This article was a finalist in the 2017 Elle Canada Writing Competition.
I’ve always coveted the black leather jackets worn by women slicing through the streets of Toronto. As a newcomer in 2011, I quickly concluded that an obsidian motorcycle jacket was part of the city’s unofficial cool girl uniform and I yearned to be part of their club. But it made me wonder: was their effortless confidence natural, or was it an effect of the leather that cloaked their bodies?
I began the hunt for a fitted classic motorcycle jacket, hoping to find one within my scant budget. Odds were stacked against me but with a clear vision of what I wanted, I thought the universe would surely manifest one. I rifled through thrift store racks often but only ever found shapeless, tasteless jackets and as the seasons passed, my hopes began to wane.
This past spring at my advertising job, I was crushed to find out I wouldn’t get the raise and promotion I thought I deserved and my confidence hit an all-time low. Turning to retail therapy, I made the rounds to the leather rack at my local thrift store and as I pawed through the skins, one caught my attention. It wasn’t a motorcycle jacket, but it had a slim silhouette and minimal detailing that appealed to me. When I rolled the sleeves to give them a cropped look, I liked what I saw in the mirror and, more importantly, how I felt. It would do.
The jacket proved to be an ideal layer for spring temperatures and I wore it everywhere. Its smooth lining easily slid over my clothing and the durable leather felt protective. Wearing it provided an instant confidence boost and I began to understand where those enviable leather-clad girls got their swagger from: it felt like armour.
Around that time, I began doing things outside my regular behaviour I can only attribute to the jacket. I went to a weeknight industry party where I’d usually have a couple drinks and call it a night. But that evening, I accepted glass after glass of sparkling wine and even tried an interesting piece of chocolate. For the first time in ages, I’d made a decision that took me towards the fun, not away from it.
Shortly after, I’d wrapped a radio spot recording session when the studio owner invited me to join them for lunch at Soho House, an industry hotspot. Rather than obediently heading back to the job I was looking to quit, we all hopped in my waiting Uber and I plugged my new destination into the app, exhilarated. While it wasn’t a big deal I was gone from the office, I was chided for not coming back when expected. But with the jacket on my back, the scolding rolled right off me.
Thanks to my growing appetite for adventure, I accepted a Tinder date with a guy in town on business – a type I usually avoid due to their lack of boyfriend potential. When we arrived at a popular rooftop patio, the lineup was huge but following my date’s lead, we pretended to be in a band and the bouncer even shook our hands as we breezed through the door. Having the gumption to do that afforded us more time on the patio and a wildly fun night ensued.
I recently picked up a book called The Black Leather Jacket by Mick Farren and he writes that whether someone is in chainmail or a biker jacket, “…he might not be out looking for trouble but at least he was well prepared for the eventuality.” From what I’d learned from my recent exploits, I couldn’t agree more.
With my newfound courage, I’ve since quit the job that made me feel undervalued and found a company that wants me to shine. I’ve also had a fitting for a custom leather jacket from By The Namesake, a Toronto-based atelier that creates bespoke leather jackets with the customer’s name stitched into the label. When it arrives, I’ll finally have the jacket of my dreams and, while I’m not currently looking for more trouble, I’ll definitely be ready for it.
Postscript: My custom leather jacket arrived in fall 2017 and has formed to my body like a second skin. I haven’t stirred up any more trouble but when I wear it, I get that extra boost of confidence that makes me feel ready for anything. Who knows what could happen next.