Levi’s introduced the first jacket equipped with Jacquard by Google years ago with the intention of servicing cyclists and keeping them off their phones while riding. Called the Commuter, it had a bulky sleeve with the technology woven within. You could program readable gestures to trigger directions, music, texts and calls. But, it cost over $300 and had an inherently niche audience. Now, Levi’s aims to bring the technology, and a more streamlined jacket, into their lifestyle collection. Dubbed the Trucker Jacket with Jacquard by Google, this iteration presents as a normal denim jacket but its capabilities expand upon the first’s infrastructure.
“Two years after we first launched Jacquard, the technology has become smaller and more discreet, more affordable and more useful,” Paul Dillinger, the VP of Global Innovation at Levi’s, says. “But the premise and purpose remain the same: you can keep your phone in your pocket and your eyes on the world around you, staying connected without being distracted.”
The Trucker Jacket feels particularly well-suited for city life. You can program an inward swipe across the cuff to trigger a reading of today’s most pertinent headlines, a brush out to prompt your Google Assistant to read out your next direction (or answer a pre-written question), a double tap to pause your music—and simply placing your palm over it will stop all actions. For bikers, the turn-by-turn directions are still there. For pedestrians, walking directions, a summary of your day ahead, and alerts about arriving ride-shares (including incremental notifications about their whereabouts) or a left-behind phone prove to be worthy additions.
The internet of things doesn’t need to mean more things
“The internet of things doesn’t need to mean more things. It can mean less but better things,” Dillinger adds. Presumably, purchasing this jacket could replace the need for a smart watch and another jacket.
It works seamlessly with Airpods or other headphones and earbuds (Bluetooth or wired), and completes plenty of tasks you’d otherwise need to pull out your phone for—but it’s still a way off from an Apple Watch or even an assistant-aided speaker. The Trucker Jacket concentrates on tasks that otherwise require taking your hands, and mind, off whatever is in front of you. Plus, while all of the triggers are interchangeable, Levi’s imagines that the select few will become memorized; that checking the news or hearing your schedule will always be as easy as swiping outward on your wrist.
All of this relies on one prerequisite, though: that buyers wear their jacket daily or at least often enough to warrant buying this version rather than a cheaper, Jacquard-less one. But, in our few days testing it, this jacket felt useful, albeit a bit unnecessary but nowhere near obsolete. Especially so as this version is both significantly cheaper and far more wearable than the last. When the tiny snap is removed, the jacket is also machine washable (but not dry-cleaning safe). Because the jacket was made using traditional Levi’s processes and then infused with the technology, the price is far lower and there’s less room for hardwiring error.
Ultimately, this may not be as futuristic as the general consumer would expect, but it’s progress for a category that’s otherwise been full of failure and cluttered with pieces that trade wearability for functionality. Wearable technology often emphasizes the latter and comfortability feels secondary. Even though this jacket may be most useful in digitizing the minutiae of everyday life, plenty of its features will still feel groundbreaking upon first wear.
The Trucker Jacket will be available on 3 October through the Levi’s online store and in select brick and mortar locations—$198 for the Classic Trucker and $248 for the Sherpa Trucker.
Images courtesy of Levi’s