I love coats. They are great. You can never have too many.
That may as well be written on my epitaph, such is my passion for outerwear. For now though, let us concentrate on the car coat – a style which is seldom championed on these shores, but one that is immensely popular across the pond. It probably won’t come as a surprise to you that in the late 19th / early 20th century, when automobiles were starting to catch on amongst the very wealthy, air conditioning in your car with no roof (barbarians!!!) wasn’t something that was really considered. Speeding down a country path at 12 miles per hour you needed to keep warm and so the car coat, in its rudimentary form, was born. These jackets usually had a thick, waxed outer, with a wool lining. They were heavy and waterproofed to protect you from the elements. In fact, there were no heaters introduced into cars until at least 1937 when General Motors in the USA added a heating and ventilation system.
Fast forward to the years after the Second World War in America and there was an uptick in American G.I.s returning home with new engineering skills and a little more disposable income, looking to blend back into society. With the US being such a huge country, the car was seen as the only mode of transport and as a result, car clubs were born. Whether it was Hot Rods, Kustoms or a fixation upon a particular make and model, the clubs all had an identity and would compete against each other about who had the fastest or most flamboyant cars. We don’t think the below is an accurate representation of how to renovate an old car, but I wouldn’t know.
Like all clubs, you need a uniform to distinguish between ‘us’ and ‘them’ and a new art form was born. The chain-stitching on the back and front of jackets became commonplace with the most intricate designs being the most memorable and desired by collectors even to this day.
In the mid-1950s, a US-based department store and label, ‘Lakeland’ (not the one where you get good quality rolling pins from here in the UK) released their ‘Clicker’ jacket, which quickly became the most popular model to be worn by car clubs across the country. The collar was high, the cuffs were knitted, it was a three- quarter length coat to keep your backside and thighs warm when in the car and was big enough to wear your suit or layers underneath. The coat was available in several muted tones which only meant it was easier to customise.
In California, particularly Los Angeles, there was an explosion of car clubs and enthusiasts which still very much exists to this day through lowriding culture. The Clicker coat became a winter essential, worn when the temperatures dipped in Southern California and the heaters weren’t blowing hard enough in your candy-painted Impala. Chuco Moreno wears one, as seen above, from our dear friends Greenspan’s in Southgate. They come in the standard colours and are American-made just as they were back in the day. We will be making our own very soon too, but it is yet to be seen whether it will be just a one-off for me.
So next time you are looking for something a little different from the usual stuff you see on the internet, go and dig a little deeper to find something super- exclusive. Ideal for the terraces, driving around in your vintage mini or pretending that you own a Cadillac… just maybe don’t do the below