One more story about my recent trip to New York City, if I can prevail on your patience.
We don’t wear winter coats much, out here in Northern California. Winter field jackets, trenches, peacoats, sure. Winter raincoats, undoubtedly. But it’s rare that a classic calf-length coat sees the light of day.
And on those rare occasions a coat’s required, I pull out the black cashmere number you see above. It’s literally 34 years old. As in, I’m 56 and I bought it, at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City, when I was 22.
When I wear it in San Francisco I feel quite the elegant bohemian. It’s vintage, after all. Nobody else is in anything similar. I’m classic, but nuanced, which is my dominant strategy.
When I wore it in New York recently, all I could think was, “My god! The Upper East Side rises!” Quite different from how I feel in California. Of course, thinking back 34 years ago, to a young woman attempting Manhattan, of course I bought UES. I relied on my heritage to keep me warm. What else does one do, at 22?
But at 56, the coat places me somewhere I no longer belong. I came from there, I have family I love who’ve lived there, but somehow when I bought an apartment in the same era, I chose Riverside and 104th. A neighborhood that more accurately reflected an evolving identity. These distinctions matter a lot in New York.
So, as long as we’re in full deconstruction, let’s acknowledge that the Monogram Vernis tote also played a role in my 2012 social signalling. Here in San Francisco, since the logo’s almost invisible, the bag is notable largely for aubergine bowling ball-esque holographic sparkles. A tote is just a tote here, far from The Land of Bean. Somehow what’s cool in California is conservative in New York. Probably the reverse holds true.
Interestingly, as long as you find the sociology of clothing interesting that is, necessity corrected my signals quite well. It was cold enough that I needed a hat and scarf, and I always need my glasses these days. According to my 22-year old Brooklyn-dwelling son, my black cashmere Bompard beanie and square blue reading glasses fit me in just right at the sushi joint where we had dinner. Hewn wooden benches, dreadlocked server, and all.
Were I to move back to New York, I’d look to integrate disparate style elements, find a coat that in and of itself melded classic with a little Artsy. Like this one by Rick Owens, for example. Cashmere with an empire leather tie.
Or this, from Alexandre Plohkov. It fastens at the neck with a buckled strap. Live and learn.
Vintage Saks Fifth Avenue with a side of hipster might just be my new fashion slogan. Otherwise known as Barneys-R-Us..
Of course, the final context of that photo up top is the ladies room at JFK International Airport. Please don’t tell my dad I’m taking pictures of myself in the vicinity of plumbing. I look slightly lunatic, but airports are slow cookers of lunacy, and the cross-cultural simmer returns even middle-aged ladies wearing hats in the bathroom to the realm of insignificance.
Both coats from Barneys. You can get there from here.