric, face concealed under a hood and headphones and floppy hair. He blasts droop songs into his ears and owns a Moog and a rusty bicycle. He is living the Wes Anderson dream.
Parka Boy and I were never really meant to be. He might claim the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a tired and sexist cliche, but he will fall for a pair of doe eyes under a heavy fringe in a heartbeat. He is too twee to be real; the parka acts as a buffer between him and the world.
Mr Savile Row
It’s a certain kind of lunatic who wears a three-piece suit to college, but it’s exactly what one needs to become a campus celebrity. I watched Suit Guy from far away for weeks, wondering if he -and the suit- were real. He triggered a lifelong obsession with men in tweed; up close he was otherworldly and strange, and smelled like boiled wool and shoe polish. The rumour was that he was the heir to a fortune. The rumour was his parents were septuagenarians, that he’d arrived at college believing everyone dressed like that. Savile Row Suit Guy (I learned later, they were really Savile Row suits) stood as well-tailored testament to the power of overdressing. Sometimes on bored work days I still scan his Facebook photos, which look like offcuts from The Sartorialist.
He is American, as all North Face wearers are. The jacket is an unflattering uniform, but he turns out to be interesting. Cue late night Skype calls, airports named for forgotten presidents, and the worrying possibility that I might never see him again.
Words: Lux Mundy