When I saw this jacket at the thrift store I grabbed it and bought it without even trying it on. It was like I knew from just a glimpse that it would be awesome. At the time I don’t think I was aware of how many associations and thoughts would come from this one item of clothing. Let me unpack some of those here.
When I wear this jacket I think of my grandparents. My grandfather was an expert horseman and the blanket of the jacket is not unlike the saddle blanket he would use on his horse. I’m also wearing a rosary that was my grandmother’s. The beads are a beautiful iridescent gemstone of some kind. I added a clasp on it so I could wear it, which is, of course, so rebellious of me as a girl who was raised Catholic. We were always told to never wear a rosary. It’s sacrilegious to the max!
When I wear this jacket I feel like I’m a bad-ass New Mexico biker chick.
When I wear this jacket I feel bold and confident because it is so unlike much of what I wear normally. It’s a bit of a sartorial risk for me and I like the way that makes me feel.
When I wear this jacket I feel white guilt. Seriously. You don’t think I’m aware of the socio-political/historical-racial implications of wearing this especially on a day like Columbus Day? YIKES! It’s a real dilemma. I genuinely love the look and feel of this jacket, but is that because of the appropriation of Native American culture that has been packaged and commodified and sold to me through the online fashion landscape as a current trend? Am I by wearing this influencing and/or aiding that kind of culture where white girls wear Native American headdresses? Am I justified by saying this is vintage, second-hand and not some modern store-bought appropriation of indigenous culture (echoing the argument of wearing vintage fur)? How can I wear this jacket and not think of the tragic history of Native Americans? I’m wearing a Navajo blanket jacket. Smallpox blankets were given to Native Americans by white men. Genocide. History. Fashion. It’s definitely a lot to think about. Can an item of clothing be racist? We saw it just recently in Dolce & Gabbana’s Spring 2013 collection (see coverage on Jezebel, Huffington Post).
It’s a lot to think about. And sure, you could say it’s good that I’m at least aware and thinking of what it means to wear a jacket like this, but I’m still wearing it, and I guess as I long as I wear it I’ll be truly conflicted.