If you live anywhere in the world where the temperature has dipped below freezing in the past month, chances are you’re swimming in a sea of black parkas right now. Here in New York, the streets are flooded with them—shoulders adorned with Canada Goose patches, hunched torsos encased in puffy, arctic-proof down, and rosy cheeks haloed in coyote-fur trim. It’s turned one of my favorite commuter pastimes—people-watching—into a very dull experience. And, to be honest: I’m over it.
It’s not that I’m judging anyone in a down parka—believe me, I’ve lived through two decades of Canadian winters and understand that those things are warm as hell—but I can’t help but feel like all this uncreative outerwear is a missed opportunity, especially during one of the warmest winters on record.
One of the few joys of cold weather is getting to put on an unapologetically over-the-top coat over an outfit that’s two steps away from pajamas (say, a sweatshirt and some thermal leggings) and brave the elements looking really, truly chic.
I caught the outerwear bug shortly after moving to New York City for college, when I realized that the trusty gray peacoat that got me through high school simply would not suffice in a neighborhood where one was liable to run into Chloë Sevigny on the street corner. Fortuitously, the vintage store two blocks down from my dorm was clearing out its stock of coats that fall, and I scored an ankle-grazing burgundy suede number with a fluffy white fox fur collar and matching cuffs for an insane five dollars. I felt like Penny Lane every time I wore it (and still do). Since then, I’ve amassed a sizable collection: a crop-sleeve leopard-print coat with a fancy Russian lady vibe, one with fur trim and big, shiny buttons, a fuchsia one that ties up at the neck.
There’s an argument to be made that coats are a purely practical investment, and one good, sturdy one should suffice—but why apply that principle to outerwear and not jeans or dresses? You don’t need to be a sample size to pull off a dramatic coat; the idea is to command more space, not less. And, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to drop a fortune either—vintage furs are easy to procure on the (relative) cheap online, and right now, thanks to the quirks of the retail calendar, all those glorious candy-colored faux coats we’ve been drooling over since last year are way on sale.
So, if you’re not braving a blizzard, take a chance and leave your parka at home in favor of something with more personality—I can’t promise it will make you love winter, but it will certainly make it a little more fun.