This month, I started packing my winter overcoat to work. I’ve been wearing the same coat to work for 23 years. 45 seconds into the above video, you’ll see the coat on a much-younger version of yours truly in 1991. Jeff Hullinger, Brenda Wood and Bill Hartman are also in it. I’m pretty sure they’ve changed out their overcoats since then.
I continue to wear the coat for several reasons.
1) I like its style. WXIA photog Al Ashe identifies it as a Donegal Tweed. Whatever it’s called, I don’t think I’ve ever seen another one like it (with one significant exception: On Elvis Costello on the cover of Get Happy! album, and inside sleeve of Taking Liberties).
About every other winter, a stranger will gaze at the coat and proclaim it awesome. Usually, the admirer is an older gay man. Otherwise, its style mostly goes unnoticed.
2) It’s got a family history. The coat was tailor-made for my step-grandfather, Charles R. Leick. He married my grandmother Juanita while my mother was a teenager. They lived in the Missouri Ozarks, and I frequently stayed with them for weeks at a time — doing chores on their cattle farm, and helping my grandfather get elected Magistrate Judge in 1978 in Crawford County. One day in 1988, I fished the coat out of a cedar closet in the attic of their farmhouse in Davisville. He told me he’d rarely worn the coat during the previous quarter-century and gave it to me on the spot.
3) It’s a link to history. A label inside the coat shows that it was tailor-made in August 1963 by a Philadelphia clothier called White and Co. Aside from that unhappy Dealey Plaza business in Dallas, 1963 was still an interesting year.
- George Wallace became Governor of Alabama;
- Betty Friedan jump-started feminism with The Feminine Mystique and the USSR put a woman in space;
- Patsy Cline died in a plane crash;
- The Beatles appear on record for the first time;
- Instant replay aired for the first time during a sporting event;
- Bull Connor’s cops fire-hosed protesters during the Birmingham campaign, and racist killers bombed the 16th St. Church;
- The US Post Office introduced ZIP codes;
- Lots of crazy shit happened in South Vietnam, culminating with the CIA-backed assassination of President Ngo Dinh Diem;
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech.
3) It’s still a rock-solid coat. Its structural integrity is sound. Except for the liner — which I’ve replaced a few times — nothing on the coat has frayed or even worn, except for the labels. It’s warm. And now, it’s “vintage.”
In the Suspicious Package segment below, I clunkily turn the old coat into a parable for the worthiness of old things — like TV reporters — that still work well. “Like the man who wears it, the old coat still works fine. I see no reason to trade it in for a newer, fresher, less weathered model” I intone, while gratefully accepting the assistance of Blayne Alexander, a newer, fresher, less weathered reporter.
The video is worth watching for her punch line at the end.