I’ve been excited lately by the idea of having a reading jacket made. “Reading jacket” is my own term. It means a jacket that’s specifically meant to be worn when one goes someplace to read. With internet connectivity so pervasive these days, I find the only way to get work done sometimes is to physically distance yourself from any WiFi-enabled device. That means go to a library or café with nothing but a pen, highlighter, and either a stack of journal articles or a book.
Such a light amount of material, however, hardly warrants using a briefcase. But carrying things by hand can feel a bit cumbersome. One solution I’ve been thinking of is creating a reading jacket.
A reading jacket is a regular sport coat, but with a repurposed poacher’s pocket. Long ago in England, sportsmen would hunt in tweeds outfitted with these specialized pockets. When these men bagged a hare, pigeon, or some other game, they’d stuff the animal into large compartments located on the inside of their jacket. To keep the coat from sagging, there was as strap that came down from the armpit to give support. That way, the weight of the animal would be partly carried by the armhole. With the dead animal hidden inside the coat and the jacket kept straight, these poachers could then sneak past gamekeepers without being arrested (hence the term “poacher’s pocket”). Leonard Logsdail explains the feature well in this video, which I’ve also embedded below.
I’m never going to go hunting, let alone poaching, but this detail seems to me like a perfect way to bring some small reading material to a café or campus. Put on the jacket, stuff your work into the pocket, secure the strap, and walk out the door. It’s a great example of what Sid Mashburn said years ago: sport coats should be used like a piece of utility wear. That is, they can be cargo jackets without looking like cargo jackets.
The only question is what material to use. Since I’m an academic, and ostensibly would be using this garment to do academic work, I’m thinking of brown mid-wale corduroy or herringbone tweed. Basically the jacketings we associate with college professors. I’ve included some photos of Woody Allen here because in my head, he embodies academic style better than most academics. Just imagine what he’s wearing, but with a specialized inside pocket carrying all his students’ papers or maybe a small book. That to me is a reading jacket.