Yesterday I tried on a jacket at Pakeman Catto & Carter, a gentlemens and ladies clothier in Cirencester housed in a three story townhouse that’s all polished wood, glass cases, and dark carpets. The jacket was a tailored number made of green tweed with a coral coloured windowpane overlay and green silk lining. It was handsome, half-price, and fit me like a glove according to the sales assistant who called me madam and asked me to spin around as he assessed the length and shoulders. It was, he informed me, a hacking jacket, which I assume is another one of those cryptic horsey terms so prolific around these parts, like “on the gallops” or “a jolly.”
The only other time in my life where I would have fit in without note while wearing a tweed hacking jacket was at Camp Merrie Woode, the all girls-camp in North Carolina that I attended for three summers in a row between the ages of twelve and fourteen. The camp uniform consisted of forest green shorts and a grey sailor smock with a matching green tie. I felt like a martian when I showed up fresh from south Florida with my trio of skinny neon belts and heart bedecked Vans slip-ons to accessorize what I thought of as the hopelessly unstylish attire I was expected to wear day in and day out for the next three weeks (in my defense, this was the eighties). The other girls, girls with names like Darnell and Eleanor from Vermont and Maine and Georgia, wore LL Bean moccasins or plain white Tretorn sneakers, both essentially unisex styles that hadn’t changed since their mothers had worn them.
For summer number two I showed up with a pair of Tretorns, but in an attempt to maintain some integrity mine had a madras plaid “V” rather than plain white. I also brought my beloved pump spray bottle of Aqua Net (aerosol was my preference but strictly forbidden by camp rules) with which to coif my feathered bangs, only to have it diluted with water in a prank by my evil cabin-mate, thespian Kren. That summer I was permanently turned off of horse back riding when I was forced to muck out a stall, a “mandatory” part of our equestrian curriculum. It was difficult to keep my polka dot driving cap on my head while I scraped shit and mud out of a temperamental horse’s hoof with a hook, but I persevered. Someone around here had to stand up for fashion.
At the end of summer three, I cried when I saw my father waiting for me when I got off the plane. When he asked why I was crying I said, embarrassed, that it was because I was so sad to have left camp. The truth was I was overwhelmed with relief to be home, away from the freaky canoe and equestrian young people and back amongst teenagers who had the sense to fawn over my prized pink ankle boots, the ones that made me feel like I had a shot at Simon le Bon.
Back in Cirencester I admired myself in the mirror then hung the hacking jacket back on the sales rack. It was a beautiful jacket, but wearing it somehow felt disingenuous. It was a beautiful jacket for someone else.