Doug McCombs

Uniform Essay

by Doug McCombs

This Swiss Army Jacket for the Past Perfect Uniform Project is a modification of the jacket (from a suit) that I designed for the Past Perfect Vietnam Project. Essentially what happened is that the jacket worked so well for me that I immediately wanted to have it made from a variety of fabrics. This one is made from a Swiss army blanket.

My interest in clothing is fairly nostalgic and the time period I’m nostalgic for is the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and the little fragments of the American Dream Myth that are true.

Here is an interesting truth about the American Dream Myth-

Much of the iconic American men’s clothing that we wear today was born out of necessity during the California gold rush of the mid nineteenth century. Jeans and jean jackets, weather-proof canvas, wool pea coats, work boots and shoes, sneakers (evolved from work boots), tweeds, twills, corduroys, any of the so-called “crude” wares that weren’t considered fine tailoring.

The American Dream part of the story is that these wares were designed, made and manufactured by immigrants who came to America looking for prosperity. Tailors, inventors and entrepreneurs. All creeds. This is American clothing and we still wear it today.

These items were the uniform of the gold miner and there are many historic examples of jackets similar to this Swiss Army Jacket. Some manufactured by clothing companies but also some that seem to have been improvised out of trade blankets or at least have no tags or distinguishing characteristics that would indicate a maker.

In 150 years somebody will wonder who made this jacket.

Bio Douglas McCombs is a musician living in Chicago. He plays bass and guitar in Eleventh Dream Day, Tortoise, Brokeback, Pullman, the Sea and Cake, and a duo with David Daniell.

He has also done time as a sideman recording and or touring with a variety of other bands; Yo La Tengo, Calexico, School of Language, Tom Ze, Azita Youseffi, Rhys Chatham, and Sue Garner.



Artwork by Damon Locks, Pattern by Orchid Tailors

Sewing by Maribel Melanson


Doug McCombs reference photo

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