#ColgateProblems: Jug Jackets: Gone But Not Forgotten


While I know nobody is stealing my jacket out of cold-blooded spite, sometimes it feels that way. Even though it’s been over a year since I lost my first jacket, I still get the urge to confront people wearing the navy blue North Face “Summit Series” and conduct an inspection for my name written on the inside. It was a crushing blow, since it had been repaired by the North Face factory just a week before. Suddenly, it was gone – alone in the world, without my arms in the sleeves for guidance.

First, I felt denial. Surely, no one would do this – it was February, it was negative degrees outside. What heinous party crimes had I committed to deserve this? This was followed by anger; I tore through the couch cushions with reckless abandon, caring little for the boy on top partaking in what seemed to be a very effective power nap.

I tried bargaining, thinking if only I had carried my jacket with me at all times this awful accident would not have occurred. Perhaps if I tied it around my waist in a style evocative of the simple days of middle school, disaster could have been averted and I would be braving the cold with a protective layer of polyester by my side. Then came sadness. I held back the tears as I remembered all the insulated, carefree times I had shared with my jacket. I felt like all I needed was a hug – partly to assuage the loss, but also because I required the body heat. Suddenly, I reached acceptance, soothed by the feeling that whomever had my jacket must be very warm and (hopefully) very sorry. My acceptance was characterized by constant refreshing of the Jug Jackets Returns Facebook page, unfortunately to no avail.

Though I was disappointed that my strongly-worded message (“If you are reading this, PLEASE return my coat, it belongs to Amy Balmuth and she is VERY cold”) did not have the desired effect, I understood that some things are simply out of my control. It is unfortunate that one of the most uncontrollable elements of my life is my outerwear but, like the song of the same name, you can’t always get what you want. However, in this case I tried and failed to get what I needed, instead leaving with a really cold, seemingly interminable, walk home.

The idea of a “jug jacket” is a phenomenon relatively unique to Colgate. When I visited University of Wisconsin, my host bluntly informed me “Yeah, you can’t wear a coat.” I scoffed at the idea considering the sub-zero temperatures and attempted a middle ground by wearing a wool sweater. Subsequently, I felt extremely out of place bouncing from party to party in a wool sweater. As I stood there, hot in the temperature way and unable to move for fear of heatstroke, I yearned for the disposable comfort of my jug jacket.

This is part of what makes the jug jacket phenomenon so remarkable and apt for sociological study – through their worthlessness, the jug jacket has great value. While the goal may be to have a jacket crappy enough that its disappearance is tolerable, a jacket that fits this definition is precious by consequence. It is a game that absolutely no one can win, and that’s why the Jug Jackets Returns page has enough posts to fill a small paperback.

Ultimately thinking (or even writing) about jackets does not protect you from bitter wind-chill. Nor does it console you from the loss of yet another puffy North Face with a ’Gate card and chapstick in the pocket. My sentiments go out towards all who have paid this ultimate sacrifice, and also if you find a blue quilted jacket with corduroy trim, please message me on Facebook.