Jerry Seinfeld, observational comedian
New York City, Winter 1990
Episode: “The Jacket” (Episode 2.03)
Air Date: February 6, 1991
Director: Tom Cherones
Creator: Larry David & Jerry Seinfeld
Costume Designer: Llandys Williams
Happy birthday, Jerry Seinfeld! Admittedly, the comedian typically doesn’t come to mind as a style icon; in fact, he may have been consistently the worst-dressed of the four leads on his eponymous ’90s sitcom, swimming in oversized sport jackets often paired with the incongruous combination of printed neckties, “dad jeans”, and white sneakers.
Having been a fan of the series since it was still airing new episodes (despite most of the jokes likely going over my head at that age), it wasn’t until rewatching the series beginning-to-end with my fiancée during one of my our many quarantine-inspired “comfort TV” marathons that I noticed just how frequently clothing drove the plot of the “show about nothing”, a series always propelled by the minutiae of everyday life.
In fact, the third episode of the groundbreaking series’ second season even begins with Jerry pontificating about clothing during his trademark opening monologue:
I hate clothes, okay? I hate buying them. I hate picking them out of my closet. I can’t stand every day trying to come up with little outfits for myself. I think eventually fashion won’t even exist. It won’t. I think eventually we’ll all be wearing the same thing. ‘Cause anytime I see a movie or a TV show where there’s people from the future of another planet, they’re all wearing the same thing. Somehow they decided “This is going to be our outfit. One-piece silver jumpsuit, V-stripe, and boots. That’s it.” We should come up for an outfit for earth. An earth outfit. We should vote on it. Candidates propose different outfits, no speeches. They walk out, twirl, walk off. We just sit in the audience and go, “That was nice. I could wear that.”
As its title implies, “The Jacket” is one of the first of several Seinfeld episodes to explore the challenges of everyday outerwear, which would range from fur coats and beltless trench coats to Gore-tex and technicolor dreamcoats over the series’ nine-season run. The episode was one of many to be based on co-creator Larry David’s own experiences, in this case the incident when he was to meet his then-girlfriend Monica Yates’ father, the irascible novelist Richard Yates, who had penned Revolutionary Road. David wore his new suede jacket to meet Yates at the Algonquin Hotel, only to be dismayed when it began snowing outside. Rather than risk the embarrassment of Yates seeing the jacket’s garish lining, David exposed the jacket’s suede shell to the falling snow… leading to its ruin.
What’d He Wear?
“The Jacket” begins with Jerry and his ex-turned-confidante Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) shopping at Beau Brummell Sport, the now-closed clothier on Columbus Avenue, just a few blocks south of Jerry’s Upper West Side apartment. As Jerry works his way through the racks, a luxurious brown suede waist-length jacket catches his eye.
Jerry: This is beautiful.. but these jackets never fit me right.
Elaine: Try it on. Wow, this is soft suede.
Jerry: This may be the most perfect jacket I have ever put on. How much is it?
Elaine: (checking the tag) Oh my God.
Jerry: Bad? (off her nod) Very bad?
Elaine: You have no idea.
Jerry: I have some idea.
Elaine: No idea.
Jerry: I’ve got a ballpark.
Elaine: There is no park, and the team has relocated.
Jerry: (checking the tag) That is high.
Elaine: Oh man, that is a beautiful jacket, though.
Jerry: What’s with the pink lining and the candy stripes?
Elaine: Well, it’s just a lining. You can always have it changed.
Jerry: Should I get it? I hate these moments. I’m hearing the dual voices now, you know. “What about the money?” “What’s money?”
Salesman: It looks wonderful on you.
The eponymous jacket does have a timeless quality that elevates it above much of the rest of Jerry’s clothing, a somewhat retro styling suggestive of early flight jackets from a half-century prior. Rather than a zipper, it closes with six dark buttons on the front—including two closely spaced at the waistband—up to the neck under a shirt-style collar. The fit around the waist adjusts with short tabs that slide through a single brass-finished buckle on each side of the back, rigged about an inch above the hem. The shoulder of each set-in sleeve falls about an inch off of each shoulder, with the cuff of each sleeve left plain with no buttons, snaps, zips, or other fastenings. The two flapped pockets positioned at hand level slant backward for easier access.
Only a few days after buying it, Jerry proudly debuts the jacket when his buddy George Costanza (Jason Alexander) arrives to join him for the daunting dinner ahead of them with Elaine’s father, the gruff author Alton Benes (Lawrence Tierney).
Jerry: This jacket has completely changed my life. When I leave the house in this, it’s with a whole different confidence. Like tonight, I might’ve been a little nervous. But, inside this jacket, I am composed, grounded, secure that I can meet any social challenge.
George: Can I say one thing to you? And I say this with an unblemished record of staunch heterosexuality.
Jerry: Of course.
George: It’s fabulous.
Of course, George being George, it’s only a matter of seconds before he begins obsessing about the price, despite the fact that “I’m not even going to ask you… I want to know, but I’m not going to ask, You’ll tell me when you feel comfortable.” Jerry wordlessly lets George continue obsessing, raising the price in his mind like an auctioneer from four hundred dollars to more than a thousand:
I wanna know what you paid for this jacket! Oh my God! A thousand dollars?! You paid a thousand dollars for this jacket?! Alright, fine. I’m walking out of here right now thinking you paid a thousand dollars for this jacket, unless you tell me different. Oh, ho! Alright! I’ll tell you what, if you don’t say anything in the next five seconds, I’ll know it was over a thousand.
“The Jacket” scared me off of suede for a long time, especially as I live in Pittsburgh, where the skies are prone to bringing rain at a moment’s notice. (Luckily, “veggie suede” now exists to counter these anxieties, but I’m still Seinfeld-conditioned to be wary of suede outerwear.)
The controversy begins when Elaine marvels at the snow falling as she, Jerry, George, and Alton are getting ready to leave the Westbury Hotel for the restaurant. “Snow, that can’t be good for suede, can it?” Jerry panics to George. As the macho Alton refuses to take a cab to a restaurant only five blocks away, George brainstorms that Jerry can protect his new jacket’s supple leather by turning it inside-out… unfortunately revealing the hot pink and white balanced stripes of the satin-finished lining.
Alton: Wait a minute. What the hell do you call this?
Jerry: Oh, I turned my jacket inside out.
Alton: Well, you look like a damn fool!
Jerry: Well, it’s a new suede jacket. It might get ruined.
Alton: Well, you’re not going to walk down the street with me and my daughter dressed like that! That’s for damn sure!
Jerry refers to the pattern as “candy stripes”, though the extreme width would actually suggest that the lining is comprised of what’s known as “awning stripes”. It’s likely that Jerry was influenced by the saccharine, candy-like color or possibly the feminine association of pink candy-striped uniforms worn decades earlier by hospital nurses.
Before it would all be undone by the mix of the surprise snow and the embarrassing lining, Jerry fusses over his dinner outfit a little more than usual, out of respectful deference to—and not a small mount of intimidation by—Alton Benes. I typically don’t like wearing anything but a tailored jacket—think suit jacket, sports coat, or blazer—with a shirt and tie, but the dressier nature of Jerry’s fine suede button-up jacket qualifies the look a little more, in my opinion.
Despite wearing a tie, Jerry doesn’t fasten the button under the point collar of his white cotton shirt, which is also detailed with front placket, button cuffs, and a button-through breast pocket. The red, tan, navy, and green “painted”-pattern silk tie reflects the busier neckwear of the late ’80s and early ’90s.
Like the tie, Jerry’s khaki cotton trousers date outfit to the early ’90s with their double reverse pleats and baggy fit. The side pockets slant gently toward the front from each side seam, and there are two jetted back pockets with a button to close the left. He holds them up with a smooth brown leather belt that has a gold-finished single-prong buckle.
The generously fitting trousers have a full break over Jerry’s shoes, which appear to be cap-toe derbies with dark brown suede uppers that also wouldn’t have fared well in the snow.
Jerry Seinfeld’s horological collection may be the most celebrated aspect of his style, as first seen on Seinfeld and continued decades later on his web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
Breitling watches are arguably Jerry’s favorite, appearing on his wrist frequently in real life and in almost every episode of Seinfeld from the second season through the finale. If my recollection (and notes) serve correctly, he wore a Cartier Santos for all but the pilot episode of the first season; in the second season premiere, he introduced a Breitling Chronomat on the Rouleaux “bullet” bracelet that would be his regular watch for much of the series—save for a quickly abandoned gift watch from his parents in the fourth season—before switching to a leather-banded Breitling Navitimer and ultimately a Breitling Blackbird in the final seasons.
“The Jacket” was only the third episode to feature Jerry’s soon-to-be-familiar Breitling Chronomat, a hefty but stylish chronograph that was a relatively new model at the time, introduced in 1984 to commemorate the Swiss matchmaker’s 100th anniversary. Jerry’s Chronomat is secured on Breitling’s distinctive stainless steel Rouleaux bracelet, colloquially known as the “bullet” bracelet for its narrow, cylindrical-shaped links. The large round dial is detailed in the “reverse panda” colorway of three white sub-registers against a black dial, configured at the 6, 9, and 12 o’clock positions suggesting the Valjoux 7750 chronograph movement, according to to Bob’s Watches. The Chronomat’s bezel incorporates a circular slide rule similar to the one introduced on the original Navitimer three decades earlier.
As usual, it’s Kramer who benefits the most by the end of the episode, ending up not only with Jerry’s first leather jacket—a brown A2-style flight jacket—as well as the ruined suede jacket which, to his credit, he revitalizes and wears once again in “The Heart Attack” (Episode 2.08) when escorting George in the ambulance after an unfortunate misadventure with a holistic healer.
“Boy, it’s too bad you gave me this one too,” Kramer comments to Jerry, now that he’s in possession of Jerry’s two prized jackets. When I next saw Jerry wearing a brown leather flight jacket while shopping for Elaine’s birthday present in “The Deal” (Episode 2.09), I assumed that Kramer had seen fit to return Jerry’s original jacket to him, but comparing the jackets side by side reveals differences—specifically in the color, shoulder straps, and pocket flaps—that suggest Jerry picked up a replacement flight jacket.
Though Seinfeld tends to excel at costume continuity, depicting realistic character wardrobes with many costume pieces appearing across all seasons of the series, neither the plot-driving suede jacket nor either of Jerry’s pair of brown leather flight jackets appear again after the second season, as Jerry would switch almost exclusively to a black leather flight jacket in regular rotation with his colorful series of bomber-style blouson jackets, including several in camel-hued suede.
How to Get the Look
Find a jacket that makes you feel like Superman… but make sure you read the weather report before wearing it on a snowy day!
- Dark brown suede button-up jacket with shirt-style collar, flapped slanted hand pockets, plain cuffs, and buckle-tab sied adjusters
- White cotton shirt with point collar, front placket, button-through breast pocket, and button cuffs
- Red, tan, green, and blue “painted” silk tie
- Khaki cotton double reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, side pockets, jetted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Brown leather belt with gold-finished single-prong buckle
- Dark brown suede cap-toe derby shoes
- Breitling Chronomat stainless steel chronograph watch with round black dial (and three white sub-registers) on steel Rouleaux cylindrical “bullet”-link bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the series, now streaming on Hulu though I understand it’s scheduled to move to Netflix (for American users) later in 2021.
I had a leather jacket that got ruined. Now, why does moisture ruin leather? I don’t get this. Aren’t cows outside most of the time? I don’t understand it. When it’s raining, do cows go up to the farmhouse, “Let us in, we’re all wearing leather.. Open the door! We’re gonna ruin the whole outfit here..” “Is it suede?” “I am suede, the whole thing is suede, I can’t have this cleaned. It’s all I got!”