The Mystery of Stanley Kubrick’s Jacket
Stanley Kubrick was a man obsessed with many things, mostly banal in nature. In his final years, he’d collect stationary, just plain stationary, and compile archives of it at his home north of London. This is chronicled in Jon Ronson’s brilliant documentary Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes. What was left out of that film though was Kubrick’s greyish-blue fur-trimmed jacket. By no means am I an expert on Kubrick but I always considered this jacket his most distinctive material presence. Personal iconography, especially within the world of cinema, is a celebrated tradition. Alfred Hitchcock’s profile, Charlie Chaplin’s moustache, Audrey Hepburn’s little black dress; these are all things that are immediately identifiable as signatures of their respective personas, often emphasised or singled out in attempts at imitation. With Kubrick? Well the majority of people wouldn’t be able to pick him out of a line-up despite being able to tell you he was a very famous director.
I understand the mythology behind Kubrick is already overpopulated with conspiracy theories and crackpot hypotheses so I’ll try my best to avoid adding to it. My only question lies with where the jacket is now. I always wondered what happened to it. Kubrick was a man who never threw anything away, and that’s why Ronson’s documentary was fascinating. It filled in so many minor details about an enigmatic genius, but unfortunately, it left out the one question that I’ve had since I first became slightly more than a casual Kubrick fan.
From various behind the scenes photos, I worked out that Kubrick wore the same jacket over a minimum 28 year span while shooting on the set of at least five different movies; A Clockwork Orange (1971), Barry Lyndon (1975), The Shining (1980), Full Metal Jacket (1987)and Eyes Wide Shut (1999). it has been present at iconic moments in film. It’s a relic in and of itself. This jacket is a piece of clothing that has lived through cinematic history, and yet, it’s never discussed. Not once in all the documentaries, the soft-profiles, the critical essays, they never mention the jacket. The LACMA exhibition that opened last year had every major piece of Kubrick memorabilia, right down to his glasses, but still had no jacket.
Whether if there was just one jacket, or he simply purchased several of a certain style is unknown. There’s a lot that remained unexplained about Kubrick and that’s what makes him so captivating. He is a man who died before all questions could be answered. Speculation of hidden codes and secret messages are rife within the culture of his fandom. In Thomas Allen Nelson’s book Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist’s Maze, he quotes the director in saying "There’s something in the human personality which resents things that are clear, and conversely, something which is attracted to puzzles, enigmas, and allegories."
If I could ask Stanley Kubrick right now what happened to the jacket, I’m not sure he’d want to give me a straight answer. I think I like that. If I had to guess where it is, I’d say he was probably buried in it; surviving as just one of many secrets he took to the grave.