A few weeks ago, I marched into a vintage store in the West Village, pointed at a shamrock-colored satin Eagles bomber in the front window, and requested to try it on. On the lapel, an embroidered white eagle swooped downward and E A G L E S was sewn across the broad back. I had never seen a jacket I loved so much, a jacket that was sure to change my whole night, maybe my whole life. I draped it over my shirtdress with glee.
To my dismay, the jacket was cut for a 200-pound man, not a woman whose size at Old Navy is anywhere between 2 and 14. I returned it to the store clerk, who told me I was giving up on “a great jacket,” as if I didn’t already know. Later that evening, while I still had hope, I typed “vintage satin Eagles varsity” into eBay and found nothing of note that wasn’t noticeably stained. Dejection. Loss. Heartache. Much like being an Eagles fan. Much like being a person whose wardrobe is potentially pulled together by the look of one good jacket.
The Eagles bomber was unquestionably special, and I was sad to let it go, but the truth is that I currently own ten cherished jackets, each of which plays a special role in how I dress every day. Some people think of winter as coat season. But for me right now — and next month and in February and, if I’m being honest, forever — it’s jacket season. In winter, a jacket is the best shirt. A jacket does 90 percent of the work for you. A jacket is a cardigan for the modern woman.
Jackets are well-known as transitional-weather stars, but what I love about them, and what many people don’t seem to understand, is that you can keep them on inside. Think about it. Why would you want to get rid of the best part of your outfit just because you’re within four walls?
Too many women combat frigid office temperatures with cardigans. I’ve always felt that cardigans are evil tools of the corporate-industrial complex, maliciously meant to make women look dowdy and unattractive. Their sole purpose, as far as I can tell, is to add a layer of warmth by masking an outfit that otherwise would be cute and good. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a cardigan that I liked, but a slick varsity jacket, a sharp blazer, or a leather moto? That’s something I can work with. And with a jacket, you sidestep the typical cardigan discomfort where your shirtsleeves get bunched up and frumpy.
The idea — wearing a jacket as a shirt — is simple in execution but otherwise extremely sophisticated. The first benefit is you are already wearing it. None of that Mr. Rogers taking off your coat and putting on your cardi B.S. Keep your jacket on! A good jacket on top can be worn proudly all day like a flag or a tampon.
Second, when you keep your jacket on, your underneath layers need not be so special. When I wear my motorcycle jacket, I default to plain white T-shirts and the occasional sweater I got at a thrift store thanks to someone’s beloved deceased bubby. If I’m too hot I’ll take the jacket off, but if that’s the worst of my problems, I’m having a pretty good day. Jackets often have the additional bonus of deep and functional pockets, a luxury of which women are too often deprived. Wear a jacket inside and you don’t really need to carry a purse. Fewer shirts, no purse, badass leather jacket that is the envy of all in your orbit? Sounds like women really can have it all.
Treating your jacket as an integral part of your personal presentation also encourages you to avoid the classic winter mistake of throwing on schlubby outerwear because it is warm. Underneath that faded North Face, you may be dressed in your finest silks, but when you run into your ex-girlfriend Laylah, there’s no way she’s going to know that. And should you bump into Kendrick Lamar on the way into your office, you’ll never wonder again if the reason he didn’t ask you out was because of your ratty wool J.Crew throwback, the one that’s lined in a layer of cat fur. If you are going to be wearing it inside and out, it’s twice as important that it look good. Act accordingly and reap the rewards.
What happens when it gets too cold outside for this whole shtick? I don’t expect cold-weather survivors of all stripes to stomp around their offices or holiday parties or whathaveyou in Canada Goose puffer coats, smiling and saying, “Hey, the Cut told me this is the cool new thing!” No, no. Please do not do that or else you’ll sully my good name. When it starts to get colder outside — and bear with me here — I encourage you to wear your waist-length jacket underneath your other, larger coat, just as the rest of the world would with a cardigan or a detective would with a sport coat under a khaki duster. I find this trick to be both fun and exciting, like becoming a human clown car. When you remove your top jacket, watch your friends react in awe: There’s another jacket under there. You’re the goddamn M.C. Escher of seasonally appropriate layering.
Wearing a jacket as a shirt will save you money and make you feel dignified. No more secretary cardigans; no more long sleeves that get all loose from being rolled up all day. But if none of this has you fully convinced, allow me to put forth the most important point of all: If you wear a jacket inside, people will assume you’ve got somewhere cooler to be. Never again will you feel obligated to stay at a boring event with boring people. The French exit is back in style — now we’re just calling it the Turncoat.