Last winter, New York Magazine’s e-commerce tastemaker blog The Strategist published an investigation into a particular jacket spotted on the Upper East Side. Dubbed the “Amazon Coat” for its unlikely provenance, it was written about far and wide, and eventually became ubiquitous to a certain subset of women who live in New York City and pay close attention to Twitter for work, pleasure, or a hideous combination of both. At the time, I saw a colleague cross the street in the coat and thrilled at how nice it looked in the wild. Eventually, I purchased the coat myself, reluctantly buying into the hype.
I was pleased to find that the coat met many of my requirements for a winter jacket: warm, not terrifically hideous, and long enough to cover my butt. Wearing the coat did not fill me with any particular angst or worry about slavishly following a trend. When I saw other women wearing the coat in New York, which did not happen nearly as often as the trend pieces would suggest, I had no adverse reaction. The coat did not shrink from my body in shame. I did not seek shelter in Uniqlo to self-flagellate while considering other jacket alternatives, desperate to scrub the essence of conformism off my flesh. Other women perhaps saw the value in the coat and, like me, made a smart decision by purchasing and wearing it until winter’s end. We were warm and, if assembled en masse, probably resembled an army of Off-White devotees wearing a thrice-removed knockoff of a street/sportswear hybrid, the original of which never truly existed. Simply put, we were comfortable and we were slouching towards a theory of utilitarian stylishness that was just neutral enough to be inoffensive.
As winter sort of begins, I have felt a thrill at the thought of wearing the coat again. But the backlash to the coat has quietly begun.
A trend piece published Tuesday in the New York Times Style section considers the coat’s wearability one year later, after seemingly every woman in existence who owns the coat has been having a deep existential crisis about whether or not it’s okay to still wear it. Reyhan Harmanci, owner of the coat, considers the implications of wearing an item of clothing that has its own Instagram account, by interviewing a small, select group of women who got the coat last year and are now struggling with the very same philosophical quandary.
In 2019, though, the coat seemed smaller, sadder and definitely dirtier, slumped in the corner of my closet. What happens when the moment for such a specific product passes? Who will be wearing the coat for another year, and who will be sending it to the great clothing bin in the sky?
“I put it on the other day and felt really weird about it,” said Caroline Moss, a writer. “I just felt like I was putting on a meme that was done.”
“I’m so sad that I’m still wearing it,” said Emily Gould, a novelist in Brooklyn.
Harmanci excavates the reasons the coat gained popularity, noting that because it was made by a Chinese manufacturer that also sells sun hats and because it is available only on Amazon, the fact that it spread throughout the greater New York City area like a virus is unusual. “Over and over, when I asked people why they bought their parkas, it came down to word of mouth,” she wrote. “Someone they knew, or followed closely on social media, had sung its praises.”
The very people Harmanci mentions as being over the coat are the ones who influenced her to purchase the coat in the first place, creating a beautiful ouroboros of sourcing, wherein the same people interviewed about whether or not to wear the coat are the ones who influenced the author in the first place.
Ms. Moss bought the coat after a friend, Aminatou Sow, the co-host of the “Call Your Girlfriend” podcast, showed it to her; Ms. Gould and I bought the coat after Ms. Moss tweeted about it.
Influencing works. Harmanci later makes a point about how the coat’s ubiquity is among a certain set of women who represent an updated version of Wednesday Martin’s Primates of Park Avenue: “women wearing athleisure, holding compostable Sweetgreen bowls or pushing strollers that cost as much as six or seven of their parkas.” The main issue is that the jacket’s ubiquity strips away any attempt at personal style because of its omnipresence. It has entered the cultural lexicon as a visual shorthand for conformity, an issue the Times piece grapples with, without saying it outright. The conundrum of the coat is very much an insular one, relegated only to a certain subset of women who would feel concern that wearing a trendy jacket from Amazon is the equivalent of donning a year-old meme.
Wondering when the “moment for such a specific product” has passed is relevant to discussions of products whose actual utility is now obsolete: the fax machine, telephones with cords, cassette tapes. The moment for a winter jacket is now, because winter is coming. I recognize that everyone’s winter coat journey is specific and personal, but debating the merits of a perfectly functional winter coat based purely on the fact that it became a meme is the precise sort of trend piece that is gold for the Times but makes little to no sense for anyone who thinks practically about anything. If you own this jacket and like it, then wear it until the stuffing falls out. Worrying about whether or not the jacket’s continued existence will negatively influence your personal brand means that you don’t really have to worry about other stuff, like whether or not you can afford to buy a new jacket to replace this one. For some, that is a beautiful problem to have.