Clothes remembered

I used to have the best jean jacket,” she tells me over dim sum in Hong Kong. I left it in the taxi to the airport when I left Berlin. That was fifteen years ago. I still think about that jacket.”

My mind goes to my favorite garment, a green corduroy and laminate North Face black label jacket bought as a self present on arrival in Hong Kong five years ago. It’s been my favorite piece of clothing ever since. And then I remember my four pointed felt hat, black with two gray stripes, purchased in Shinjuku in 2003. And then to my partner’s comments, on looking through old photos this weekend, so often exclaiming oh my god that shirt!” or do you remember those shoes?” I do, of course, the photos tracking our relationship, yet many of the memories have faded, and require these pictures to access. My body, as I often write, has forgotten.

When this site began I worked in the garment industry, spending hours on fabrics, stitching, trim. I think back to those days, to the personal focus on quality that came out of that experience, and I remember things. Physical possessions. Expensive jeans, mostly, a hoped-for connection between the increase in garment cost, livable wages for the sewer, and water treatment facilities for the indigo dye. After a bit I remember my wool knit hoodie, Triple Aught Design, my first merino garment. It was purchased early on in our time in SF, and worn almost daily there. It’s hanging in my closet as I type this, more than ten years later. For a long time I never traveled without it, my one essential item. It has been used as a pillow in countless mid-tier hotel rooms, slept in on dozens of transpacific flights, and worn on every evening bike ride all the rest of our ten years in that foggy city.

In some ways these garments shape us, even years later. I wonder what events my friend took her jean jacket to, what she felt like when she wore it? I wonder if she’ll ever feel that strongly about a jacket again? Does that part of us fade as we age?

I think of my wife’s green jacket, which she’s had from high school or early college, which she wears now around Tokyo in the winters. How many of these garments are for cold weather, how many of them are rarely worn now, able to be pulled out intact for good memories? Or is that just because we moved to the tropics, and they so rarely feel necessary?

In January for a few days the weather cools. I wear my favorite garment everywhere I go. It’s something to treasure, feeling good in clothing, feeling good in a way we’ll remember.