The “Unplugged Sweater” Has Had a Long History
It was announced last week that Kurt Cobain’s iconic sweater he wore during Nirvana’s 1993 MTV Unplugged Set would be hitting the auction block this week. What’s surprising is that it is the second time it has been up for auction. The owner of the garment, Garrett Kletjian, owner of pro race team Forty7 Motorsports, first bought the sweater for a whopping $137,500 from Julien’s Auctions in November 2015. So why sell it so soon?
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Well, it seems the responsibility of the sweater has grown too big for the original bidder and….he paid too much for it.. Kletjian — a longtime Cobain fan who even has a giant painting of the late Nirvana frontman hanging in his kitchen — has been storing the sweater in a gun safe in his home in rural Pennsylvania. Although he tried it on just once shortly after it arrived, he’s ready to give it to someone else telling Rolling Stone this week:
“I opened it up and it immediately hits me: ‘Oh, now I’m also going to be responsible for this,'” while admitting he overbid for the item in 2015. “I went way over. … It was moving quick, quick, quick, quick, quick. I was with my wife and I said, ‘All right, I’m up for one more bid.'”
The sweater is expected to go for double what it did in 2015. The sweater is made of acrylic, mohair and Lycra-blend and was likely made in the 1960s was probably sold for around $16US when first manufactured by Manhattan Industries, a shirt company incorporated in 1912 that’s since been absorbed by Perry Ellis International. The olive green sweater was not just worn by Cobain during the 1993 Unplugged taping but during the later months of his life.
“It’s not just a collector’s market — it’s an investor’s market,” Darren Julien of Julien’s Auctions said. “We anticipate that [the sweater] will sell for more than double [the last sale price]. I call it the new fine art market. People are investing more and more in pop culture, especially rock [and] roll.”
It’s been a long historyfor Cobain’s MTV Unplugged sweater. It was first given to Cobain family nanny Jackie Farry by Cobain’s widow, Hole‘s Courtney Love, shortly after the Nirvana singer’s 1994 death. In her will, Farry designated the sweater to Cobain and Love’s daughter, Frances Bean Cobain. But when Farry ran up against cancer, she decided to sell the sweater with family’s blessing.
“I wouldn’t have got involved if I didn’t need the money,” Farry explained. “Before I would commit to selling it, I got in touch with Courtney and Frances to make sure they were cool with it. I remember thinking and saying that if Kurt knew the situation I was in, he would definitely want me to sell it. They agreed.”
Farry was surprised when the cardigan sold for six figures. It was expected to originally sell for $60K. A lesser-known Cobain sweater went for $75,000 earlier this year.
Who knows what sum the sweater will reel in this month. All for the historic garment that still has a stain in one of its pockets — “some kind of brown, crunchy something in there,” Kletjian described — as well as cigarette burns and a missing button. In fact, it hasn’t been washed since Cobain wore it.
The Nirvana rocker’s iconic Unplugged sweater will be included in Julien’s Auctions’ “Icons & Idols: Rock ‘N’ Roll” Oct. 25 and 26 at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York. Also up for bid is one of Cobain’s Fender guitars.