Of all the nice shirts and shoes and bowties and cufflinks and jeans and watches and earrings I own, there is one piece of clothing that has gotten more compliments than everything else combined.
It’s a jean jacket I customized in sophomore year of college. You might recognize it from the picture I used in my introductory bio.
I bought this old blue jacket at The Village Discount Outlet on Milwaukee avenue in Chicago. Then I bought a white zip-up hoodie from my undergrad school store, cut off the sleeves and the hood, put some patches, buttons, studs all over it, wrote “SHEEP” in huge letters on the back with a silver sharpie (because apparently this was a really important social statement), then finally sewed it on top of the jeans jacket. I can’t begin to tell you how many women I’ve met while wearing that jacket via the question “did you make that?”
I know, it’s outdated, too undergrad, can’t wear it to work, too ‘90s, blah blah blah…I agree, I don’t wear it very often anymore. Only on casual occasions or out to a show. But according to Vogue, the jean jacket might be coming back in, and it’s really great for layering over a hoodie in the fall, as well as particularly suited to be worn over a button-down shirt.
Something about customizing my clothes, that feeling of ownership, of wearing a unique product of my own labor, is unbeatable by any store-bought brand. Same deal about customizing for leather jackets (I used to have one with a HUGE cloth print of Joan Jett that I safety pinned on back), or even hoodies (When I was in eighth grade I put this Rage Against the Machine patch on a hoodie and I thought I was the coolest eighth grader in the world). I hadn’t thought about it in a long time until I came across this:
An awesome black sleeveless jean jacket I bought today at New Bohemia in Austin which, when paired with a vintage button down shirt and haircut, makes me feel like I’m Bruce Springsteen:
Y’all may be enjoying your fall in New York City, but I can tell you that in Texas it is still hot. And, since I won’t be breaking out my real jackets anytime soon I might as well settle for a new vest. And in the spirit of my old jacket, I’m thinking about doing some customizing. Just a little more tastefully this time. You can buy studs online at Studs and Spikes, such as these pyramid studs:
Rep your local or school sports team, your martial arts style, your favorite band, or your political leanings by sewing or ironing on a patch. Even rep your pride by ordering some rainbow patches from Rainbow Depot: Gay lady for sale! Will accept checks or French kisses.
Other good vintage stores to find denim jackets would be Buffalo Exchange, the Army Navy or GoodWill, or any other local thrift store. If you don’t want to buy used, some of the best simple denim jackets can be found in the most unexpected Southern places. Like the Carhatt’s M en’s Denim Jacket from Country Outfitters:
Or Levi’s has a good collection of denim jackets. Just make sure you buy something plain and not “store customized.” Do the customizing yourself. It’s a niche object but if you are true to yourself and your style, you can rock it.
Try it out and post a picture in the comments! Or, if you’ve already got a custom jacket, get it out of the back of the closet, take a picture, and share!
UPDATE: Guess who else wears denim vests? This guy.