Monday, March 31, 2008

Chris Daily - The Smorgasbord Straight Edge Jacket

If you walk into a decent-sized hardcore show today, or take a peak through even the newest releases from young bands, you are bound to spot someone wearing a varsity jacket. While he could very well be a high school senior who is captain of the wrestling team and is wearing his alma matter's colors and letters as a badge of honor and accomplishment, that probably is not the case. More likely, he is wearing this jacket after seeing it being worn by other straight edge hardcore kids, or in records/photos (in reverse chronological order) of bands such as The First Step, Hands Tied, Floorpunch, Mouthpiece, Youth Of Today, Slapshot, and BOLD. Further, it might be totally plain. Or, it might say "STRAIGHT EDGE" on the back. Going a step further, it might have a band name on the back as well, or a city, or a state, and then the words "STRAIGHT EDGE." If you are Rob Fish in 1988, you may put a big X on the front. If you are Chris Zusi in 1990, you might wear this same jacket after trading a bagel for it. Regardless, this jacket is typically only worn by straight edge dudes. And it's an interesting piece of attire, and an undeniable little piece of straight edge "fashion," for lack of a better term. To me, it is actually kind of intriguing because it is such a major departure from punk fashion. It could be quite possibly the furthest thing from a leather motorcycle jacket or some torn up Lee jean jacket covered in patches...even quite the opposite from a flight jacket. Think about it: it is a jacket typically synonymous with community-driven team sports and mainstream youth athleticism. Maybe I am overthinking it, but it is just interesting that it makes absolutely no sense in the hardcore world, yet in the little niche of straight edge hardcore that is rooted in the mid to late 80s, it makes all the sense in the world.

So where the hell did this jacket originate in "our scene?" From a continuous, ongoing investigation, all signs seem to point towards Chris Smorgasbord Daily. If he wasn’t the first, he was definitely a close second. We went to the source.  -Gordo

You must have some memory of actually getting your varsity jacket. As specifically as possible, when would this have been? Where did you get it?

I remember wanting it for a few months before I actually got it. I looked in sports stores all over Pennsylvania and Connecticut (I lived in CT but had family in PA). I ended up finding it at a screen printer in York, PA on a family visit. I asked them about lettering the back but the lead time was too long so I just bought the jacket.

Of all the jackets to help you stay warm through the Connecticut winter, why this? You could have picked a wool parka, a plastic poncho, or a very nice full length pea coat. Was it something that was on sale and just looked cool? As far as I know, you didn't play high school sports. What type of consciousness went into this?

Not really sure where the desire came from to get it. I assume I saw someone with one. I was not a sports dude at all at any point in my life, I was a skater kid in high school so there was zero chance I was going get a "Letter" jacket for some sport. Before I got the varsity jacket I wore an insulated flannel like a lumberjack would wear! I still remember my print shop high school teacher commenting that I finally bought a jacket.

When you got it, did you have the letters put on right away? What was the idea behind this? Had you already done the Smorgasbord shirt design and simply adapted that to the jacket, or vice versa?

I had the jacket for about a month before I found a place in Stamford, CT to letter it. I also had to save up for it because after I bought the jacket I had no more money and all those god damn letters cost almost as the much as the jacket itself. I think the jacket was before the shirts because I remember talking with Tedd Nelson about wanting to make shirts and he suggested that design, modeled after the jacket. But I can not be 100% sure. Thinking back...the shirts were done right after X Marks the Spot was coming out and I know I had the jacket done by the time of the Wide Awake seven inch recording. Looking at the dates of those things, I am going to say the jacket was before the shirts. It's like the chicken and the egg because why the hell would I make a shirt like the back of a varsity jacket if the jacket did not already exist?

Practically every straight edge t-shirt design was very loud and profound - big text, big statements, bright colors. Putting a billboard on the back of a relatively "normal" looking jacket though was kinda like the straight edge equivalent of writing "ANARCHY" on a tattered trench coat. Do you remember feeling like you wear wearing something that was really making a statement? Did people ever wonder what the hell "SMORGASBORD STRAIGHT EDGE" was and what position you played? 

Oh I definitely did it to scream STRAIGHT EDGE. I was a Straight Edge kid through and through. People always asked what it meant, but I have no idea what I told them.

Around the same time, members of BOLD, Youth Of Today, and Slapshot were seen wearing similar varsity jackets. But it's not like these jackets were just a staple in "the scene" that every Jimmy Average was wearing. As far as you recall, did these dudes have varsity jackets before you? Do you remember seeing them wearing them and thinking "Hmm I guess they liked mine?"

I have zero idea of a timeframe for mine compared to other peoples. I would have to think I saw someone's high school jacket and liked it, thought I'd adapt a version to the zine and SXE. The BOLD guys were jocks in maybe they had school jackets?

Regardless of who had what first, various members of the youth crew and the circle you ran in ended up wearing these. Was this discussed? Was it at least acknowledged?

I doubt it, but soon after I got the letters on the back I was at Don Fury’s, as was Porcell. I was standing out front just talking with everyone and Porcell sees a reflection of the back of my jacket on the car window behind me. His eyes lit up...and he was stoked to see the back. Up until then...Champion Hoodies and pegged jeans were the norm. Whether or not I influenced others, I don’t know.

Did Dan from Stop To Think Fanzine ever say anything about your jacket? He ended up with the YOUTH OF TODAY "FREE AT LAST" jacket not long afterwards.

I don't recall ever talking about it with him, but I remember the day he got his. I had no idea he was doing it and I had just moved to an apartment in South Norwalk not far from his house. He wore it in like a badge of honor, it was cool and all but he was not "in" YOT so I thought it was a bit odd. YOT was still around at the time.

You grew up skating and riding BMX and getting into hardcore at an early age in the early to mid 80s, but as far as I know, you never really had a "punk" flair in terms of style. But even then, did you feel as if a varsity jacket was even a departure from the look of Nikes, camoflauge shorts, and a skate or HC shirt? Or did it fit perfectly?

Yea I was never into the style aspect of punk. I wore jeans, army pants or cut-off army shorts. I am not sure I ever really thought about the fashion aspect of my dress, although I am sure it was in my mind in the later years of the youth crew era with the hoodies and stuff. This may sound silly but I was too poor and frugal to be fashionable, even to this day. I did buy a pair of combat boots at Caldor but I NEVER wore them to a show or anything. When my Mom moved 5 years ago she called me and asked me about a "brand new pair of boots" in my old bedroom closet. Aside from the previous mentioned flannel, my punk attire was minimal.

As a guy who stayed connected to the scene even into the 90s, did you notice that kids were still wearing varsity jackets? On some level you had to have thought, "Weird, people wear those still," no? And the same goes for still wear them.

I do remember seeing them over the years, I always liked them...still do. Never thought it was too odd, not everyone can pull off a leather jacket with CRASS painted on the back.

When did you stop wearing your jacket? Did it end up in a closet? Did you eventually find the look of it silly?

Not sure when I stopped wearing it, I know it lived in a closet for YEARS. I never thought it was silly, although non-hardcore people thought that it was pretty goofy.

When did you sell it, to whom, and for how much?

Not sure of the exact date I sold it, but I sold it on eBay at a time when I was going thru some tough times and needed the money. Dan To Care was who bought it...I think he was from Long Island and it sold for more then I thought it would. It was a sad day to be honest and I wish I still had it.


Ben Edge said...

my girlfriend HATES my sxe letterman (actually a track jacket made to look like a letterman, since I'm vegan). We were broken up for a year, and when we got back together, I wore it out as a test. She didn't say anything about it, and we've been together ever since.
- Ben Edge

Chuck Right said...

pretty sure my man hess has this one hanging in his closet

Ramblin Man said...

i'll stick with a dickies jacket I think.these things make me think of high school jocks.

DJ Northface said...

I remember seeing the kid with that red YOT jacket at the Anthrax! I never knew who he was until now... I myself had a Warzone-New York jacket made up in 89 and got clowned at a show because I wasn't "in" the band either, haha

Joe Hardcore said...

I definitely enjoy the aesthetic that the letterman jackets bring to the mix. It was anti punk to have a jacket. I remember going to shows at the Stalag 13 with my HS soccer jacket on and getting the whole "fucking joke" insult thrown at me. Its sleeve took a nasty tear from a pitbull that belonged to a crust punk and I never wore it out after. Its symbolism in hardcore is still very strong and I am not surprised people still make these every year.

H8000CENTRAL said...

Still have mine as well, since '87...

kid_ugly said...

am i less hardcore for actually having a high school letterman jacket for wrestling... to be fair i bought before i started school for 25 dollars at a garage sale

Anonymous said...

I love you guys, but SlapShot got our jackets in 1987 and put them on our record cover(Step On It) in '88.

I still remember the look on everyone's face when we came spilling out of the Slappy van in front of CBs. Total shock, at our Straight Edge jock ware.

- Rev. Hank

Anonymous said...

please tell where i can buy straight edge jacket the cheapiest way