Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Members Only

It was the greatest and most exclusive club of the 1980s.

It wasn't Studio 54.

It wasn't the Columbia House Record Club.

It wasn't that wooden club Captain Caveman carried.

No, this club was FAR greater. Non-members were, obviously, not allowed. Still, anyone could JOIN. All they needed to do was buy the jacket.

The Members Only jacket. Behold its beauty! Look at its majestic and almost military styling. From the elastic lined sleeve cuffs to the odd straps that buttoned over the shoulders it was a designers dream.

In the recent film Million Dollar Baby Morgan Freeman's character is seen sporting a tan Members Only jacket. At first I thought "Oh, this film must take place in the 1980s!"
Later, I realized the film took place in present day and I thought "Wow, all these years later and he is still a member. Good for him."

Even later I realized it was a boxing film and I thought "Million Dollar Baby is about BOXING? I thought this was the third film in the Baby Geniuses series. What a rip off."

But I still enjoyed seeing the jacket. I must say, he isn't the only member I have seen lately. Go to any race track or bar and I am willing to bet that two thirds of all men over the age of 50 still hold a membership. Heck, about half of the men over 50 have a jacket in the closet. When the weather is just right you will see them wear it.

Sadly, today’s youth show no interest in joining. Twenty years ago it was the jacket that brought us all together. Back then it was not just the jacket of choice for middle aged men. Young men would sport the coat since it looked so good with the popular "parachute pants" of the day. These pants were not known for looking like parachutes in any way, instead they just had tons of pockets. I assume one of them was designed to hold a parachute.
Older men would wear the Members Only jacket because people believed it resembled a sport coat (it didn't) and it would look good with a shirt and tie (it did, in fact it looked good with anything.)
Its popularity was universal. Men would wear them, their kids would wear them, and Grandpa would wear them. There were even pink and white jackets that were popular with the ladies in the family.
And the regular black men’s jacket was popular with that Aunt who never married and would always be vacationing with her roommate.

The coat itself was thicker than a windbreaker, but thinner than a winter coat thus making it the perfect February and March jacket. This made the jacket so popular that knock offs were produced with a vengeance. Everyone from Jordache to K-Mart made their own jacket. Some even improved upon the formula by adding stripes or more pockets and things to button. It didn't matter if they served a purpose, it was STYLE.

Still the Members Only jacket was the best of the lot.

Once, they ran an election day commercial for the jacket. Instead of telling the finer points of the coat they just showed pictures of Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini. The commercial ended with them telling you to vote so "idiots" like these are never elected.

Yes, it was more than about keeping warm. The Members Only jacket was about freedom.

Sadly, the last generation of jackets is aging with no generation following them. The jackets are no longer being sold, and as soon as the last one wears out the dream will die.

I must go now and cry myself to sleep.

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