Homer once wrote this, about Odysseus’s long-awaited reunion with his wife Penelope:
And as when the land appears welcome to men who are swimming,
after Poseidon has smashed their strong-built ships on the open
water, pounding it with the weight of wind and the heavy
seas, and only a few escape the gray water landward
by swimming, with a thick scurf of salt coated upon them,
and gladly they set foot on the shore, escaping the evil;
so welcome was her husband to her as she looked upon him,
and she could not let him go from the embrace of her white arms.
Yet Homer may as well have also been talking about ME and my winter coat. On the first truly cold day of the year, when I take my big, puffy baby out of storage, I, too, like to wax poetic about our reunion. What has it been, nearly a year? I say tenderly in my mind and also out loud to my jacket.
Some like to complain when the fierce and noble winds of winter roll in, and that is because they do not have a proper cold weather jacket that is also their best friend. Even on the coldest days you will see people walking around the streets of Manhattan in fashionable and expensive pea coats, but they are miserable on the inside and on the outside, because they are too cold. I stroll confidently if not attractively past those people in my extremely large and bulky jacket and say “excuse me” because it is difficult to not brush up against everything, all while snuggling deeper into my soft hood.
Some people go as far as to move to Los Angeles because they cannot handle the “weather” in New York, which is to say they don’t own a warm enough coat. To prove this, I texted two friends who made the devil’s trip and asked if they did it because they did not own a proper winter jacket. “Well, no,” my friend Emma, who recently moved to LA, responded. “BUT i didn’t own a proper winter coat in NY until like 5 years in and it changed my life.” We’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.
I asked another friend, Leah, who also moved to LA from New York, the same question with the additional request that she “please be HONEST.” She texted back: “i bought the world’s most perfect, once in a lifetime winter jacket once on a trip in woodstock and then it was STOLEN from baby’s alright in january and i swear to g i moved the following sept.” Thank you, Leah.
Now, instead of these friends, I have my winter jacket. My coat is brown like a bear and large, also like a bear. It feels as light as a blade of grass yet provides me with a warmth unparalleled. When donned, I am a nondescript king. The pockets are deep enough to sink my hands in, even if I am also holding something important like a phone or a candle. More than once I have fallen asleep within my jacket’s embrace.
Yes, winter coats can be prohibitively expensive, but they don’t have to be. (If you own a $1,000 Canada Goose jacket I will assume that you are a Bloomberg voter and that you are also my enemy.) My coat, which is a Uniqlo-Jil Sander collaboration, cost me $180 and has served me faithfully for seven winters straight with no signs of stopping, including many years spent in central and upstate New York. A friend told me that she got her beloved winter coat, a men’s Carhartt jacket, from a thrift store for $20 and it finally made her realize “what a warm winter coat should be.” (If you have more than one still-functioning winter coat, consider donating to a local coat drive so everyone can enjoy the season in warmth.)
Yet some people apparently choose not to wear weather-appropriate attire not because of cost, but because they think it looks ugly. I asked my friend Haley, the person from the coldest place I can think of (Canada) who also happens to be a fashion writer, whether you can wear a large, puffy big boy while still looking hot. “If I’m going to be a big marshmallow man I have to make that the fit, you know what I mean? It’s when you try to ignore the size of the coat that it starts looking stupid,” she tells me. “Just embrace walking around in a sleeping bag and experiment with different pant widths and lengths underneath, that’s my style advice.”
When the snow begins to melt, and the supple seeds of spring rise up again, I will put my faithful coat away in favor of a lighter wool or a jean jacket. But while my other outerwear might be interchangeable, my winter puff is not. And unlike my friends who moved to LA, she will be waiting for me next winter and also, I imagine, at the end of the world.