Old Barn Coat

barn coat

I’d seen the catalog images hundreds of times. The classic LL Bean Barn Coat. Worn by handsome, rugged guys with peppered hair, stubbled faces and crow’s feet that deepened the harder they would smile at the camera. The backdrops of their imaginary lives, idyllic rural landscapes painted in autumn colors or with fences lining fields of grazing horses. The assumption was rural New England or Bean’s hometown state of Maine but it could have been anywhere, left purely up to the imagination of the reader, the buyer, the consumer.

Granted, they were models, likely from the famed Ford agency in Manhattan, but I wanted to be those guys, to wear that coat and be rugged and handsome and capable. To work hard and play hard, to be one with the outdoors, to drive a pick-up truck on dirt roads and do jobs worthy of wearing an LL Bean Barn Coat, a coat that combined classic fashion with heavy-duty, rural durability.

I bought myself an LL Bean Barn Coat somewhere in the mid 1990′s. I don’t remember the exact year but it was close to twenty years ago. My choice, the traditional Khaki color with the hunter green collar, a coat made from heavy canvas, with a removable, insulated flannel liner and deep front pockets that would keep my hands warm on cold Fall Michigan days. I was young, mid-20′s, newly married and kid free. I had a new career under my belt and endless possibilities on life’s horizon… and now I had an LL Bean Barn Coat.

For many years it was my regular coat. I wore it to work and I wore it on dates with my wife. I wore it to restaurants and the grocery store and on trips back East to visit my family. I wore it to apple orchards and pumpkin patches and while shoveling snow in the winter. I probably wore it to the hospital when my daughter was born in 1997. I wore it while working around my house, while chopping wood and raking leaves and repairing fences and painting barns and mowing grass.

Over the years my LL Bean Barn Coat became less and less my everyday coat and more and more something I wore when I knew I was going to get dirty. It had become permanently stained with dirt, splattered with red barn paint and faded from long days in the sun, the rain, the snow and trips through the washing machine. Plus, like most people, my attitudes about fashion fluctuated from year to year and some years I was much more fitted dress shirts than flannel button downs, and much more black leather jacket than khaki LL Bean Barn Coat. But my trusted coat is still with me, it still hangs proudly in my mud-room and close to twenty years after purchasing it, I still wear it regularly when I am doing jobs that are worthy of wearing an LL Bean Barn Coat.

I’m a much different person now than I was in my mid-20′s and I like to think that, just like my LL Bean Barn Coat, with its dirty, stained and faded patina, I have aged gracefully, not only on the outside, but the inside as well. I’m not sure I ever became one of those guys in the LL Bean catalog or if my life has developed into the storybook that those images in the catalog portrayed. Sure I have the crow’s feet and a few gray hairs and the rural life and the dirt road and the pickup truck. In reality though, if I can claim to be anything like the guys in those pictures, I know where credit is deserved; the woman I married, the family she and I have built and fostered and my general attitude about life and how I have chosen to live it.

Because a fulfilling life has much less to do with the coat you wear and much more to do with where you choose to hang it.

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151 Comments

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151 responses to “Old Barn Coat

  1. Just followed you on twitter.

  2. Great post, Steve. I feel like I just got to know you a little better through the life of your coat. I wish I had a coat w/ that history. . .

  3. I have many coats, but they’re all in one place, so I guess I’m good to go!

  4. My son has a khaki canvas coat with a brown cordouroy collar. It zips instead of buttons. It’s not LL Bean (Carhart, I think), but he’s worn it everyday for so many years that, to see him in something else, means that it must be a special occasion. I don’t think I’ve ever had a coat that I was that attached to. ~shrugs~

  5. Those guys in the catalog are overrated.
    I’m sure you’re fine just as you are.

  6. Stories about items and the stories they tell about us are among my favorite things to read and write. I wrote a post once about the places a trusty pair of running shoes had carried me over. Thanks for the great read!

  7. What a lovely post! I enjoyed reading it :-)

  8. Beautiful, warm. I want to read all your stories now. Glad I found this one. Thanks.

  9. Thank you, I enjoyed that very much.
    I had a cashmere overcoat that carried me through many and English and French winter…finally to be passed on when moving to Costa Rica.
    But I still have my trusty old Australian Driza-bone.

    there’s a lot of memory in old coats.

  10. IF only your LL Bean Barn Coat could talk. I bet it would have some wonderful stories to share, don’t you agree?

  11. Great story. Thanks for sharing

  12. I really liked your post ,it was thought provoking. For me fulfilment in life is more about what we do and not about how we look. As we get older I think it becomes less important to have the trappings of an image to protect who we are. We grow into ourselves. I have a ‘Stockman’ that I used to wear religiously to work and on days out. I felt good in it and believed that it conveyed the image of a confident, self assured person who was slightly ‘of the wall’. I still wear it, not to create an image, but to protect me against the rain. I will probably have it for a lifetime……..they are designed to last, but it has ceased to be a badge of who i am.

  13. What a great story! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed — a well-deserved honor!

  14. Bravo,

    It’s our choices, and you’re right, where we choose to hang our jackets that makes all the difference.

    Great way to connect the jacket to the outcome of one’s life. Thanks for the great post. You write beautifully.

    Mikey

  15. I have a jean jacket that I have carried around for over 15 years. It stood by me when people didn’t. I love your post!

  16. I couldn’t love this post more. Congrats on the FP, Steve!

  17. Your story takes me back home. Thank you.

    • Where’s home? In the country somewhere I assume?

      • North Carolina. Texas for the last 36 years. Doesn’t everyone, including me, have a barn coat. Preferably Bean or J.Peterman now. My husband wore a khaki one with a brown collar for years. Do you read the J. Peterman catalogue? I got paper copies of it in the mail for many years before the great bankruptcy, the re-emerged and, sadly, the online store. I read them with the same interest that I read novels. (The descriptions aren’t as well-written these days.) The Great Gatsby of Catalogues. I have a “Counterfeit Mailbag” that I’ve lugged around for years to serve as a portable cache bag. They still sell it. We are identified by these things. One of my grandson’s most prized inheritances from my husband is a Colonel Littleton pocket knife. Funny how we identify ourselves by such things. I enjoyed your delightful and very well-written story. There is a woman commenter below who is from a small, very old town near my own-La Grange, Texas. Tiny world. :-)

  18. Such a great post. Don’t you love how one piece of clothing can become such a part of who you are? I have a scarf that, even though I’ve only had it for about four years, seems to have taken on a permanence in my life. I trust it. It makes me feel comfortable.

  19. Great post! I can really relate my friend. My “barn coat ” is the hat I am wearing on my gravatar. I rarely wear it these days. But after thirty years of loyal service I dust it off occasionally and take it for a ride.

  20. donofalltrades

    Great post.

    • donofalltrades

      Oops I got cut off. I had an aviator type leather jacket that was my barn coat. It was stolen in a dirty bar someplace in IL probably close to the same time you bought your coat. Your post made me smile thinking back to the great times I had in my coat.

  21. That was first-rate. Well done!

  22. Fun post! My husband has the same coat — and wears it into NYC to work at a daily newspaper. Not very rugged, but he looks good in it. I scored a great version of it at a truck stop in Arizona for $20; it cost me more to get the sleeves shortened than the original price. Now all I need is the ranch/dog/horse/pickup to go with it.

  23. Great post. I had an old coat – except mine was a duffelcoat – different era – I wore it till it fell apart. Tony

    • Thanks Tony, sounds like you got your money’s worth. I can’t seem to get this one to fall apart.

      • Yeah, the Storeman at the hospital I worked in gave it to me, It had been allocated to someone who didn’t turn up for the job and there was no way they could get the item back onto their books (British bureaucracy). On wearing it for the first time I came out looking like an out of work teddy-bear, so my lovely wife bought red lining material and lined it for me. After about 30 years it had been through the wars; used as a blanket for the children on camping holidays, slept on my the dog and generally abused. Great garment. Did I say I enjoyed your writing? Cheers, Tony

  24. Very cool… I too have a similar coat. Only mine was an anniversary gift from husband… And it’s a Carhart. But trusty and warm.

    • Carhartt is a great brand. I have one of those Carhartt full body jump suits. One of the greatest investments a guy (or girl) can make. I can wear that thing on the coldest winter days and as long as I have good boots and gloves and a hat I could stay out forever. We camp sometimes in the dead of winter and I wear it then.

  25. Funny how regional fashion is, even in menswear. Carhartt makes a similar coat to yours. I’m from La Grange, Texas and don’t know any farmers or ranchers who wear anything besides a Carhartt and probably have never heard of L.L. Bean. Great writing! I’m glad you still have your coat. :-)

    • Carhartt is a great brand, see comment way above about my Carhartt jump suit. Anyway, LL Bean is national brand too, but a little more New England and East Coast. I grew up on the east coast and went to school in Maine so I have a lot of connection there.

      • Didn’t read all the comments above. Funny you have a Carhartt jump suit. Guys down here RARELY wear those. Today was the coldest in a while. I think the high was 60 or something. But seriously, I doubt that most of these ranchers around here have heard of L.L. Bean. ;-) Funny story: About a month ago, when it was actually chilly, I was driving though La Grange and EVERY single man I saw in parking lots and on the street was wearing an identical tan Carhartt jacket. Every single one! It cracked me up. Wanted to share it with someone, but forgot about it until I read your post. Thanks for the memory. Haha!

        • Mine is great, keeps me warm, but the best ones are the bibs (with a jacket over it) so if you start to warm up you can at least take the jacket off. Funny story you told, there’s some places around here where I wouldn’t be surprised to see that. Around here though all the jackets would be hunting camo!

          • OMG, I briefly lived in Arkansas last year (all Carhartt area) and, no kidding, EVERYONE wore camo every day, for every occasion. I was never sure if I was in public or in the forest, even in a Super Wal-mart (only store for miles). And a friend of mine was a pediatrician in Oklahoma for a while. No kidding: They put either pink or blue camo on the babies in the newborn nursery! Bwahaha! So funny, right?

  26. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!
    I love how you wove the imagery through your story and ended with a nice statement about life.
    Following!

  27. Nothing like a good winter coat. Thanks for the read.

  28. nowwhatsmyname

    great read!

  29. I have a massive black Cohart Jacket bound to be like your LL Bean Barn coat, and I’m mid 20′s wearing that Cohart everywhere I go :).. Its love.

  30. Insightful, well written, and compelling; this is one of my favorite “Fresh Pressed” of all time.

  31. Now, that’s what a coat should be used for!

  32. I really loved this. I love the idea of a coat or a pair of shoes being with you for years, absorbing all the knocks and bumps of a life and ageing and developing a character, just like their wearer.

  33. Like you, I always wanted one of those LL Bean Barn Coats. The ones, of course, for women. Even though I always secretly thought that being a man was just…cooler…in an LL Bean Barn Coat. But I live in Los Angeles. And could never justify owning something that might get worn once a year. So…you know what my “LL Bean Barn Coat” is? It’s a men’s western chambray shirt I purchased in Jackson Hole, WY in 2001. And I wear it like a coat. Everywhere. It’s now fraying at the collar, but it’s like an old friend and I will wear it till falls apart. So …. I understand your feelings about the LL Bean Barn Coat. And I tip my hat to you ;-)

  34. This is a lovely read. I was always a jacket collector, all the way from school. My best friends each lived in one of my jackets. I know for fact that one of them only took off my black velvet hoodie when she showered, lol. Now that we’re all in different cities and different colleges, my closet and those five jackets we lived in for those few years, they’re just irreplaceable. Who knows, maybe we’ll age just as gracefully as your LL Bean did. :-)

    Congratulations on being freshly pressed.

    ~Cookie

    • Thanks! Interesting comment about your friends wearing your jackets. Of course, kids don’t wear jackets much these days, instead they wear hooded sweatshirts. But seems like my daughter and a friend of hers are always trading clothes.

  35. Nice story. You could write for the Peterman’s catalog. Seriously, I buy clothes there just because of the descriptions.
    Cheers!

  36. Loved this post. So nice to know someone out there feels the same twangs of past to present. I look at how I’ve changed over the years and am happy to say I cherish the patina and the memories.
    In my closet hangs a Leather jacket I bought from Banana Republic back in ’87. In those days they were a small mail order company with only sketches of their clothing and really cool descriptions. Their lines were a cross of LL Bean and Australian Outback. Sadly when the company became “Malled” they lost me. Whatever, I still love my jacket with it’s rips and knicks and it’s travels through my life. Can’t tell you when the last time was I wore it but I can tell you I’ll never toss it.

  37. Also, you can write :) And how! Congratulations on a wonderful post and the well deserved Freshly Pressed :) Loved the last line!

  38. I was just writing a post about all the great bloggers who have never been Freshly Pressed. I was going to link to your blog. Now I have to remove your name. I’m sorry.
    Congratulations.

  39. I opened this post up to read it when it was first featured but then I had to go do something so I just now got to it.
    Love it. I too find lots of metaphorical meaning in my clothing…old pair of boots or a necklace someone important gave to me or just something I bought on a whim that ended up meaning a lot to me.
    The post was great. Very insightful and I could almost see the jacket wear over time! :)

  40. Beautiful ! You stopped too soon ; I wanted to go some more places with the coat :)

  41. I enjoyed reading around on your blog, and would like to follow it, but it doesn’t have a “follow” button to click — only one of those enter your email here forms. And I don’t want to enter my email there. I hardly ever look at my email, so what good would that do? I’d rather just have your posts come up when I click on “Blogs I Follow.” So, since I can’t click “follow,” and may never come across your blog again, I thank you for some good writing, amusing musings, and one hilarious picture of a squirrel.

    • The follow button is in a header at the top of every blog with a little plus sign next to the word follow. It’s not part of my site, but part of the wordpress “background”. You can click “follow” up there and then posts will just show up in your reader, not via email.

  42. Nice. It brought back a lot of memories of my early life in Michigan. My uncles, cousins and family friends wore coats like that on the farms. Not L.L. Bean certainly, more like Osh Kosh or just the off the rack Kmart canvas coat. They worked hard in them, played hard in them and chucked them on the fence, tractor or limb of a tree when they got too warm from labors. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  43. Sometimes a coat is so much more than a piece of clothing, it is an album of where we’ve been and where we are now.

  44. Great post right there! I liked it. If you ever want to know about Ocean Sports and Turism visit our site http://www.surfskiesp.com
    Regards!

    Carlos

  45. WOW! I love this post! You write so well, really maintained my interest. Good work! Loved it!

  46. A beautifully written nostalgic memoir of values. Well done.

  47. This is beautiful, soooooo well written – and I love that last line. For me the piece has an unashamed and authentic wholesome feel that is incredibly touching and endearing. Thanks for writing it:-)

  48. What a lovely piece of writing. I have a red wool coat that has been with me for fifteen years and comes out every winter. Even though it is old and worn, I cannot part with it, do not want to part with it, and when I put it on it is with the familiar sense of coming home. It has travelled through life with me and I wonder what stories it would tell if it could. I wonder what memories it would have and what life looks like from its perspective.

  49. Like how U write about memory and how being grace along with it! Good thing I found Ur blog. Greetings :)

  50. Beautiful post – I cried (sniff) – it was so honest and generous. Look forward to reading more now I know the road to here ..

  51. “Because a fulfilling life has much less to do with the coat you wear and much more to do with where you choose to hang it.” [smile]

    Dar Williams has a song she wrote a number of years ago that has become my anthem (even in college when I was a 20-something and aging was not an issue… I loved it because it told me that I am loved in whatever state I find myself). It talks of the paradox of our perception in this world that as we grow older and stronger the “road signs point us adrift, make us afraid” and how she goes out with her paints and changes those “signs” to say “I’m so glad you finally made it here!” “With the things you know now, you know only time can tell.” “Looking back, seeing far, landing right where you are.” And, “You’re aging well!” It’s a beautifully written little song and your coat reminded me of it. So I thought I’d share.

    Congrats on being freshly pressed, by the way!

  52. profound and compelling post Steve..loved it! Congratulations on freshly pressed

  53. mdprincing

    most of those catalog guys would probably scream like a girl if asked to get dirty and may not know what a hammer or pipe wrench is. I have a similar coat in my closet, an old battered Carhart. Once is was new and nice with the flannel lining to keep me warm, now it is tattered and stained and the lining is pilling but it is still warm and rugged and goes with me to the tractor or to cut firewood or plow snow. Like me it has aged and become comfortable in its own skin and has the scars/marks that show character and add memory

  54. Love the idea this ends on: less about the clothes than where you hang them! Great stuff.

  55. I may have to mention LL Bean in a post … if I could get on to Freshly Pressed. hee hee!

    I’ve worn an LL Bean winter coat for a few years now: good quality, warm, … no forgotten money in the pockets yet though. (sad face)

  56. We must be about the same age, and your post made me think about my old black leather jacket hanging in my closet…so many memories wrapped up in that. Might just have to write about it! Thanks for sharing your story.

  57. My LL Bean Coat is a Carhartt. It hangs in my shop, and longs to be used every weekend. Touching story. Good read. Glad you found happiness in hanging your coat.

  58. Richard L Wiseman

    To my English mind you are that guy and not because of the coat, but because for me the coat was made for guys like you. Your blog is a slice of America Pie and always a great read and that last line… pure American wisdom.

    • Thanks Richard, always a pleasure to hear from you! You know,
      when I started writing this I had no idea what direction I was going, then I really struggled with how to end it. Then that last line came out and I knew I had come up with something pretty good. That’s a great feeling! Thanks as always for reading.

  59. I love this article. I don’t own this type of coat…but back when my dream was to be a veterinarian, and I was 10 years old, but dad got me a lab coat. I still have this lab coat, even though it doesn’t fit my 25 year old self. It means more to me than just a white coat. It was a dream. And though I don’t want to put in the 12 years of school it takes to become a veterinarian now, I am aspiring to be a dog trainer. This coat means dreams can come true… It’s my hope. Thanks for sharing!

  60. grizyeti

    What a fun nostalgic trip. Love it, this is a great tale of a piece of clothing that has become a part of a person. I have a few things that are like that for me, and I want to thank you for sharing this and allowing me to think on my own experiences.

  61. Objects, like coats, help to add to the story of our life. Thank you for a lovely written story about a treasure. Things do matter, we just need to really to be aware of what they will add before they become part of our life.

  62. Just found you through Margie’s post. I’d say congrats on FP, but, sadly, that means you are out of her club. By the way, I have an old L.L. Bean barn coat that same khaki color with the green corduroy collar. Have worn it and loved it for years. It’s my coat of choice when we go to the movies because I don’t mind spilling popcorn on it. Great post, Steve.

  63. So true… Thanks for sharing.

  64. 257 “likes” OMG I am embarrassed to be here. :cry:

    Beautiful article, Steve.

  65. Gosh! Never thought I would be this moved by a coat. After reading this beautiful post you have left me no choice but to subscribe. Now I am off to ponder my favourite line… “Worn by handsome, rugged guys with peppered hair, stubbled faces and crow’s feet that deepened the harder they would smile at the camera”….okay, let’s be honest, what I really meant was I am off to day dream ; )

  66. Steve! It finally happened! Congratulations! Is this the one you wished it would be? I think it is pretty lovely. So proud of you!

    • Thanks. Is this the one? I don’t know, I’ve joked about no longer having the “never pressed” schtick to work with. So many people comment that their pressed posts aren’t their best work. I think this is a great post. But honesty when I wrote it didn’t think much of it until the last line came out and then I thought, wow this is a really good post, I bet it will get a good response. And it did! Anyway it was fun while it lasted. Now onto bigger and better things!

  67. Great post. I bought a coat that I really liked at an outdoor store in Klamath Falls, Oregon, back around 1976. I was out there visiting my uncle who had a farm down by Keno, OR. My wife wonders why I keep it around (since we live in Florida). Can’t seem to get rid of it…too many memories.
    Congrats on the F.P.

  68. Pingback: The Freshly Pressed Experience | The Brown Road Chronicles

  69. Oh yay!
    Belated congrats on being Freshly Pressed Steve! Glad it finally happened for you :) I hope you remembered to tell Julie about your success! :D

  70. Oh, I love your post. Isn’t it funny how we must all have a ‘coat story’ in our lives? The one that comes to my mind was one that I put on layaway in a high-end department store when I was 19 (I think I was trying to do an Audrey Hepburn sensibility then). It was a long red, wool coat and cost (then) $120 that I think it took me six months to pay off. It was a beauty!
    I really love ‘classics’ in clothes as well as in life, and your post is wonderfully earthy: The Barn Coat. I’m sure it kept you warm on those cold and frosty winter mornings in the barn. Thanks for the great images and story.
    Blessings, MoonWyndStudio.com

  71. Reblogged this on MOONWYND STUDIO | Photos Writing Art and commented:
    Everybody’s got a ‘coat story’ in their lives; one coat that you remember and has special meaning. Check out this great ‘Old Barn Coat’ post. I love it! mw

  72. I read this post a while ago on the Freshly Pressed page and I really enjoyed it, Steve. I didn’t “like” or comment on it because I didn’t want to be one of those people who was trolling the FP posts commenting and liking posts just to get followers in return or whatever. I thought you were probably more mature than you really are so I didn’t bother you with a comment, but now that you’re a blogging buddy I wanted to tell you that I thought this post was great. It’s funny, but another blogger I like posted today about her barn coat that she’s fond of and it reminded me of this one. I didn’t remember that you had written this, so I’m glad I was able to find it.

  73. Pingback: Firsts and Lasts with Steve from The Brown Road Chronicles | She's a Maineiac

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