A jacket of the people

We all know about Scott Brown’s truck. But what’s the story behind that coat?

(Darren Mccollester/Getty Images)
By Beth Teitell
Globe Correspondent / January 28, 2010

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Scott Brown’s pickup truck got almost as much attention as the Senate candidate, but somehow his equally ubiquitous, equally everyman barn jacket cruised below the pundits’ radar.

And yet, there it was, starring in his now-famous truck ad. There it was again, waving to motorists. And voting in the election.

But what do we know about that brown jacket, really? We spent more time talking about what Brown wasn’t wearing than what he was. Is the slightly worn leather jacket what it appears to be - just something Brown had lying around the house? Or did the campaign hire a stylist to find Brown a jacket that said “Joe the Plumber,’’ but cost $850, like the Burberry canvas barn jacket Saks is selling this season?

With the Senator-elect poised to start making national policy, a call to one of his campaign masterminds was in order. “It was made by an American company Golden Bear Sportswear,’’ Brown senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told us. “He loves it because it fits and his daughter bought it for him, and he only has two jackets.’’ (The other is a blue puffer snow jacket.)

Beyond providing warmth, Fehrnstrom said, the jacket did indeed send a message, just like the truck: Brown’s a regular guy. “Scott is the Rocky Balboa of Massachusetts politics, and his barn coat may be as famous as Rocky’s leather jacket. Maybe someday it will hang in the Smithsonian next to the Spirit of St. Louis.’’

Longtime Democratic consultant Michael Goldman, a senior consultant with the Government Insight Group, had a slightly different take. “There is no question that jacket was supposed to say, I’m not some wealthy lawyer from the suburbs, I’m just like you, a plain old truck-driving guy.’’

Mary Lou Andre, a Needham-based wardrobe and corporate image consultant, says the jacket sent a rugged message that an “elitist’’ trench coat would not have.

“Most politicians, when you see them, don’t have outerwear on,’’ Andre said. “That jacket signified that he was out and about meeting people, that he was on the road, not in secret meetings trying to be made over.’’

Sadly, there’s no exit polling showing how the election would have gone had he not worn the barn jacket, but history shows that garments as billboards don’t always work. And John Kerry’s barn jacket couldn’t erase his man-of-only-certain-people image in 2004.

So what kind of guy wears a Golden Bear Sportswear leather barn jacket?

“We sell to everyone,’’ said Everett LaRose, a salesman at the Andover Shop’s Andover location, where a similar-looking Golden Bear Sportswear barn jacket goes for $675. Guess that depends on what your definition of “everyone’’ is.

Brown himself didn’t buy the jacket, it turns out. It was a gift from Arianna (the daughter who’s “definitely not available’’). Taking a break from studying pre-calculus over the weekend at Syracuse University, she reported that she bought it at the Wrentham Village Premium Outlets as a birthday present about five years ago.

“I like to make him look nice,’’ Arianna said, adding that she also bought him a pea coat for Christmas, which he wore a few times on the campaign trail before “reverting’’ back to the barn jacket.

“I like buying clothes for him,’’ she said. That’s in contrast to her sister and her mother, she added, who are afraid to buy him clothes. “He never really wears them.’’ But he does wear clothes from his own mother, she said, including that blue snow jacket.

“She seems to know what he likes to wear, which is good I guess,’’ she said.

Arianna doesn’t recall the barn jacket’s price, but she says she can’t imagine she spent more than $200 on the gift. What she does know is this: Before the campaign, the jacket didn’t get quite as much use. “Until this election he probably only wore it to nice things. It’s funny to see it all the time.’’

Correction: Because of a reporting error, a story in today's "g" section about Senator-elect Scott Brown's barn jacket incorrectly implies that author Naomi Wolf advised Al Gore on his clothing choices during his 2000 presidential bid. Wolf consulted on women's policy issues for the Gore campaign.