Thursday, May 26, 2016

That jacket’s very smart on you. (As a matter of fact, it is.)

Many years ago, I bought a pair of blue and white striped denim pants from Land’s End. Of course, they looked just fine on the young adorable model in the catalog, but I couldn’t tell whether they were just a bit on the fuddy-duddy side of the duds continuum.

Anyway, the first time I wore them, I went out to see my mother in Worcester. My Aunt Margaret was there visiting. I walked into the house, and the two of them began falling all over themselves to compliment me on the new pants. I’m guessing that I was about 40, which would have made my mother about 70 and my aunt about 80. Just what I wanted: two of the older set gushing over my new pants and wondering where they could get a pair of their own.

Well, the answer to that one was simple: one of them could have the pair I had on.

What I most remember is my aunt telling me how “smart” the pants were – one of her favorite descriptors when it came to fashion.

That may well have been the case in her mind, but those smart pants soon found there way into the St. Francis House donation bag. They were probably ragged. At least I never saw a homeless person walking around the streets of Boston with them on. (I have seen other of the more distinctive items that I’ve donated over the years.)

Those smart pants came to mind the other day when I saw an article on Bloomberg on a smart jacket that Jacquard by Google and Levi’s are collaborating on.

I wasn’t familiar with Project Jacquard. In fact, the last time I heard the word Jacquard mentioned – likely in combination with the word knit – was probably during the era when Liz and Peg were raving about those wretched pants. In fact, the words may well have been uttered by one of them. But Google’s Project Jacquard is ultra high-tech:

Project Jacquard makes it possible to weave touch and gesture interactivity into any textile using standard, industrial looms.

Everyday objects such as clothes and furniture can be transformed into interactive surfaces.

First up, the Levi’s trucker jacket:

The Levi's® innovation team and Google teams joined forces to create a modern version of denim that is interactive and yet authentic, remaining true to the century-old tradition of denim manufacturing.

The smarty-pants Levi jacket is loomed up out of threads that have conductive, metal-based fibers in the material. Then there’s the removable “smart tag” that enables:

…the jacket to connect to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth. Gesture controls and specific functions can be customized with the help of a companion app, but there's no word yet as to whether that app will be immediately available for non-Android users. (Source: Bloomberg)

Not that I’m in the market for one of these suckers, but it’s nice to see something happening first for us Android folks, rather than the Apple i-brigades.

Among the tasks the jacket can perform: offering up suggestions for nearby coffee shops (or other types of venues), providing an ETA to your destination, and changing tracks on your playlist. All of the info is conveyed by audio, so you're not distracted by screens. By next spring, Google will release further details on battery specs and whether smart tags can be interchanged between garments; those logistics and the jacket's price are still in the works.

I’ll just bet the price is still in the works…Ka-ching.

As for me, I make far more modest demands of my jackets. I want them to keep me comfortable. Warm and dry.

Just the other evening I was thanking my lucky stars that I’d gotten a spring weight down parka this year so that I could be comfy at a Red Sox game when it was cool and damp (but not raining). That jacket was plenty smart enough for the likes of me, although I will say that when I bought it, I was unaware that the color of the annual Boston Marathon jacket was going to be turquoise this year. My heart did sink a bit on the day before the Marathon when I saw all these runners ambling around in their this-year’s-jackets.

Not that anyone would mistake me for a Marathoner, mind you. It’s just that I wouldn’t want anyone to think I was pretending to be one.

Despite the Marathon confusion, the purchase of that dumb jacket was a smart choice. This is New England, and there really and truly is a need for a down parka that’s lightweight and trim, and can be worn during the spring and fall when it’s cold but not that cold.

Sometimes I have had jackets that weren’t quite as smart. Take the supposedly rainproof summer windbreaker from LL Bean. I really wouldn’t have ordered it if the information had mentioned one key attribute: the jacket was porous. Who wouldn’t want that type of smartness in a jacket worn during a shower? What are umbrellas for, anyway?

I’ll leave the really smart clothing to the young folks for now. I have a hunch, though, that, as us Boomers trudge along into geezerhood, there’ll be plenty of need for smart clothing to zip itself up, to fasten those pesky bras, to save us with airbags from breaking a hip.

Bring it one. I just won’t need it to connect to anything via Bluetooth. I will not be needing the ETA of a 3 a.m. trip to the bathroom.

No comments: