Posted by: apopalyptic | 11/10/2010

A-Punk-a-Lyptic

I think the punkest item of clothing I own may also be the most apocalyptic. It’s my Eisenhower Jacket:

photo by Abigail

Perhaps sometimes referred to as a Gas Station Attendant Jacket. Technically, that’s not what it’s called. The Eisenhower Jacket is named after the 34th President of the United States, and has had various incarnations as the M-41 Field Jacket. The most popular version was designed for Ike when he was General Eisenhower and had requested a design upgrade of the standard issue. Post War, the jacket was manufactured by civilian companies (like Dickies), which probably led to it’s popularity among working class uniform types (i.e. delivery people, mechanics, and the aforementioned gas station attendant). Also, it was probably easy for 80s punks to pick one up at the same Army Navy Store where they got their combat boots or at the thrift store where they got the rest of their wardrobe.

I got this jacket at the Mexican Flea Market in Dallas, Texas in January, 1996. Somebody was selling a bunch of them, and I picked this one because of the name patch: “David.” The rest were plain and I figured there would be some kind of irony to wearing a jacket bearing a name not mine (and let me tell you how funny it is when I wear this jacket and someone says “Hi, David.”) There may have been some brown Eisenhowers, or maybe green in the lot, but mine is a Work Wear brand navy blue on the outside with a red lining.

After the flea market, a friend I was staying with (who happened to be a vintage car mechanic to the rockabilly stars of Dallas, TX) gave me a Peterbuilt patch, to commemorate our drive (we passed the Peterbuilt factory somewhere in Arkansas). I also went to some tourist trap and got a Texas flag patch which, back in 1996, carried much less baggage than it did four years later. Jason gave me a Trans Am patch he found somewhere, since I was pretty obsessed with that band at the time.

The next couple winters, I wore the crap out of this jacket. It went well with the image I was attempting to portray, with my vintage dresses and skunked hair. One time, I was at Urban Outfitters and some kid offered to pay me 250 bucks for it because he thought it was the coolest coat he ever saw. Sorry, I said, it’s not for sale, but you can probably go to any freaking thrift store in this town and get your own for 10% of what you just offered to pay me, and then maybe figure out your own patch schema without co-opting mine.

The Eisenhower Jacket is certainly punk. But, it’s also Apocalyptic because it’s transcended it’s original use– an army jacket– and has basically become symbolic of a subculture that has nothing to do with that. I could come up with a reason as to why the jacket is popular among punks, and maybe part of it is to portray some kind of anti-bougie quality. It’s most Apocalyptic feature is that it’s quite utilitarian, with two flap pockets on the front of the coat. I’ve gone to shows wearing this coat, putting my keys, phone (well, we didn’t really have cell phones in 1996, so that’s a bit more recent usage) and money in the front, not having to worry about a purse or anything that might hinder my mobility (though I have to say, the two breast-front pockets are not always the best place for a girl to store all that stuff… just saying). That’s pretty punk if you ask me.

We have already established that pockets are going to be important in the Apocalypse, to hold our natural world talismans, and these are big enough and secure enough to ensure that we can clutch at whatever aspect of our past of which we are unwilling to let go.

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