“It was towards the end of winter when my mother died.”
Understandably, my Dad was a bit stressed. He began to obsess about having a ‘good coat’ to wear to the funeral. My sister had tried to buy him a nice designer coat. It was navy blue with red lining and a brown velvet collar. Dad didn’t like it.
He seemed to have in mind something classical: a pure wool coat, perhaps cashmere, maybe like a Crombie, possibly expensive. Anyway, I tried on the coat my sister had bought, and it fitted me perfectly. I told my sister I’d give her the money for it and drive Dad to town to buy him another new coat.
We parked up in Perth city centre and walked round to Austin Reed. It was nearing the end of the season, so there wasn’t much choice in the way of winter coats. Every coat he tried on didn’t fit the bill in some way, or just didn’t fit. So, we went to House of Fraser. Same story. McEwens of Perth. Same. Marks and Sparks. Same. Next. Same.
Dispirited and coatless, we began to walk back to the car. I was mentally preparing to drive us 50 miles to Edinburgh to ensure he got the ‘good coat’ he wanted, desperately mapping out men’s outfitters in my mind and ready to pay almost any amount of money for the right coat.
As we neared the car, Dad paused and gestured at a shop. “Maybe we should look in there,” he said. It was a small charity shop, painted bright red. As he opened the door, it was like a beam of light fell across a tailor’s dummy at the back of the shop. It was a coat: a dark classical wool coat. I thought: “I’ll bet that f-ing fits him.”
He shrugged it on. The coat was like new. It fitted Dad as if it were tailor made. Dark grey. Heavy with a slight herring bone pattern. Perfect. At the counter, I paid the princely sum of £10 for the coat. On the way back to Dad’s house, we began to laugh and agreed to tell everyone we’d bought the coat in Austin Reed. To our delight, all the family admired the coat and agreed it must have cost a bomb. In a fairly grim time, Dad enjoyed the joke no end.
My Dad passed away in 2016. I inherited the coat and have worn it every winter since. It is a ‘good coat’ and I love it.
"Had I been wandering about with an obscenity on my jacket?”
I bought this jacket in New York about 20 years ago when I lived there. Like Baz Luhrmann intoned in his life advice magnum opus “Everybody’s free to wear sunscreen”:“Live in New York City once – but leave before it makes you hard.”
Maybe America is too macho for the historic dandyism and mod Face-ism that still informs British attitudes to style? It’s certainly too big, bizarre and conservative to be swayed by short-term trends or the waves of radical tribal fashion that washed over UK youth culture from time to time.
Homeward bound on the uptown 6, New York men still tend to have the neat hair and square, preppy, jockey looks of Brooks Brothers and Abercrombie & Fitch. (There’s synthetic sportswear aplenty too – more basketbally and baggier – worn with more élan by Bronxbound brothers.)
So this is definitely a downtown jacket. I think I paid $15 for it in a vintage store in Soho. Underneath the screen print scribbles, it’s actually Levi Strauss business wear from, I guess, the 70s.
I’d worn it a few times going out in Manhattan, but never noticed the phrase “Cookie Puss” printed on the shoulder till a friend pointed it out at a party. I feared the worst. Had I been wandering about unawares with an obscenity on my jacket?
I was relieved to find that “Cookie Puss” is, in fact, a classic ice-cream cake, popular for children’s parties. It was created by Carvel ice cream parlors in the 70s. Despite looking surreal / hideous / terrifying, I believe “the craziest cake in the universe” still delights kids across the US. The jacket is pretty crazy too, but America is even crazier.