When my Converse vegan leather jacket melted into a goopy plastic mess during the Firefly festival, I was heartbroken and vulnerable. That jacket had been the signature piece of my identity for years. I had bought it on clearance at Target, and ever since. people would always ask me, “Is that real leather?” And I would say no, it’s vegan, and they would assure me it was still cool. It was patterned after a motorcycle jacket, so when people asked me if I rode a motorcycle, I would tell them no, but I do bike to work, and again they were impressed. I felt pretty cool. But all nice Clearance jackets eventually die, and this one was no exception. With no leather jacket, I found people were less interested in me. I tried to salvage the situation by keeping my Facebook profile picture set to one with the jacket, but over time I noticed my friend requests were reducing in number.
The situation became dire. Isolation began to set in—but not the kind of fashionable isolation that one might evince by wearing a leather jacket. I resolved to correct this discrepancy between myself as I imagined—a leather jacket-wearing, freethinking rebel who had not given up his teenage rage against the machine, and the person I was—an office worker who sleeps on a twin bed. I wanted people to look at me and think, he probably smokes cigarettes, listens to classic rock in cool bars and drinks whiskey, although I do none of those.
I hit eBay and Amazon.com to make sure I had a new jacket for the autumn. I couldn’t bear to face the season with only a hoodie. The common wisdom was that you couldn’t find a good jacket for under $500, but that didn’t take into account the cost-savings of sweat shop labor. So I purchased this Pakistani-made MILWAUKEE LEATHER Men’s Classic Side Lace Police Style Motorcycle Jacket, and I could not be happier with the results.
When it arrived, I took in the strange smell of shrink-wrapped leather, and wondered what the cow must have felt like when it died. I tried the jacket on and found it to be somewhat too big, but in a good way. My shoulders appeared enormous. Now, people mistake me for a tough guy. Women cross the street to avoid me at night. I am acutely aware of the fact that I look like a mugger from an ’80s movie, or the popular Sega Genesis video game, “The Streets of Rage.” I feel empowered by the discomfort I cause to others.
I am no longer invisible.
I still don’t particularly like whiskey, but I look like I do. The other night in downtown Philadelphia, I saw a shifty man take one look at me, turn away, and elect instead to tail a more vulnerable person down the street. Another man straight up gave me his wallet, instead of asking for mine. I’m extremely pleased with this purchase–I now look like the cool guy I always wanted to be. Props to the laborers who cranked this out.