Every week a different FADER staff member will pick a clothing item or accessory that he or she has lately been spending a lot of time with—or would like to—and write a little love letter to it. We would’ve done a column on who we’re dating but that seemed a little bit much. This week Alex Frank writes about the Bally Leather Blouson.
I love James Dean. I’ve gone through moments of my life when he’s been the only person that matters, when he’s been the man I want to be. There’s a reason for my rebel worship: when I was a kid, my entire family used to tell me I looked exactly like this certain uncle of mine, a man whom to this day I have never met because he was a child renegade, skipping town before even finishing high school. All I knew was that he was a bad kid in the 1950s—my family used to tell stories about my grandpa chaining the car to the tree so that my uncle couldn’t take it out on dates. Who cares if that’s actually true? When I heard that he hung out at pool halls and rode motorcycles, I listened, worshipful. My family never saw him, I was told, because he left home in a leather jacket, out to California, and never came back. My mom used to tell me that her brother was so cool that Marlon Brando based Wild One persona off of him, not the other way around. She also said, quite sweetly, that, even while he scared the shit out of her by taking her to her first horror movie, he was also so protective, that he would beat up anybody that treated her badly. Again, does it matter if any of this is exactly true? It sounded great to me.
I always hoped that my uncle’s badass genes were hereditary, but no dice—I’m a total wimp. There were moments that my teenage behavior bordered on pathologically bad, but just when things would start to get hazy, I’d score a B+ on a math test or turn in a college application on time, and everyone would know that even if I was good bad, I definitely wasn’t evil. So I turned my 1950s rebel worship into an aesthetic appreciation. As I got older, my wild-side nostalgia developed into an affection for songs like this, a love of John Waters movies and, eventually, a particular sympathy for James Dean, the Aquarius archetype of teen rebellion who died so young. I went to go see Rebel Without A Cause at a theater near my house that played old movies. I loved the way he pouted on screen, loved how, in a pivotal scene, he betrayed his character’s toughness and let down his guard, holding the dying Sal Mineo character in his arms so sensitively. Maybe it’s because he seemed like my uncle up there on the screen, but I loved that movie. I ran out and bought a red jacket similar to the famous one he wore but found quickly that you need just the right attitude to pull off a red bomber. But I never stopped trying to recreate that heartthrob look. This quilted leather jacket from Bally works to a tee—the perfect amount of tough-ass bravado with the softest underbelly of light blue, supple leather. I’ll never meet my uncle or James Dean, but I see them happily lurking, smoking a cigarette, every time I put on my coat.