MAY YOUR MOST LOVED BANDS FAIL YOU BEFORE YOUR FAVOURITE JACKET DOES
My leather jacket is eleven years old and still a staple of my look. It has not grown too small. A obvious and distinct piece of luck that is not taken for granted. I actually wanted a jacket more like a biker jacket , all my pop punk friends had them. They purchased them from the vic markets and I was so filled with envy every time we would go to a concert together at The Arthouse or The Tote to see bands like Mach Pelican, Guitar Wolf, The Queers, No Use For A Name, HBLOCK 101and bands formed by friends of friends who I don’t know anymore.
You could even get the Black biker leather jackets for cheaper if you went to the market as everyone was closing up for the day. You could haggle. Unfortunately the jackets were all made for people who had a body type that was taller and meatier than a pre teen with boobs. It was not only the fact that the biker jackets did not fit me, it was also the fact that even if I could have haggled near closing, I still would not be able to afford one. The desire for one burned inside of me. I felt that if I had one on my shoulders it would show that I loved The Ramones and Sex Pistols and was no longer the naive little girl from the country. Just try and call me cute now, schmuck, my jacket would snarl at everyone I walked past.
Trawling as many op shops as I could, yielded no success. It was very disheartening. My beloved black leather belt with the silver studs needed its best friend. The studded belt had been purchased over many weeks on lay by at a goth and punk store that existed in Ballarat where I went to uni in 2002. The belt was a made to measure one and had taken weeks to be made as the kind goth girl who ran the store told me that the punk who made them had an an erratic work ethic. When it arrived and I tried it on with a pair of black shorts I was in love and sad it could not be taken back home then and there.
I would have had to have waited even longer had it not been for the kindness of my punk friend and crush who paid the out standing fifteen dollars that I had left to pay. He grew impatient with me as he stood at the store’s counter watching me count out my coins to pay what I could afford which was five dollars. I felt so grateful and embarrassed. Grateful that my hot friend cared enough to help me out and embarrassed because I was so much less financially secure than him and many others. I was happy to live on toast in oder to eventually have that belt. Priorities!
Four years later it finally happens. I do not suddenly grow into a normal sized woman who can buy reduced price leather jackets from The Vik Markets. It is four years later and I have disposeable income from being an emergency teacher. One Saturday morning in June I wake up my boyfriend with exciting explaining of my urgent mission. We get the Broadmeadows train from Kensington station and go to the place in the city with all the leather goods like jackets and belts and bags that are not very punk. It is there that an old Italian man measures my arms and inner arm and bust with a tape measure and a silent look of determination. My boyfriend stands and watches like a six foot two dark haired statue.
The level of excitement of this impending wardrobe addition had not been experienced since my studded belt. The likes of which exceeded the night I met my then boyfriend. I did not tell him this as we sat in a train taking us home. On the train he mentioned why he had been watching the old man measure me so closely. He wanted to see if the old man spent too long measuring me bust area. ‘’The man is a professional.’’ I say with indignation. ‘’His passion is making well fitted leather jackets, not creeping on perfect breasts.’’
Two weeks later I returned to the store with the second half of the payment in cold hard cash fresh from an ATM. As soon as the old man helped me into the black leather jacket and I felt my arms slip into the black satin lining, it was all over I was in love. I stood in front of the full length mirror and stared at the person staring back with a big goofy grin on their face. The love was wrapped up in how this item made me feel, deep inside my guts. That jacket made me feel like a grown up, tough and capeable and sexy. Not the kind of sexy that was comprised of an invisible male gaze. This sexy was the kind that I felt in my own mind regardless of any man regardless of how my boyfriend felt about it. When I turned to him and grinned I did not ask him what he thought. I simply said. ‘’I fucking love this.’’
Photo taken in my sister’s bedroom by annoyed but helpful teen aged sister while I was a fill in english teacher at her regional Victoria high school for two weeks in 2007. ”Hey, Miss! Where’d you park your Harley?”
There was an article published on the satirical website The Onion in 2012 that explained how the ownership of a cool leather jacket proves to be more rewarding than having kids. Many friends shared it with me and I was touched. That they read it and thought of me. At the age I got my leather jacket my sister would be married with two kids and not own a leather jacket. Who is happier you may wonder. It really comes down too perception. I don’t have children and must attest that the ownership of my jacket feels pretty rewarding. Also it is very apparent that the up keep of my leather jacket is far cheaper than keeping a child alive. You can get these leather wipes from the supermarket for under four dollars. These cheap and cheerful wonder wipes give your old leather jacket a whole new lease on life. As the oldest of five children I can be sure that the upkeep of all of us was a great deal more expensive and arguably rewarding. ( my parents are adamant that we were all very rewarding, thanks mum and dad!) I am sure there are people who have kids and have a cool leather jacket. This seems astounding to me in today’s current economical climate. Where working a full time job no longer ensures you have disposable income child free or not.
Wearing that jacket made me embody the swagger of Brodie Dahl, Alisson Mossheart and Viv Albertine, Marky Ramone and Polly Styrene, and one of the members of a little known Melbourne punk band The Spazzys. The jacket had a great secure silver zip and a pocket on either side that I could shove my fists into as I walked around town on winter days. There was only one thing missing and that was band badges on the lapels. I wanted to add band badges from live gigs I attended but until then I needed some to tied me over until then. ‘’Wont Badges ruin the leather?’’ My boyfriend asked. ‘’That is an expensive jacket.’’ I rolled my eyes at him as we looked at the badges in Off Ya Tree at Highpoint Shopping Centre. He did not get punk at all. What was the point of something if you couldn’t stick a pin through it? The first badges that pierced the flesh of my fresh leather jacket were a music trifecta: Sex Pistols, Pixies and Ramones. There was also a badge I got for free after buying a black t shirt with a dead raven motif on the front. The raven had a trickle of blood coming out of its mouth. The badge said BERSERK on it.
As I write this I have the beloved jacket nearby on the couch. It is too hot to wear it. Every summer is so sad and less punk without it wrapped around my narrow shoulders. I look at this item of clothing with deep affection, still kicking against the pricks with me after all these years. There are little but noticeable differences, The satin lining is coming undone, the cuffs are wearing away. The badges have had a feminist metamorphosis. The Ramones, Pixies and BERSERK badges remain. They now have badge sisters in the form of a badge imploring you to Support Women Writers, a yellow badge from a Melbourne band called Shrimp Witch, showing an illustration of a woman pissing on the ground while standing. There is a badge made by a friend who has a recycled clothing label called CRAZY UGLY, the badge says We All Want Things and there is a tiny skull accompanying the words, I love it. There is also a badge from a band I saw twice with the boyfriend whose love did not last as long as my jacket. The band called The Matches a pop punk outfit from Oregon USA. I had a huge crush on the lead singer. Listening to them now I notice a few lyrics that don’t sit well like when Sean sings about how if a girl says she’s seventeen he has to say ‘your too old for me’’ or when he sings the song called Say Eighteen. I always just interpreted that as being about women like me in their early twenties who look illegally young but aren’t. Like how my boyfriend at the time got treated like he was a creep at certain venues even though I was actually 23 and an innocent school girl at all. My boyfriend was not a predator he I was just very short and small. Even when wearing my leather jacket.
Now I am not so sure about The Matches. I quickly do a search on the internet about the band members of the band and feel a little relieved when I find nothing. My theory could be true. I met a girl at a Matches gig that I attended with boyfriend number one and she had many stories of her and her boyfriend meeting the band and them all being super nice. For now the badge stays on my jacket. It is on parole. While other emo and pop punk bands have been relegated to the ranks of a life sentence of avoidance and heart wrenching disappointment at their unbecoming and predatory behavior around underage girls who did nothing wrong except love their music.
The NO badge on my jacket was a gift from a friend a couple of years ago. A cheeky nod to my readiness to share what I disagree with. I took it off during the whole terrible same sex marriage plebiscite because I did not want the badge to be associated with the heartless and conservative no voters. Now that that is over, the badge is back on as there is no end of things going on that warrant my own personal and wearable expression of no. The horrible treatment of the men on Manus Island, the constant horrendous treatment of our very own indigenous people, Men’s rights activists, white supremacist taste and white washing of history and so on and so forth into infinity. No to everything that lacks inclusivity, love and empathy. No to caring what most men think more than what I think and feel.
The boyfriend left, The lead singer of Brand New turned out to be a creep but the leather jacket stayed and never betrayed. It hugged my torso and protected me from the lonely winters in Melbourne. It kept me warm and dry at Green Man festival in Wales where I drank so much cider from a friendly British guy that I vomited before lunchtime. Vomit is very easy to clean off a leather jacket. It kept me company while I, dressed as a Real life Emily The Strange, french kissed a complete stranger on Halloween night at Camden’s Chalk Farm.
One day while working at a school holiday program I let a ten year old girl try my jacket on. It fit her very well and she ran around the playground gleefully shouting, ‘’Look at me! I’m a punk!’’ I laugh at her exuberance and after a few attempts I finally convince my wannabe doppelganger to hand the jacket back. Gold star to me: for being such a valuable influence on impressionable young girl minds.
If you divide the cost of my leather jacket by how many years I have had it and loved it, the jacket has cost me about forty five dollars a year over eleven years. I still have the studded belt as well. And the friend I had a crush on who helped me pay for it? We no longer speak and I deleted him as a friend on social media, not from my mind. The beloved jacket didn’t go the way of MySpace. I wish I had kept hand written copies of all the bad break up poetry I shared on my MySpace page and the very emo photos of myself with a lot of black eye liner on, wearing the leather jacket while holding a giant pink stuffed horse that belonged to my sister. I remember one poem describing how I hoped my ex and his new girlfriend died in a plane crash while flying to their japan holiday destination. I wrote in anguish of how while drowning in the ocean there would be no mermaids or friendly sharks to save them. The ex did read the poems and messaged me on MySpace Your poems are fucking awesome. He wrote. I would hate to be the guy they are about, oh… wait. He would not be the first guy fascinated when my writing was about him or referred, even briefly, to their existence.
The jacket has stayed and changed along with me on the inside and the out. Do I still want my ex boyfriend and his now wife to die in a plane crash? Not at all. I am embarrassed that I ever gave any of my anger to a woman I didn’t even know, who had no loyalty to me. Do I only listen to punk music? No way. My musical taste is much more broad and less narrow and white boy heavy. Non white boy music is much less likely to disappoint. In Melbourne alone I have seen so many bands over the past year that have enabled me to rock the jacket and jump around in much safer spaces. These bands include but not limited to: Two Steps On The Water, RVG, Shrimp Witch, Sigourney Beaver, Camp Cope, Sampa The Great, Shiny Coin, Maureen, Broads, Veruca Salt, Sleater Kinney and so many more. Actually if you want technical truth the jacket is worn to and from gigs. It is usually too hot to keep my jacket on inside.
I guess this whole thing has been my round about way of saying I love you tiny black leather jacket, here’s hoping we spend another eleven years together.