My painted motorcycle jacket has already appeared on the blog numerous times.
Artist Andrew Lyko customized it for me last year, and now I like to wear it when I’m going to be arrested.
I’m so glad I never purged this jacket from my closet like you’re “supposed to” with clothes you never wear. This jacket was gathering dust for over a decade because I didn’t like its oversized, 1980s style, and I had gotten a smaller motorcycle jacket that I preferred. There were several times when I put the old jacket in a pile of clothes I was taking to Housing Works thrift shop, only to take it out at the last minute, remembering how much I eventually regretted giving away other 1980s/1990s fashion. As for the exact vintage of this motorcycle jacket — I suddenly have doubts. I’ve always been sure that my mother got it for me at Bloomingdale’s in the mid-1980s, but I just now realized that I’ve never looked for any photographic evidence of that, while I do have photos of me wearing it in 1992.
The jacket looks awfully new to me in the 1992 photos. On the other hand, the jacket doesn’t look all that bad in this photo from 2009. A lot of my homegrown vintage is in good shape!
Pending further investigation, I’m going to continue calling the jacket “1980s.” The fit is right, and I certainly was desperate for a motorcycle jacket in that decade, although my dream jacket was the turquoise one belonging to my friend Jim.
Despite committing to keeping my jacket for sentimental reasons, I still looked askance at it when rummaging through the closet because it didn’t seem very special, like something that only existed in the 1980s. But then, last June, while hanging out with my musical friends Christina Castle and Gangsta Boo in Los Angeles, I spent a lot of time petting Christina’s cropped, painted motorcycle jacket.
The following month, I went to my first Never Again Action protest against Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Suddenly, it clicked. I knew exactly what to do with the old motorcycle jacket. Christina hooked me up with Andrew Lyko, who painted her “Crazy Lover” jacket, and voilà! A meaningful fashion statement was born. My jacket went from ugly duckling …
… to activist swan.
It looks good from the front too. I get a lot of compliments on the street from people who see me coming.
The funny thing is that we were all about painted denim jackets in the 1980s. My high-school classmate still has her Doors jacket.
But it didn’t occur to me to paint on leather until I spent quality time caressing Christina’s jacket.
Look how serious I was about it.
Yes, I was as drunk as Kavanaugh that night, but I would have loved on that jacket just as much if I were as sober as a more qualified judge.
It’s gratifying to have found such a good use for my #slowfashion jacket. I’ve learned it really is effective to embody the message, as the artists of the We Will Not Be Silent project say. People have engaged me in good conversations about the jacket, as well as the We Will Not Be Silent t-shirts and sweatshirts I often wear under it. Photographer George De Castro Day mentioned it in a caption for some of the photos he took at this Tuesday’s actions in New York City:
“More agitprop from the department of “you know, high noon is just about the worst time to go photograph stuff.” The essential message, carried by Laurie Arbeiter: “We are family,” and more essential messages from Wendy Brandes, Bessie Perkins, Dana Harary, Tricia Cooke, and Lisa Fithian. Passersby and authorities always ask, “who is your leader” or “what is your group”? The answers, “no one, really” and “we’re just people” evoke a little confusion, but they are the truth. When we make these statements, it’s more like being a family and modeling solidarity, however briefly, than anything else. The true essential messages, then, are love, memory, and action. People care about truth and justice, have empathy for others, make an effort to pierce through the fog of misinformation and re-written history, and collectively resist by embodying the message. Wendy wore then same Never Again Action jacket she wore when she got arrested in the Capitol rotunda, denouncing the sham impeachment trial, and during another arrest for blockading Times Square, in an action demanding an end to ICE’s persecution of migrants. It was great to see it here, too. These violations of human dignity truly are all connected.”
Oh, and the too-large fit that I hated for so long? I’ve gotten seven layers — including two hoodies and a denim jacket — under this motorcycle jacket to keep me warm during winter protests. It was meant to be!