’Tis the season to embrace the warm hug of a show-stopping topper.
There’s a coat I own that gets me compliments every single time I wear it — and I wear it often. It’s a red, brown and orange houndstooth one from Marni’s Fall 2017 menswear collection made of heavy wool, with flap pockets at the hips and a roomy enough fit that I can layer sweaters underneath it — a must for Canadian winters.
When I first bought it, I wore it sparingly. It’s the kind of piece that people can’t help but notice, and at the time, I felt this meant they’d notice I was always wearing the same thing. I felt overdressed when I popped into the grocery store. Rather unbelievably, in retrospect, I considered selling the coat during the summer of 2018 because I was worried that it was too big after I tried it on over nothing but a white T-shirt.
That winter, though, I began wearing it more frequently. Almost every time I pulled it on, I got a compliment, and wearing it more frequently, in turn, increased my confidence. Eventually, it became my go-to piece — the topper I turned to every single time it was appropriate to do so. Since 2018, I’ve broken it out in November and worn it almost every day until March. “Love your coat,” a barista would say when my girlfriend and I would grab a coffee. “I’m sorry,” a passerby said as I waited to cross the street, “but that’s a really incredible jacket.” And on my return visit to an art gallery, the gallerist remarked, “Oh, it’s the man with the coat.”
As great as it is, though, I think my Marni coat might soon be getting a companion in my closet because this fall is set to be a golden era for big coats. Designers seem to be doubling down on their efforts to make investment pieces more worthwhile than ever before, and the Fall 2023 collections are chock full of incredible coats in a range of styles. It is the season to be in the market for show-stopping outerwear because no matter what it is you’re looking for, you’re probably going to find it.
There are gorpcore-adjacent technical coats from stalwart brands like Stone Island and Arc’teryx as well as riffs on those styles by luxury labels like Hermès and Dior. There are avant-garde offerings that transform the coat into a wearable work of art through collaborations with artists. There are ultra-luxe takes on classics by brands like The Row and Lemaire. There are quirky coats galore (like the one I love so much from Marni) that are big in a more abstract way. And then there are those, like the ultra-oversized bombers that Prada is offering, that are big in a very literal, almost bulbous, way.
Every year, during the first few weeks that I wear my Marni coat, I’m reminded of how good it feels to get a compliment and how invigorating it can be to embrace being a little different. Is my flattery-chasing shallow and a bit self-centred? Perhaps. But, if we’re being honest, as human beings, we crave it. It can be awkward at first, and then it becomes funny, but, ultimately, there’s something validating about being noticed for the right reasons. There’s also something incredibly liberating about breaking away from the mould — knowing that you won’t come across someone else wearing the same coat as you on your morning commute. It reaffirms our uniqueness in the face of so much conformity.
This is especially true in the dead of winter, when the weather conspires to turn dressing into a decidedly utilitarian activity — a chore, if you will. The snow, the slush and the cold do their best to stifle creativity and personal style — which is where a big, fun, boisterous, impossible-to-miss coat comes in. It turns something that represents a resignation to the power of the elements into a way of dressing for the fun of it. It cheers people up. It cheers you up!
“Clothing is there to express you,” explains Josh Peskowitz, a menswear entrepreneur whom one might call a big-coat connoisseur. “It’s how people identify one another — as we lack feathers or antlers or some other such thing — so it should be experimented with.”
I’ve been an ardent follower of Peskowitz’s Coat Chronicles on Instagram. He has made statement jackets a part of his signature style and curated an ongoing series of the best pieces from brand showrooms on his Instagram feed. “A coat that makes it into the Chronicles generally is either a superb example of a style or so f*cking outlandish that the world needs to see it,” Peskowitz explains.
For Peskowitz, outerwear is the main sartorial tool for establishing one’s identity. “You should have fun with your coats because they are the first thing people see about you,” he says. “When I lived in L.A. for a couple of years, it was about your car. In New York, it’s about the coat — and it says a lot, so try to say something witty. If you like to dress nicely, why would you put a big puffy blob over all your finery?”
The current fashion landscape is strange in that fast-fashion retailers are thriving — at the expense of both the quality of clothes and the environment — but so, too, is the luxury industry. If luxury brands struggle to compete with fast-fashion retailers for the basics, their secret weapon is the investment piece. Spending $500 on a T-shirt might be a foolish endeavour, but spending money on a coat that might last you a decade seems a much more sound decision.
For a few years now, I’ve been on the lookout for another coat cut from the same cloth as my Marni number — in a figurative, rather than literal, sense. One that’s worthy of the investment because I know that it’ll last me six or seven or even 10 years. One that warrants inclusion in my own personal Coat Chronicles. Because, for all the compliments others might lavish on you and your standout coat, isn’t that what it’s all about — your own personal style journey, where you’re the arbiter of what’s “big”? The beauty of this season’s innumerable inimitable coats is that there’s no telling where that journey will take you. So, where will your big-coat adventure start?
This article first appeared in FASHION’s November 2023 issue. Find out more here.
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