Should I keep my denim jackets?

Although the pandemic did briefly cast a shadow over jeans (and therefore jean jackets), that cloud has largely dissipated. In January, Levi’s reported net revenue growth of 29 percent in 2021 and said the upward trend is expected to continue.

So if you’re still uncomfortable with your denim jackets, maybe it has less to do with two years of comfort wear and more to do with a more sensitive issue that my friends and I debate all the time: Just because you can continue to wear a certain style or a certain piece of clothing as you age – just because it still fits – doesn’t mean you should.

But how do you know when it’s time to retire a beloved item? When, to put it another way, did you outgrow it – not literally, but perhaps psychologically and culturally?

The fact that most of the rules about what to wear and when have largely fallen out the window is both a liberating development and a recipe for confusion. And it’s gotten more complicated amid the conversation about responsible consumption and the awareness that holding on to a piece of clothing and wearing it again and again is more desirable than believing it’s meant to be replaced. Which speaks against throwing an object on the garbage heap or the recycling heap of history.

Which brings me to denim jackets!

A denim jacket is a rite of passage; an essential symbol of coolness, rebellion, rock ‘n’ roll, democracy. It’s one that can get stuck in your own personal timeline, forever connected to you from a specific moment in the past. (Clothes, like madeleines, serve as a shortcut to memory.)

But it’s also a very useful piece of clothing: perfect for the transitional weather and so simple that it goes with almost everything. That doesn’t really change over time. What should change is how you wear it.

As Glenn Martens, Diesel’s creative director and somewhat of a denim expert, said when asked for his opinion, “Denim has this unique quality of being totally transversal. The perception of the exact same piece of clothing changes depending on what you pair it with.”

When, as you said, Sarah Palin showed up at her New York Times defamation suit in a faded denim jacket over a black turtleneck and darker jeans, the act appeared designed to reinforce her position as a private person (although the judge ruled against her ). When Michelle Obama wore an Alexander McQueen double-layered denim jacket with black skinny jeans and a t-shirt to a college signing day in 2018, the look connected her with both college students and its fashion-forward touch that set her apart from the crowd. And when Jenna Lyons appeared at the 2012 Met Gala in a buttoned, shrunken denim jacket and a bright pink satin skirt, it was the ultimate high/low statement.

All of which means yes, bring your denim jackets back to life. And then mix and match to make something new.

Each week on Open Thread, Vanessa answers a reader’s fashion-related questions, which you can send her anytime via E-mail or Twitter. Questions are edited and compressed. Should I keep my denim jackets?

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