I’ve had three pieces of clothing that created long-lasting memories. The first is a trusted jean jacket. I’ve had it for over 17 years. The second was a hoodie with a perfect fit. Those two years were blissful. I hope whoever found it at London Heathrow is enjoying it as much as I did.
The third was The Sweater. I only saw it once.
I had moved to London about a year or two beforehand. One day, when the tube was moderately full, we crossed paths. It was during the daily commute or some travel related to a customer; it was a normal day.
The tube doors opened and I leaned on the yellow pole. It must have been the Circle line. I noticed some seats were empty as I dropped my backpack between my legs and looked around.
People-watching in London is always rewarding; you often encounter an out-of-context sentence from a good story. If you’re lucky, you get a meaningful quote from someone else’s life.
Across from me, about three seats to my left was The Sweater. It was donned by a middle-aged man and had a perfect fit. The Sweater was bold and thickly embroidered with a mix of threads. At first, it looked like a burst of colors and textures. A chaotic pattern of primary colors. My vision was filled with orange, green, brown, red, yellow, and blue. I paused and stared.
Although I’ve always enjoyed clothing, especially browsing the creativity in women’s boutiques, this was the first time a piece drew my attention with a gentle but stern demand.
The mixture of colors coalesced into a tessellated pattern of animals. Some American style, others Japanese, and yet others from countries and cultures I couldn’t readily recognize. The Sweater was a diverse and interconnected expression of culture and life. A face of a Bengal tiger welcomed the viewer in the front and center.
It was a strange mix of emotions to see the piece of clothing. It was obviously unique and handmade. Unlike other pieces of clothing where patches and patterns are sewn into the pullover, The Sweater was weaved from the pattern of animals. You could feel the texture from afar.
Looking back, I feel like I should have felt envy or ambition. “I want a sweater like that”. Instead, I felt a bit of awe. “Woah, I did not know that clothing like this could exist.” I think the emotions were similar to seeing a specific artisanal craft for the first time. The craft itself isn’t a sort of flex, but simply a fact: “This can be made.”
Surrounding the face of the Bengal tiger was a cornucopia of unique animals: a carp, a crane, a giraffe, an elephant, a horse. Thick designs flowed into each other with interlocking animals and cultural styles from around the world. A work of art.
The tube ride lasted about 2 minutes. I thought about asking the man about The Sweater. In the end, I didn’t ask though, I might have been embarrassed, entranced, or simply conflicted. Now that detail has been forgotten. The man got up, turned around, and the face of a bear grinned. “Please mind the gap.” played in the background.
I hope I find The Sweater someday. It was a gorgeous piece of clothing.
Then again, maybe the dream of it, the memory, is better than the real thing.