Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Foul, Foul Better Thing

A couple of years ago, during a downsizing move, I was mildly embarrassed to discover that, after encouraging family members to severely reduce the amount of accumulated clothing in their closets, I was the one with the most clothes left to move. My wife and daughters gloated; my son felt ashamed for me.

The reason I bring this up is that, during a recent downpour, I ran into a friend in town who complimented me on my classic yellow rain slicker. Actually, she referred to it as being “cute.”

Normally, I don’t do cute, however, needing all the compliments I can get, I simply said thanks. Then, I recalled the foul weather gear's pedigree.

I got it in Kennebunkport, Maine during one of a zillion trips to visit our children at camp. I distinctly remember one early hurricane there in 1996, and I most likely procured this “Charles River” model the next year, as a precaution. Naturally, since it is a quintessentially American piece of apparel, it was made in China.

Upon reflection, I must admit that I also have two more rain jackets and three raincoats:

2. Le Aigle: It’s been a dozen or more years, since we last visited my brother-in-law’s little house in southwest France in the department known as the Lot. On one of those trips, we visited a local hardware store to obtain some unremembered item, perhaps related to helping  “Unc” re-tile his roof. There, I spied my hooded, dark olive-green Aigle waterproof at what I considered to be a bargain price. Did my wife say, "But, what about your yellow slicker?” Maybe.

Aigle is one of France’s answer to Britain’s Barbour, and they make stylish outerware and wellies. While I love the Aigle’s fit and zip-pockets, it must be said that it does not breathe so well, and too much condensation may accumulate inside. Worn sparingly.

3. The Patagonia: Six years ago, I was invited to a conference-golf event in Half Moon Bay, California. The hotel and its course were situated on a bluff overlooking the Pacific and the site of a major surfing beach. I needed a rain jacket to combat morning fog and mist, and still allow me to swing a club. The last part was most important, since I knew I’d be making more swings than anyone else on the course. I do better holding a racquet.

This model is a elongated in back, made of stretch fabric, and has a well-fitted hood. It holds up to a mighty downpour. The only thing not to like is the really unattractive “snowflake” lining. Use: often.

4. The Lands End Commuter Coat: I bought this versatile mid-length coat for about $100. With it’s lining, it acts as a winter parka; without, it’s a warm weather raincoat. It stands up to rain and cold very well and may be easily mistaken for a coat ten times more expensive. The main problem is that the pockets are all too shallow and slick, so it is very easy to have things fall out. Gotta have better pockets, which make it possible to carry enough stuff to leave a messenger bag home. Moderate use.

5. Jack Spade Brand Genuine MACINTOSH. I lobbied hard for this one as a present, since it was far too expensive for even me to just pick up on a rain-whim. It was, of course, made in Scotland, is a “rubberized" classic without a lining. Warm linings are considered a sin and are illegal in Scotland (and Wales). I first saw this model at the original Jack Spade shop on Greene Street, long before Liz Claiborne bought the brand and took away its randomness (somewhat replaced at Sleepy Jones, Andy Spade’s new venture). The coat has a pretty cool light-blue lining.

This mac is stiff and nearly useless as a travel coat. Also, it’s too heavy for use in summer months and too porous for winter, mainly due to its having no zipper so cold winds easily penetrate the chest area. It’s also best used in a light rain, since it is only moderately waterproof. Its most redeeming quality? It is a really cool looking mid-length coat. Use: whenever practical, according to temperature.

6. The Burberry: Technically, I’m only holding this for my son. It belonged to his maternal grandfather, who put his trademark Lucky Strike burn-hole near one pocket. Since he was six-four and I am five-nine, this is a full-length raincoat for me. There’s just something about a Burberry and we’re not just talking about the signature plaid lining.

I bought my own Burberry trench coat during the late Sixties in the old Abercrombie & Fitch store on Madison Ave. That is, my own maternal grandfather bought it for me. This was to make up for sending my London Fog  and other items to his Irish relatives after taking a trip to Kilkenny. He made the mistake of handing me a blank check; that Burberry with a zip-in lining cost $80-90, a shocking cost at the time even for my grandfather, who had closets and drawers filled with suits, shoes, hats, and and custom made shirts.

I kept that trench coat for over thirty years. Near its final days it was frayed and still smelled like every cigarette I had ever smoked and every train I’d ever ridden while wearing it. In a moment of weakness, I finally succumbed to my wife’s "suggestions" that I dispose of it. Use: almost never took it off and slept in it more often than I care to remember.