My Favorite... Vintage French Army Jacket
Sharon Ainsberg, co-founder of fashion, lifestyle and entertainment agency Sho + Company, shares the story behind her beloved jacket––and its link to her favorite place.
Sharon Ainsberg, co-founder of Sho + Company, a bi-coastal fashion, lifestyle and entertainment agency specializing in celebrity and influencer integration for global brands, shares the story behind this gorgeous French army jacket––and its connection to her favorite place in the world.
How did this jacket come into your life? "There's a shop in Montauk, called Share With…. It was opened by this very chic, cool French woman who I feel has incredible taste, and it's a mix of clothing and homewares—just a beautifully, beautifully edited lifestyle shop. I just saw a bunch of these army jackets and I was like, 'Wow, that's really cool, what are these?' And she said, 'Oh, those are all French army jackets.' And I said, 'Well, now you're speaking my language, that's right up my alley.' She said, 'Turn it around.' And I turned it around and I looked at the back, and there was the stencil of the Montauk zip code: 11954. When I put that jacket on, it doesn't matter where in the world I am, it's a piece of Montauk that's always with me. I'm representing Montauk, I've got the zip code on the back."
So it represents that Montauk feeling to you? "What that jacket represents to me, so deeply, is Montauk and Ditch Plains [beach] and the East Deck. It's like, I pick up that jacket and I feel weirdly relaxed. There's something about that jacket that, to me, is so cool, so effortless, so relaxed. I just feel that I can put it on with anything and it gives me that very chic, very understated, cool kind of...maybe there's something in that jacket where I feel it brings out the best in me, I feel really good in it."
You've been spending summers in Montauk for 15 years. What's so special about it to you? "There's something that happens there, an energy that just, in some way you feel very, very centered, and it's interesting that Montauk has changed so much, it has become this extension of the Hamptons where people go out there to go to all these restaurants and clubs, velvet ropes and all of it. But the thing that will never change is that at its core it's a fishing village––and there's something happening there spiritually. I think you have to just be there to understand what it is that makes people feel so centered, so alive and so spiritually grounded. I know that sounds a little kind of crazy…there is something happening in that town that I wish I could pinpoint. Anyone who has spent time there knows. You find yourself oddly surprised as a New Yorker what happens to you when you're there. You feel everything you're carrying around with you, anything you're stressing out about work, or you're on a deadline, it doesn't matter what it is, you somehow feel like when you're there it melts away and all somehow feels manageable."
Can you share a specific memory about wearing the jacket in Montauk? "There are so many hilarious, amazing and funny stories, incredible memories of friendship and having 32-person lobsterfests and all of that. But Montauk was my mom's favorite place and she passed away when I was 18, and because she died in August, I've spent a lot of weekends over many, many years being very reflective when I'm out there, and have some great memories of just being with a couple of really, really close friends who were just there for me when I sat on a quiet spot on the beach and was reflective on one of the anniversaries of my mom's passing. And the safety and the love of being with my best friends in a place that I knew she loved so much, in a place that brings me so much joy, with my feet in the water, just thinking of loss but also everything I've gained, the great balancing act of life...it reminds me how lucky I am."
So the jacket also symbolizes those Montauk friendships? "One of my best friends in the world, Gwen, is someone I met in Montauk at the East Deck [Motel]. People think [we] had to have become friends through the business, and just marvel, like, 'You met in Montauk, get out of here.' And I just think about [so many of my] friends. What brought us together was this common thread of this deep, meaningful love affair with this place that has meant so much to us and forged so many strong relationships."
How do you style the army jacket? "When you find one of those great vintage pieces that can [add] a little bit of edge and spirit to whatever you're wearing, and that piece that can give you a bit of that 'high/low' feeling, I think you've tapped into something great. Even if I'm wearing something that's a bit more classic, I'm the person who tends to toughen it up. I went to a party one night and I was wearing a royal blue, black and white print jumpsuit—it's just a fantastic summer jumpsuit—with a really cool platform sandal, and I threw my little Montauk army jacket on and my little MaxMara color-blocked cross-body bag, and it was this great party look. The other thing I love about this jacket is layering. One of my favorite coats is a classic black Balenciaga coat that's a thick brushed cotton with a great stand-up collar. Sometimes in the winter if it's cold and I don't feel like it will quite be enough, I'll just layer my army jacket under it. It's the kind of piece you can layer under a cool coat or a great vest. There's something about an army jacket."
Yes, it's a great staple, like a denim or leather jacket. "Exactly. It's just one of those things, easy and versatile. And I just love that you can dress it up and down. If you're feeling kind of dressed and you want to just take it down a notch, a great vintage army jacket with the sleeves rolled up is such an effortless, cool look."
And the color, olive green, is such a great neutral. "The color is such an incredible neutral, and I don't think people realize how easy of a neutral it is. I'm not sure how many people will choose an army green as a go-to for a neutral but it's just a gorgeous, gorgeous neutral color. I don't think I've seen anyone in an army jacket where I haven't thought they look good."
When you see the jacket hanging in your closet, what's the first thought or feeling that comes to mind? "Ditch Plains, the ocean. The minute I see it, it's a flash of me in my favorite place in the world."