I’ve bought a lot of dumb clothes in my day, but this has to be one of the dumbest. Kaptain Sunshine’s “photographer jacket” is a reproduction of something Andy Warhol wore in the early 1980s. To me, it’s a chance to wear something straight out of one of my favorite photos (pictured above). I’m sure to others, it’s a jacket from a SkyMall catalog – sandwiched between plastic garden yetis and soundscape alarm clocks.
As the story goes, Andy Warhol and his friends went to China in 1982. It actually started as a trip to Hong Kong, where he went at the behest of Alfred Siu, scion of one of Hong Kong’s leading families. “It was a disco trip,” said Warhol’s friend Christopher Makos, who went along with the artist. “Siu commissioned Andy for portraits of Prince Charles and Lady Di to decorate his new nightclub, and then surprised us with a Beijing trip once we arrived.” Being that China had only opened up to the West a few years earlier, Warhol and his companions were quick to go.
During his three-day stay in China, Warhol had a single uniform (rarely taking it off, even when he slept). He had a pair of boots and some jeans, then a white button-up shirt (presumably Brooks Brothers), wool tartan tie, and navy sport coat. For outerwear, he wore this fantastic utility jacket that looked like it could have been made by Banana Republic or Abercrombie & Fitch (back when both companies were selling safari-themed, adventurer clothes, not watered down, mall basics). Markos noted that the jacket was worn out of pure practicality. “[Andy] used to have a tape recorder, camera, film, and stuff. Those safari jackets were useful.”
This Kaptain Sunshine jacket is a reproduction of Warhol’s coat, but with some useful updates. For one, it’s made out of a breezy, open weave cotton, which makes it actually wearable on a warm, humid day. It also features some small, stylistic changes – a big, goofy pocket at the back, which somehow visually balances out the front; regular pocket buttons instead of snap; and an elasticized, banded hem. Most importantly, the jacket is slightly cropped, like a fisherman’s jacket, which gives it a much more wearable silhouette than the baggy, shapeless, oversized look of Warhol’s original.
In a recent article about The Met’s Rei Kawakubo exhibit, The New York Times interviewed some notable figures about their long-time relationship with Comme des Garçons. Cindy Sherman said: “there’s something kind of verging on ugliness to it that I think is kind of cool. It’s not about trying to look sexy or wear things that are tight or flattering.” Similarly, David Sedaris noted:
There are so many stores that I’m afraid to go into, but I wish that I’d gone in sooner. If you go into Gucci, everybody in there is so good-looking that you think, “Never mind, it would just be a joke for me to wear your clothing.” You could imagine the designer saying, “I would pay you not to wear it.” When you go into Comme des Garçons, not only are the people really sweet there, but you think, “I could look as clownish as you!” That aspect of it is gone, the intimidation factor is gone.
I love this Kaptain Sunshine jacket because it’s similarly so over-the-top. It goes with nothing and everything at the same time, a jacket that looks equally absurd no matter what you pair with it. To steal a line from Mary Choi, it’s the “ASCII shrug of outerwear.” There are so many pockets on this thing, you look like a walking file cabinet – or an over-the-door shoe organizer on two legs. Most importantly for me, the jacket sparks joy. At a time when everything can be about buying the right Saint Laurent double rider or having the perfectly tailored, quarter-inch shirt cuff showing, wearing something so ridiculous feels liberating.
Plus, now I’m never without an empty pocket.
(Pictured above: Kaptain Sunshine photographer jacket; Heshung “Thuya” Tyrolean shoes; Wallace & Barnes flannel shirt; 3sixteen SL-100x jeans; and a custom Don’t Mourn Organize harness leather belt with a vintage Western Flair belt buckle)