Few objects tell the tale of a life well-lived like a leather jacket--the accordion creases on the sleeves from every gesture; the distressed edges from contact with the environment; the marbled colors of the leather finish from years of wear and care. It is a process that usually occurs thoughtlessly on the part of the owner; they have simply worn their favorite garment and imprinted it with the wear-and-tear of life!
I'm frequently asked by customers who have just purchased a brand new jacket about how to acquire the patina, the buttery softness, and the many creases that the vintage jackets display. I've read about the extreme measures that some well-intentioned folks have gone to in the pursuit of a quick break-in and I've found these stories troubling! Please, please don't throw your jacket in the clothes dryer, take a shower wearing your new jacket, fold up and sit on your jacket for hours, or drag your jacket down a gravel road tied to the back of your car. These methods generally cause unnatural wear patterns and discoloring (be skeptical of personal testimonies of success; you may not be so lucky), and there's no way to reverse the damage.
If you are desperate to hasten the break-in of your jacket and skip over the wearing-in phase that some people actually relish, then there is the perfect jacket for you! It has already had one, or more, owners, and it has taken on the marks of many years of wear. There is no need to "earn" its patina, but rather you can enjoy what it has already become: an amazing vintage leather jacket! I have restored and sold hundreds of vintage jackets--instant gratification for a patina junkie... Here are a couple of close-ups of jackets that are either on the rack, or being readied for sale.
These jackets have aged beautifully, but there is a not-so-fine line between patina and markedly compromised leather. Leather that has lost its finish and now shows the lighter, or "naked" leather underneath needs to be cared for more frequently with moisturizers like a wax-free leather lotion called Cadillac Cream or, for very dry, stiff leather, Dr. Jackson's Hide Rejuvenator. Regular treatment will prevent a heavily distressed leather jacket from cracking and ripping. This is especially important to do if the jacket hasn't been worn in a long time, or if the jacket needs repairs; the leather needs to be supple before it is worn or repaired, otherwise further damage could result!
Whether you are the first owner or the fourth, enjoy the wear you are putting on your jacket and give it the TLC it needs to stay functional and beautiful. A jacket's patina is like the laugh lines on a beloved face...they are the earned and cherished marks of a good life. Get out there and wear it!
Insurrection Custom CHP
It would be impossible to remember my life without the context of music. It has been the expression of my development and interests, and soundtrack of so many formative experiences; the opening guitar riff of "Sweet Child O' Mine" can jar me from the present moment. My fashion awareness began with music like Guns N' Roses, Social Distortion, Nirvana, Sonic Youth and the riot grrl bands of Olympia and Portland…badass style that shoved the message of counterculture into the face of the mainstream.
This anti-mainstream attitude is one that has early roots in motorcycle culture, since so many veterans of World War I and II jumped on bikes and adopted a “fuck-off” posture to deal with a society that didn’t understand them. These vets created a singular “biker” style that is synonymous with rebellion, and it’s no wonder it has been embraced so readily by musicians who have that kindred spirit. Leather, whether that be leather boots, guitar straps or jackets, has been the choice material for the fashions of rebel bikers, musicians and creative individuals; its toughness and longevity are the primary virtues, but leather rewards its devotees so much more! For example, a leather jacket that fits well and is constructed of quality materials has the unique capacity to become distressed with age and use, giving its owner the pleasure of imprinting their life on the garment. For bikers, musicians and those with a progressive ethos, leather is the record of their journey, of their noise and movement against the current of convention.
Many Insurrection customers are not bikers or musicians. These aren’t the requisite hobbies or professions for owning a great leather piece, leather jacket or pair of boots, but there is an understanding embedded in becoming the owner of an article of clothing that will outlast the initial owner by several generations. A jacket or pair of boots is purchased based on how it makes you feel; it is not based on every fussy detail or the pursuit of perfection. Your jacket, your boots, just like the much sought after Buco J-100, J-24 and J-82 jackets of old, just like Acme, Justin and Tony Lama boots of 60 years ago, will not reach perfection until you have truly lived in it. So, for now you look in the mirror to determine if the fit and style is flattering, ask your significant other or friend if they like how you look in the piece (the good ones still want you to look hot!) and ask your salesperson to compare this leather with other similar jackets and boots that you might be interested in. A brief monetary transaction, and the rest, as they say, is up to you… I imagine you stepping out the door of the shop to PJ Harvey’s “Big Exit,” zipping up your Insurrection Aero Horsehide Café Racer and swinging your leg across a 1976 BMW R75. Yeah, this moment’s gonna leave an impression…
Anticipation of another Fall season hastens our activity at Insurrection Apparel & Boots, and the Fall merchandise is currently descending upon our racks! So far, Aero 1930s Slimfit Halfbelts, J106s, and Cafe' Racers garnish our racks; Vanson PLU-3s are being cut for Insurrection as I write; and Schott CAF1s, thick with some of the very best steerhide my eyes have seen in years, fly out Insurrection's front door. Aero, Vanson, Schott, vintage motorcycle jackets and vintage cowboy boots are purchased at Insurrection to fulfill the fashion agendas of individuals at the forefront of America's counter-culture. Whether those individuals are bikers, progressives, intellectuals or artists, it seems that the Insurrection arsenal of premium leather fulfills a particular sensibility, that sensibility being the wholehearted rejection of mainstream American consumerism. Is this hyperbole, or "just the facts?" Well, that is something only you, as the reader of this, can discern for yourself, but the simple truth of it is that Insurrection's vintage collection contains many jackets that have already been worn by three generations of ownership. On the rack at Insurrection, pending sale, they await their fourth generation of ownership...!
One thing I believe we all can agree on is that fashion, a veritable and visible form of consumption, performs a major role in the social construction of identity. Just as one season transitions into another, in this case Summer into Fall, we transition our fashion practices to create a harmony or disharmony with the symbolic and material boundaries of our culture. Now, and in previous centuries, clothing is the principle means by which we identify our "politics of self" in the social arena. These politics of self are both a reflection and a production of our locale, occupation, religion, economic class and social position. From an emancipatory perspective, then, we can utilize fashion as a vast reservoir that can be manipulated or reconstructed so as to enhance a person's, and on its broadest scale, a culture's, sense of agency. It is all but an axiom that the fashions we choose influence ourselves, influence the way that we are viewed, influence the way that we are treated, influence who we interact with and, most importantly, influence the quality of our interactions with others.
It is this choice of boot, of pant, of shirt, of jacket that can actually allow us to construct a more viable existence, an existence where we can grow, develop and, naturally, dream. We can keep our souls alive in this over bureaucratized system, we can work on our bikes, we can wear quality garments that won't be in rag shop bundles within the course of a season, we can respect ourselves through the outward care of our aesthetic. These aren't the empty promises of our consumer culture, or an echo of hollow influence; they are the promises of self-expression, self-fulfillment, self-care and self-realization. Adorn yourself with pride and begin your realization, your activity, your politics, your thought, and your creativity. Live your very best, whether that be at 170 miles per hour at the track, at your local bike night, at your favorite coffee house, at dinner with friends or in some personal amalgamation that fits who YOU want to be. Through it all, ask yourself if what you're wearing meets the quality of the life you want, your politics of self, the criteria of your sensibilities!