[This is a long post - you might want to make a cup of tea]
I have had this jacket for 19 years and I think it’s still got plenty of years left.
It’s a Land’s End Polartec 300 jacket and quite often it’s my primary winter outerwear.
I bought it in 1992, after moving here to Indiana the year before.
From Miami, Florida.
I was forty and I’d never seen snow..
I hadn’t a clue about winter comfort, except I knew about dressing in layers. That’s because when it gets what passes for cold in Miami, you just put on a pile of clothes. If you have a sweater, by the time you figure out where it might be, it’s warm again. In Miami, we didn’t have Winter, we had the annual Season of Cold Snaps. *
So I knew nothing practical about keeping warm in Real Winter (except maybe to stay inside with central heat, another - brilliant- new thing to me.) That first winter, I made do with cloth coats I got at Goodwill and the staying-inside-as-much-as-possible plan.
The following fall, I sat down with catalogs and studied the outerwear sections. I liked the catalogs that rated things in terms of temperature suitability. If I remember, the catalogs I liked best were Land’s End and LL Bean.
What I wound up buying was from Land’s End - the Polartec 300 jacket above, in charcoal, and a hooded, insulated coat in a deep burgundy. Both go with most everything I wear.
I reasoned that one or the other would do for regular cold or regular cold and snowy, and that I could wear both of them together for extreme cold. I added a pair of Polartec gloves to the order and called it in. (I don’t think there was any online ordering back then, but in any case, I had no computer.)
That winter (and every one since) I discovered that the Polartec 300 jacket was what got the most wear. It’s an amazing jacket. It keeps me warm and dry, even in light snow. A washing every once in awhile and an occasional once-over with a sweater de-piller keep it looking presentable. Often I wear it with a hoodie underneath, which gives me a hood and layers.
I still have the hooded coat, too. It’s my go-to when it’s really, really cold and I have to be out shoveling snow (something which always, even after 20 years here, makes me think, ‘How did I get here, doing THIS?’ and ‘I hope the neighbors aren’t watching because I’m sure I’m doing THIS wrong.’ )
The point of this post, here on this blog is this:
I cringed at spending about $250 on these items of clothing back in 1992. But I bought after careful thought and I bought what I believed was quality.
And I was right in this case. Getting 20 years of wear comes out to a cost of $12.50 a year for my well-performing outerwear, and will continue to decrease with every additional year these items are used.
My other point is that I am satisfied with wearing the same outerwear year after year, as long as it keeps me warm and does not look too worn. I chose colors that I liked that go with most of my clothes and I’m so pleased with these items year after year that I’m not tempted by passing trends in style or color.
What I lack is a coat for dressy occasions, but those occasions are so very few in my life that I don’t feel the lack often.
Another point I consider when I’m feeling all puffed up about my winterwear’s longevity is that I probably put minimal wear on it. I do get out and about in the cold, but my tendency is toward reclusiveness and retreat in the winter (which could be the beginning of another post) and I’m very blessed that I can allow that natural inclination its head. For people who have extensive outdoor activities -- work or play-- the notion of a jacket’s usefulness lasting more than twenty years might seem way too optimistic.
How many winter coats and jackets do you have cluttering up your closet? Do you really need to keep them all?
*One memorable Cold Snap (my last one in Miami - perhaps I was being warned) we actually had temperatures below freezing for a couple of days. That year, the power company instituted rolling blackouts on Christmas Day. For fifteen minutes of every hour, our power was shut down.
A couple of nights before I had been up at 4 a.m. with pain from an abcessed tooth, digging around in a closet, searching for the lone space heater I dimly remembered we owned.
I found it, way at the back, underneath some boxes and old toys, pulled it out and started to plug it in when I realized it was layered in dust. With visions of blazing dust balls shooting from the elements, I then dug out the vacuum cleaner (not quite so deeply buried) and there I was:
Freezing and shivering, in pain, with a bunch of Stuff pulled out of a closet, cluttering up the hallway, vacuuming a tiny space heater at 4 a.m.
I wanted to weep, but was afraid the tears would turn to ice on my cheeks.
That same snap caused all the trees, freaked out by the freakish cold, to just drop their leaves. All the trees, all at once. The Problem of the Leaves was the great topic of concern - no one really knew what to do about them. It was a very strange time in Miami. (Well. If you read Carl Hiasson ‘strange time in Miami’ is quite redundant.)