Unvested In Vests

OK, I’ve never owned a vest. Not sure why. When I was young, I remember older kids around the neighborhood (we’re talking Flint, Michigan here) would sport denim vests proudly over the top of name-a-‘80s-metal-band-or-cola-here t-shirt. It was their uniform. Even in mid-August, they’d walk around in their denim vests (hair picks in the back pocket were also de facto equipment) like owned the place. Of course, they were shirtless, but the vests stayed. Oh, and they never owned the place. Perception was always reality in those days.

But it wasn’t long before I noticed the coolest bevested dudes—80% had some vestige of a mustache, by the way—had logos all over their baby blue denim no-armed wonders. At the time, I was probably listening to whatever was on the radio (Hall & Oates, Christopher Cross, Alan Parsons Project, etc.), so I had no clue who Mötley Crüe, Black Sabbath, Dio, Iron Maiden, Dokken, and Judas Priest were. Just evil-sounding names with jagged logos. Cool! Yeah, I remember a few Metallica patches, but not until later. Looking back, I guess Kill ‘Em All was a wee bit aggressive for the Buick City (Kearsley Park, represent! Or something.) crowd. Side note: Repulsion were from Flint and were the most aggressive band in the world—from a certain viewpoint.

Anyway, I think I should’ve been one of the vest-wearers. I picked up the music, recording what I could from the radio and from vested types on tab-taped over Lionel Richie, Abba, and Billy Joel cassettes. I was heavily into ‘heavy metal’. Music, posters, stickers, stickered Trapper Keepers, t-shirts. But the vests never caught on with me. Everyone had a vest. Just not me. I was probably even offered one at one point. That’s how pervasive denim vests were, at the time. Perhaps they were too biker-type. I don’t know, really. Flint had a lot of bikers and biker gangs. All with bad reputations. They were vested and gussied up like tough guys on a mission to rough up someone who didn’t deserve it. Guess it was the culture of a blue collar city with a major inferiority complex to Detroit.

Vests also reminded me of someone’s creepy uncle who had a bad breath, a quick temper and a dilapidated van. Not my uncles though. My uncles were normal guys. Carpenters and teachers, mostly. So, it’s not like Uncle John, Uncle Al, and Uncle Tim (fictitious names to protect the innocent) had a negative impression on me. I had a pretty rad upbringing. But no vests. They just didn’t speak to me.

Now that I’m older (by many years) and not a bit wiser, vests still look, well, like they belong on bikers, true country singers, and rarely-bathed possible child molesters (don’t ever get in the van, kids!). I just don’t get vests. That includes vests with Opeth, Paradise Lost, Tiamat, Entombed, and Enslaved patches.

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