My green punk sweater is the oldest thing in my wardrobe. I’ve had it for ten years and it’s one of my favorite things. Recently I brought it out of retirement and I think I love it even more now than I did when I was in high school.
I bought it at Galaxy Exchange in Costa Mesa when I was 15, the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school. My mom had given me $150 to go back-to-school shopping and when I came across this E.C. Star cardigan on the one rack of new clothes in the place, I think I actually caught my breath. It had gas masks and radioactive symbols embroidered on it and I thought it was incredibly cool.
The only evidence left that this cardigan once had gas masks on it.
It was also $58.00, which at the time was more than I had ever spent on a single item of clothing. I wanted it, but buying it meant blowing almost half of my back-to-school wardrobe budget. I put it on hold and left and hit up a few other stores, but in the end I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I went back and plunked down three twenties and some change. I was going to look so rad on the first day of school. And I did. Everyone complimented me on my amazing cardigan, and I was like, Aww, yeah. Best sixty bucks I ever spent.
A year or so later all my friends had cool leather jackets covered with patches and studs and band logos painted on with special paint and I was totally jealous and my gas mask cardigan didn’t seem so cool anymore. I knew my own leather jacket was totally out of the question (that would come later), but I had a couple cool patches and nothing to stick them on. The solution was clear.
After that, I was golden. I was of the opinion that my hand-painted Richard Hell patch made me the coolest ’77 kid around. Other punks had their leathers and denims. I had my green cardigan. I was rarely without it. I posted photos of myself wearing it in the old punk_fashion LiveJournal community (where my p_f’ers at?) and for years afterwards I got emails from girls, total strangers, offering me money for it. No amount of money could pry this thing off me. It was the punkest thing I owned. It was practically part of my identity.
I sewed my patches on with dental floss, the tru punx way. Dry clean only? Yeah, right.
At some point, maybe around when I hit 21, I thought it was about time to retire the cardigan. I had just gotten my grown-up office job and I was trying to be more chic and adult in general and wearing the green punk sweater made me feel like a kid, so I relegated it to the back of my closet. But I could never quite bring myself to get rid of it. I moved twice and both times the cardigan came with me.
Then, about a month ago, I opened my closet and saw it winking at me from where it’d been hanging out in the back for three years. I was about to head out on a short tour with Cunt Sparrer and had generally been feeling like my 25th year was definitely the most punk rock year of my life so far. Why not dust off the old green sweater and trot it out?
Putting it on felt like being with an old friend again. It fit perfect. I still remembered the way it felt, how the buttons are a little tight in the buttonholes, how it hangs just a little funny from years of washing when it was really meant to be dry-cleaned. I looked at myself in the mirror. Yes, I thought. I missed you.
I brought it with me on Cunt Sparrer’s jaunt up to Tahoe, Sacramento, and San Francisco at the beginning of this month. There’s something a little full-circle about wearing my ten-year-old punk sweater and playing the punk songs I fell in love with ten years ago, and I’m so glad I never got rid of it. I know I’ll hold onto this thing forever. I like the idea of giving it to my kid one day, but honestly I’ll probably never be able to part with it.