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.

Listening to years past

On Christmas eve she plays songs from years prior, from just the year prior. They are familiar, favorites picked carefully for the moments they bring back. The first song takes me a moment to place, the reason I was so enamored taking longer to return than the lyrics, which are instantly on my tongue.

It’s a song I listened to on repeat while wandering miles alone at night in Taichung, trying to get some exercise and to see the city after long factory days and dinners with colleagues. It represents a freedom, a sense of possibility in the world. I walked to night markets and through alleys, stopped at FamilyMart for coffee, and listened to music. On work trips of more than a single day the routine of the job becomes a home in itself. Days in Taichung started with a 7 am swim, before most others were awake, usually with the pool entirely to myself. Then a shower and early morning coffee from across the street while checking email and texting with the family. And then gathering with the team for the taxi to the factory across town. Factory days are both long and slow, full of stress and meetings that are hard to do remote. We learn from watching and discussing with the operators, from revising methods and attempting changes on samples ourselves. We learn simply from the hours spent, a benefit that’s been rarely discussed the past year. Simply by being together, by working on a project at the same time as a group, we the customer and them the project team, gain from the days together. Future emails, calls, and sample photos will be clearer for these hours, and our goals will be more similar. In the end that’s what we pay for with the days on site, for aligning two groups of people. Three, in my case, the engineers from headquarters in San Francisco, the Taiwanese factory engineers, and myself, supply chain in from Hong Kong, benefitting from time with both sides.

In the evening we’d eat together, at least some combination of groups. And after that, around nine, I’d walk them back to the hotel and then head in a new direction, walking without goal but with intention until eleven. And I’d listen to that song. Last year.

The mix she’s playing we put together in Hanoi, in a boutique hotel for a week of escape just after New Year’s. It was a week of peace after the intense fall burn of new jobs. We read and laughed and walked and walked. Mostly we were so happy to be adventuring again in Asia, in a year that had so much promise.

Sitting on the floor in the sunroom writing this, now with Lizzo playing, I remember the joy of that trip, and the joy of the year it wrapped. In twenty nineteen we’d survived two startup crashes and gotten our own visas to a foreign country for the first time. We’d gotten new jobs while abroad, made good friends, and played a ton of disc. A week later we would head to LA for a tournament with our old friends.

A year later we are making a mix again. It’s been such a different year than we expected. We again got new jobs, the startups of twenty nineteen failing to keep us employed for even a year. We traveled so much, that trip to LA, India, Taiwan, and another swing for me through the US to LA, SF, and NYC before the flights stopped.

It’s been a year. And I still like these songs.