Last week, I was privileged to attempt and solve one of America’s largest sartorial mysteries: How often should DeRay be washing his vest? On Monday morning I briefly chatted with the activist, podcast host, and reluctant fashion icon DeRay McKesson about his personal commitment to a single blue Patagonia vest.
My previous investigation hypothesized, based on extensive social media combing, that McKesson has only washed his vest two times. He confirmed that the vest’s received two “big washes” over the years and hinted that this week the vest may get a third full cleaning.
That process, which he said could take up to seven hours, includes using environmentally safe detergent—Patagonia specifies “non-toxic, biodegradable types preferred”—then tossing it in the dryer (no heat) with two clean tennis balls to help fluff the vest’s down. He joked that not having enough time to find two tennis balls held up his cleaning efforts.
“I’m shocked that people are shocked,” said McKesson, who sounded perplexed over people’s obsession over the health of his vest. He further clarified that Patagonia, which frequently patches the vest, also cleans it when he takes to the company, and that it doesn’t smell. (Being on the phone, I was unable to confirm or deny this claim.)
“I’m not 15 IQ points smarter cause I’m in a suit,” said McKesson, when asked why he wore the vest to Vanity Fair’s Oscars party. “[The vest] keeps me grounded in what I do.” McKesson stressed, even if the vest is visible to the public, it’s a personal reminder of his early days protesting in the streets throughout the country, and he doesn’t want to lose track of those memories whether he’s meeting President Obama or cavorting with celebrities on the red carpet.
Personally, I feel my investigative work here is done. McKesson has washed his vest twice and potentially it’ll happen a third time this week. Nothing in our conversation implied he’d ever retire the vest which, I gotta say, I respect such commitment to personal branding.