Revelations: Phill Jupitus: The jacket fitted. Now I was James Dean
Tuesday 24 February 1998
The place: Lakeside Shopping Centre, Thurrock, Essex
The man: Phill Jupitus,
THE THING that changed my life was buying the jacket I am wearing. As a kid my mum dressed me and when I started choosing my own clothes we were in the hinterland of flares and hipsters. As a chubby person, they just did not belong on me. Your leg flares in an inverse proportion to your trousers so you look like an elephant. I would go down Pitsea market to buy clothes - a Moroccan bazaar which in my eyes had everything. It was the zenith of style in Essex. You could buy things like patches with amusing slogans to sew onto your jeans. I had one from the "my other car is a Porsche" school of wit. I start buying my own gear at 17 and it was a nightmare. I remember going out with my first girlfriend and I was wearing one of my mother's jumpers with a big collar, a combat jacket, flares and green flash plimsolls. I was standing in the queue of Basildon's ABC cinema and a guy came up and asked whether I was a girl. So I got a haircut and started copying the jeans and T-shirts my mates were wearing - but it was never a look. It never felt personal.
Through the Eighties all these great fashions were going by but nothing was clinging to me and making me feel good. Even working in the music industry I never could get my clothes together. I was on the road with the Housemartins in an unstylish capacity. Fortunately they were also not re-known for their fashion sense so I did blend into the anorak melee of the day. At the time it was considered shallow to go with Peter York and the Saville Row look - we were all too angry to go shopping!
At 31, I left the record company and started doing stand-up, which made me even more aware of my appearance. Now I really did need to find "the look" because I was doing four or five gigs a week. The London comedy circuit was very much the province of the jeans and the loose casual shirt, which I went along with. I tried an Oxfam suit but it didn't feel right. Nothing made me feel special.
In 1993 I went shopping with my wife in Lakeside and decided to buy a leather jacket. The terrible thing with "extra large" in this country, and I'm not just saying this because I'm big, is that it's just a variable of medium. I tried on an "extra large" in British Home Stores, but crushingly it was too tight. I became disheartened and gave up on the idea of a leather jacket. Then my wife was looking at some clothes in Next and my young cousin Kelly spotted some more jackets. I told her they would never fit me but she insisted that I tried one on. I went over, slipped into this jacket - it was loose! I zipped it all the way up and it was nearly baggy. I looked on the label and it was just an "extra large". I expected it to have come from the rack with "freak" or "hefty outcasts" written above it. I waited for Beadle to leap out and shout, "You've bought the big stupid jacket." From the start, I just felt it was mine. Being so used to delving and digging or going to specialist shops, it was wonderful to be in clothes from a normal high street shop. Something else that gave me a boost - which is quite pathetic - is that after buying the jacket I read a copy of FHM and it was listed in the top 10 jackets. I thought, this is me: I'm that big fat bloke in the leather jacket. My stand-up had previously been quite slow and low key, now at certain points the jacket did the gig for me! I came across a bit more aggressive because I felt indestructible. In this jacket, I always see myself on a windswept hill, me and it against the elements. Leather is power, you feel like James Dean - the wild one. Sometimes the confidence even made me go too far and I was turned into a machine of filth and invective!
If I was in a Glastonbury frame of mind, I would say that I was led to my jacket. Certainly my comedy started getting better and the other acts could see that something was going on. I've discovered that somebody in a not stylish body can create a look. I feel reconciled. I've worn it so much - it's totally trashed and every pocket is through. It is almost like Jason's fleece and now it has this talismanic quality. Now I know that a look can be empowering. I regard most comedians I see working as technically better than me but I get huge enjoyment out of stand-up and I will continue for as long as I can get away with it. I don't think I will take the jacket on tour with me. Robbie Coltrane has recommended a tailor.
Interview by Andrew G Marshall
Phill Jupitas' `Star Wars' inspired tour "Jedi Steady Go" starts on 5 March in Ipswich and ends on 1 May in Harrogate.
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