The Suede Jacket Guys

It was just a little bit nippy out on Saturday, April 10. Sunny and bright–very much a lovely spring day. It was one of those days when a certain kind of man will put on a suede jacket and walk around town feeling like a million bucks.

On his way to brunch was Ryder Daniels, a 30-year-old electronics finance services man. He was walking past the Ralph Lauren store on 72nd Street and Madison, with a lady friend … and the suede jacket he had bought at the Gap four months ago.

“I like the way it feels, I like that it’s warm and not too heavy,” he said. “I like the color because it goes well with my red hair.”

Jim Brodsky, a 32-year-old president of a marketing company, was on his way into Citarella, doing a little hors d’oeuvres, mixers, cheese ‘n’ crackers preparation for his cocktail party that evening. He was wearing a V-neck sweater, khakis, tasseled loafers, no socks … and a Calvin Klein suede blazer he’s had for two years.

“It keeps me warm,” he said. “It’s soft, comfortable and it looks good.”

Get any compliments?

“‘I like your jacket.’ ‘That’s a sweet jacket.’ But ‘sweet’ meaning ‘cool,'” he said.

Bernard Lackner, a 43-year-old executive at the Plaza Athénée, was wearing Giorgio Armani shades, Armani khakis, brown Rossetti suede shoes … and a $500 blue suede jacket. He strolled into Central Park with a male friend and their tall blond fiancées.

“I think if you have suede jackets,” he said, “for whatever strange reasons, you almost get emotionally attached to it because–I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s the material it’s made out of. It feels special. Maybe it goes back to my childhood or something–a smell that maybe you don’t realize when you wear it, but there’s something subconscious that affects you.”

Kent Minturn, a 28-year-old art history grad student at Columbia University from Shawnee Mission, Kan., was watching all the funky people near Sheep Meadow. His used suede jacket cost him $70 but he put $30 into it and got new buttons.

“How would you describe the weather now?”

“Sunny and 75, perfect day,” he said. “I went through a phase back by the boat pond where I took it off, but I realized I still needed it. It was a little warm, but it’s not warm enough that I could go without it.”

Say no more–the perfect suede jacket day.

Back outside the Polo store on Madison Avenue, Lewis Love, a 39-year-old banker, was wearing a suede jacket he had bought for $240 in Sydney, Australia–”before it was a big thing in New York,” he was quick to add.

“Are suede jackets masculine and manly?” I asked.

“Uh, very good question. I would think this is masculine because I think these buttons–when I first looked at them, the thing that struck me was the buttons, sort of like my father’s old coats. So that’s why I like them, but I can see why people might think it was feminine.”

“Is it embarrassing to talk about your jacket?”

“Yeah, I don’t really see myself as the kind of guy who would discuss it. I mean, I might discuss my car. I suspect that most guys who are straight would not want to admit that they had a deep, philosophical thought about their jackets. I hate to stereotype, but I suspect that that’s probably true. I think guys in general are homophobic but what’s that say about you if you start waxing on enthusiastically about your coat? I see it as a casual jacket you can wear with jeans, but I wouldn’t wear it with, you know, fancy pants or anything.”

His pretty blond (Irish) girlfriend came over.

“Do you like a man in a suede jacket?” I asked her.

“Well, quite honestly, I don’t,” she said. “I don’t like the smell.”

“How do they smell?”

“Dead. These jackets were out in Spain like six years ago, that’s the funny thing. They’re not a big thing in Europe anymore.”

–George Gurley

Law Student vs. N.Y.P.D.

Jonathan Adams, 24, is a second-year student at Columbia School of Law who claims he was roughed up by the New York Police Department on July 14, 1998, at 10:35 P.M. It happened on West 34th Street, he says, near the Jacob. K. Javits Convention Center. Mr. Adams says two plainclothes officers driving an unmarked car pulled him over. Then, he says, they hurled him to the ground and held a loaded gun in his face, telling him, “You are going to get shot.” He says they also rudely searched the red Chevrolet Camaro he was driving that night.

Mr. Adams filed a lawsuit against the City of New York, Mayor Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir on Oct. 13, 1998–but there was a big problem with his case: He could not identify the cops in question and referred to them in the lawsuit as John Doe No. 1 and John Doe No. 2. For all anyone knew, he was roughed up by a couple of thugs pretending to be cops. But now, Mr. Adams says, after a little digging, he believes he knows the identity of the alleged officers.

Last October, Mr. Adams told his investigator at the Civilian Complaint Review Board that he remembered seeing a gray Chevrolet Caprice and the characters “P42” on the rear plate. Subsequently, his investigator, Rebecca Brown, located a Caprice with the license P40 6LB, and traced it to two officers with the Street Crimes Unit.

In their interview with the review board, both officers denied having stopped a red Camaro near the Javits on July 14 at 10:35 P.M., however. One of the officer’s logbooks states that they made an arrest near the Javits at 10:27 P.M.–a good alibi, considering that arrests must be processed immediately after they occur, and can take hours.

The arrest record, combined with the fact that Mr. Adams could not identify the two officers in a photo array, caused Ms. Brown to close the Adams investigation, giving it “member of service unidentified” status.

But that did not stop the tenacious law student. He made a few calls to determine where the two Street Crimes cops worked, and early in the evening of April 6, Mr. Adams, his brother Sam Adams, and a law school friend showed up at the police precinct at 138 West 30th Street. They asked for one officer and were told he was on vacation; after an hour’s wait, they found themselves face to face with the other officer in question.

“We were looking at pictures from my brother’s spring vacation,” said Mr. Adams, whose brother is a medical school student in Westchester. “And he comes down, and says, what, you have pictures of me and my partner? And it’s him. It’s the second guy from the car.… I said, ‘Do you remember me?’ And the eyes shifted a bit, and he said No. And I said, ‘Red Camaro, Javits Center,’ and that should set off a bell in his head … because he was interviewed by the C.C.R.B. And the eyes shifted a bit again, and he said No.”

Mr. Adams added that the cop’s picture in the photo array presented to him by the Civilian Complaint Review Board had been a poor likeness, and that it was other factors–such as body shape and voice–that triggered his recognition of him.

On Jan. 8, Mr. Adams filed an amended complaint with U.S. District Court in Manhattan, this time for $1.4 million instead of the initial $1 million in damages that he requested last fall. The case is in pretrial discovery. In recent weeks, Mr. Adams has decided to give up representing himself and has hired a lawyer, Joel Berger of Leventhal & Slade. “I am certainly willing to go as far as necessary,” he said.

“We don’t have proof one way or the other that the allegations made actually occurred,” said Sherman Jackson, a spokesman for the Civilian Complaint Review Board. “And if he in fact feels that he can now identify the officers and would like to present new evidence to us … we’d be happy to consider that information and possibly reopen the case.”

Mr. Adams was unconcerned about the Civilian Complaint Review Board’s shelving his case. And what about the fact that one of the officers had noted arresting someone else at 10:27 P.M. in his log book?

“I seriously doubt they write down in their logbooks, ‘Stops to beat up innocent male,'” he said.

A Police Department spokesman said, “We’re not gonna comment on any pending litigation.”

–Kate Kelly The Suede Jacket Guys