Seeing Sarah Palin in her denim jacket reminded me that the denim jacket is a wardrobe staple. Increasingly, however, my choices for completing an outfit are softer and less constructed, and my once-ubiquitous denim jackets hang in the back of my closet. Do you think it’s because of the pandemic, or did I just go over them? Is there an age limit for denim jackets? Should I keep them or let them go to make room for something else? —Patricia, San Diego
While the pandemic did indeed briefly cast a shadow over jeans (and with them, denim jackets), that cloud has largely dissipated. In January, Levi’s reported 29% net revenue growth in 2021 and said the upward trend is expected to continue.
So if you’re still feeling conflicted about your denim jackets, maybe it has less to do with two years of comfy dressing and more to do with a bigger issue that my friends and I discuss all the time: just because you can continue to wear a certain style or item of clothing as you get older – just because it always looks good on you – doesn’t mean you should.
But how do you know when it’s time to retire a much-loved item? When, to put it another way, did you outgrow it – not literally but maybe psychologically and culturally?
The fact that most rules about what to wear when have largely disappeared is both a liberating development and a source of confusion. And it got complicated amid the conversation about responsible drinking and the realization that clinging to an item of clothing and wearing it over and over again is more desirable than believing it’s destined to be replaced. Which militates against removing an object to the dust heap or recycling heap of history.
Which brings me to denim jackets!
A denim jacket is a rite of passage; an essential symbol of cool, rebellion, rock ‘n’ roll, democracy. It’s one that can get stuck in your own personal timeline, forever associated with a you from a specific time in the past. (Clothes, like madeleines, serve as shortcuts to memory.)
But it’s also a very useful piece of clothing: perfect for transitional times and so basic that it goes with almost everything. It doesn’t really change over time. What should change is how you wear it.
As Glenn Martens, the creative director of Diesel and therefore a bit of a denim expert, said when I asked him what he thought: “Denim has this unique quality of being totally transversal. The perception of the same garment will change depending on what you associate it with.
When Sarah Palin, as you say, appeared in a faded denim jacket over a black turtleneck and darker jeans in her libel suit against The New York Times, the act seemed calculated to underscore her position. as a private citizen (although the judge ruled against her). When Michelle Obama wore an Alexander McQueen double-layered denim jacket with skinny black jeans and a t-shirt at a college book signing in 2018, the look both connected her to students and , with its haute couture side, set it apart. And when Jenna Lyons appeared in a button-down shrunken denim jacket and shocking pink satin skirt at the Met Gala in 2012, it was the ultimate high/low statement.
All this to say: Yes, resurrect your denim jackets. And then mix and match to create something new.
Answers to your style questions
Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion question, which you can send her anytime via E-mail Where Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.