Levi’s Jacket from 1977 front view photograph
Levi’s Jacket from 1977 front view photograph

The Legend of my Old Denim Jacket

“As you were, I was. As I am, you will be.”
Hunter S. Thompson, “Hell’s Angels”

Way back in 1977 I went out and bought my second Levi’s denim jacket. The previous was getting worn down, frayed and shabby looking. That would never do. In those days, your Levi’s were a symbol of wild youth and legends.

I wore mine like it was my uniform. Smartly pressed and washed, Doc Marten boots, just the right amount of fading — and after washing, I’d make sure it didn’t dry with a fold in it.

I wore the jacket for only one year.

One night while leaning on the bar of my local pub, “The Fox and Hounds”, I thought about the future. Somehow, I decided, my denim jacket played a small part somewhere way off into my future.

I was single, and still up for any wildness that could be stirred up. The year was 1977, my jacket had already seen a bit of life.

There’s only one very good life and that’s the life you know you want and you make it yourself. Diana Vreeland

My jacket and me had been arrested several times for being involved in punch-ups outside pubs, criminal damage after being thrown through a fish & chip shop window, I’d worn it proudly while a policeman’s boot pressed down on my neck and they slipped the cuffs on.

I’d attended my first punk-rock party — the craziest, wildest madness I’d ever witnessed. My denim jacket accompanied me and kept me looking cool as a cucumber all night long. The punks thought I was weird.

At 5 O’clock in the morning, somebody called the police. They turned up angry and boisterous, ready to arrest anybody who looked likely, and had green spikey hair. I was wearing my lucky jacket that night, I didn’t fit the bill and the cops kept passing me over for people who looked like aliens from some colorful planet.

Another Saturday night me and my Levi’s got thrown into the paddy-wagon with the German Shepard dogs, luckily the dogs were tied up to the hand rail on the inside of the vehicle.

The dogs move up close to me, they pushed their muzzles into my face and slobbered and snarled all down my Levi’s jacket. They had a meaty smell about their breath, they strained to get at me as they tugged at their leashes, they cackled and snarled into my face. I was glad to get pulled out by a burly police officer who then threw me into the cells for the night.

I was seventeen years old. I knew that one day I would have a son. He would be called Patrick, and maybe, if I’m lucky he might like some of the things I liked.

I hoped that he’d like Hendrix, Psychedelic music and electric guitars. Motorcycles were cool, so I had several. I hoped my future son would also like bikes.

Riding my motorcycle through the night, winding along dark country roads,throttling the motor, racing through blind curves just like a carefree seventeen year old, high on adrenaline , would do.

Beer, motorcycles and Levi’s seemed to be all the fun needed — with the odd punch up outside the pub.

So I thought, well, if he’s going to like all these things, there would be nothing better than him receiving a genuine 1977 Levi’s jacket on his 17th birthday. And at that, a piece of Levi’s denim that had witnessed, and was stained with the legend of his father’s youth.

You’re not supposed to give people what they want, you’re supposed to give them what they don’t know that they want yet. Diana Vreeland

That night I went home, found a paper bag and carefully folded the jacket, then slipped it into the bag. I’m sure I had a thought that in the sober morning light, I’d want my denim jacket again.

It stayed in the paper bag.

I hadn’t planned it this way, but I carried this Levi jacket around Europe with me for 28 years.

I always stowed it carefully, and then unpacked it and hung it in a wardrobe at first chance. I wanted it to stay fresh and aired for the day that I would present it to my 17 year old son.

It just turned into a habit to have this denim jacket with me all the time. If anybody saw it, and asked about it, I’d tell them that it was for my son. “But you don’t have a son — do you?”, was a common response.

I ended up meeting someone special. We had parties and fun, and then we had a son.

It was she who decided to name my son, she said Patrick is a beautiful name. I agreed, said nothing, but I was flabbergasted how this name just came up in conversation.

I’d first had a notion as a five year that one day I’d have a son named Patrick.

It was just a solid thought that had anchored itself in my mind.

When Patrick turned seventeen years old, I went to wish him a happy birthday. I carried his present in my hands, carefully holding on to my own past, and his legendary future.

He opened the parcel and lifted up the now old and creased Levi jacket.

He screwed his nose up, frowned, and probably quite rightly, demanded I explain what the hell this is all about.

I told him its history. He glared at me, trying his hardest to understand. I could see the questions on his face.

I felt embarrassed, and maybe a touch stupid. After all, I had been drinking that night in 1977 when I decided to give my yet unborn son the jacket.

Then I realized, he’s a new generation, full of new ideas and what was cool back then, isn’t cool today.

Maybe wild nights and being a legend isn’t what youth want these days.

Nah, I don’t believe that.

But I did understand that what I hold dear to me, and what my son holds dear, are two different things.

We can be legends together, but not just how I see it all going down.

He’d ride a motorcycle if he could get his mits around those handlebars, but I’m so glad he hasn’t yet bought a bike.

I came in one day, and heard him listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival , he said, he also like Hendrix now and again. Great taste, something rubbed off.

Written by

Berlin Notes — Writing about the Creative Art of Living http://seandurham.eu

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