True Confession: The Hunt for that Perfect Jean Jacket

Like most suburban teenage girls, I spent a lot of time at the mall with my friends, hanging out, flirting with boys and shopping–or wishing I was shopping. It was the ‘80s, and hot colors and dramatic zigzags were everywhere. I had feathered bangs with Aqua Net, leg warmers and an incredible obsession with obtaining the perfect jean jacket.

My mom, a beautiful redhead with simple but chic fashion tastes, had a jean jacket in her closet that was close to perfect, with its just-right color–not too dark, not acid-washed–and long sleeves that rolled once at the end in an oversized–but not too!–cuff.

Except! The length was all wrong–cut short, to the middle of my ribcage. I wanted a jean jacket that would rest right underneath my ribcage, long enough to look amazing with jeans but short enough to look just as amazing with a dress. I pictured myself floating around in a print dress with cowboy boots, bare legs and my perfect jean jacket.

Getting the Perfect Jean Jacket

Jean jackets were the coolest. They instantly conjured up sexy, hot summer days, Bruce Springsteen, Footloose. Unisex and perfect over almost any outfit, a jean jacket was the thing I Had To Have. Next to my blonde hair, freckles and blue eyes, how else could I be more American–sexy but still innocent? The mall became a Mission List of stores. One by one, I went through each store– Banana Republic, Benetton, Nordstrom–hoping that each would hold the perfect jean jacket.

And then I found it. A little bleached-out but not too, snug-fitting but not tight, long and lean on the arm until folding into a cuff, and resting at the right rib. There it was at Wet Seal. Yes, there it was, way out of my 15-year-old price range. Arghhh! I begged and pleaded but my mom was adamant: If I wanted something that expensive, I had to earn and save the money on my own. I was convinced that by the time I had the money, the jacket would be gone. Weekend after weekend, I made my way to Wet Seal in the mall, wringing my hands, sure it wouldn’t be there. And yet there it was, next to the beautiful mannequin with her feathered dark hair and giant hoop earrings–my jean jacket, my ticket to uber-coolness and beauty!

I babysat, I saved, and at the end, my mom gave me the last $20 or so that I needed to get the jacket and drove me to the mall. I walked with my mom next to me, sick to my stomach, sure it would be gone, along with my Friday nights of being the most effortlessly cool and good-looking teenage girl, attracting boys like crazy, that my town had ever heard of. As far as I was concerned,all my power as a hot girl was caught up in that jacket. In my mind, it defined me, and I didn’t even own it yet.

There it was. I leaned in and checked the tag with my breath held: size S. The size I wanted. This was really happening! I bought the jacket in a daze, and, of course, wore it out of the store, confident that everyone within a six-mile radius was wondering “Who is that girl in that perfectly-fitting jean jacket?”

I wore that jacket for years and years and years, until it was lost. And every time I slipped it on, it came with a small sense of confidence, of easy sexiness, of coolness. I’m pretty sure I was wearing it when my husband spent his first night out with me, playing pool, and I’m pretty sure he found me pretty irresistible.

Just saying.

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