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In Praise of Ditching Your Basic Outerwear for Something Obnoxious This Winter

A colorful statement coat can help your personal style shine through, no matter how soul-sucking the winter weather can get.
Photo: Imaxtree

Photo: Imaxtree

I'm not some sort of masochist: I don't delight in winter or appreciate the cold, or even particularly enjoy being outdoors at all, unless it's for the purpose of eating and/or drinking. (And even then, let's move this party into a temperature-controlled space, shall we?) However, I will admit that, like many other women, I look forward to pulling my collection of blindingly colorful, loud, deeply and truly impractical outerwear from the depths of my closet each year as the temperatures begin to drop.

It never really occurred to me that my coat collection — featuring two leopard-print numbers and a square-shouldered faux fur piece that gives me the delicate silhouette of a vulture — could potentially be considered a form of feminist protest. That is, until reports surfaced recently that a number fragile men were quite "unnerved" by a very pink, very awesome faux fur coat by Apparis, currently listed on Rent the Runway.

As originally tweeted by Hayley MacMillen, one satisfied customer's husband told her: "I'm not supposed to like [the coat]. I'm supposed to notice it." Another Rent the Runway reviewer said her spouse was "embarrassed" to be seen out with her in it; a third wrote that her man "seemed shocked by the color, but my regular winter coat is bright orange, so he shouldn't be surprised." Who knew that a piece of non-basic outerwear could be so polarizing? 

First of all, these men are clearly suffering from an impairment of either vision or good taste, because the aforementioned coat is objectively great. But more importantly, anyone who reacts to an over-the-top piece in any way that is not immediately offering to take your picture for Instagram because damn, you look fantastic is, in the most diplomatic of terms, boring as hell.

I brought home my first pink, rather obnoxious coat from an East Village boutique a few years ago. This particular garment was a soft shade of bubblegum, with textured faux fur and prominent shoulder pads that looked more fit for an SEC linebacker than a journalist. In other words, it was the outerwear equivalent of a large, rose-colored yak. Sure, this fluff monster was not the type of thoughtfully considered investment piece that could withstand decades of blizzards or several ski trips in Aspen (or whatever it is that physically fit people do during winter). But I wouldn't be caught dead subjecting myself to something akin to scaling a mountain during a snowstorm — or, more realistically, living somewhere colder than New York — anytime soon.

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So I bought it. I went back and forth about returning it, but my husband — who possesses both the good eyesight and healthy self-esteem necessary to approve of my head-turning coats – convinced me to keep it. He told me it was very "me," and I knew he meant it as a compliment.

Photo: Imaxtree

Photo: Imaxtree

I love this coat for other reasons, too. With just one extra (see what I did there?) layer, I look like the kind of pulled-together person who is capable of constructing creative outfits all year long. (This is actually a far departure from who I actually am: A person who recycles Dianne Keaton's look from "Something’s Gotta Give" on repeat from early December until late March.) When I power-walk to the subway with my headphones blaring under a shield of synthetic hairs blowing in the wind, that pink yak of a coat makes me feel like an impenetrable, pastel puffball — like a cheerful blur of candy-colored fluff in a sea of depressing, black sack-like parkas. It truly helps make me feel like "me" again whenever I wear it, no matter how soul-sucking the winter weather can get. Better yet, it reminds me that I'm in the company of people who don't want me to be anyone other than exactly who I am.

If you find comfort in zipping a black, elements-proof, sleeping-bag-adjacent coat over your person and carrying on with your day, I get it. Rock on, my friend. Survive the seasonal depression-inducing hell hole that is winter in whatever way suits your style. But if anyone in your orbit makes you feel like you should be wearing a "normal" coat — the kind that could only call attention to you if a big sign reading "LOOK RIGHT OVER HERE, BUDDY" was slapped on the back of it — this person is not equipped to handle your awesomeness. Statement coats are not embarrassing, even if non-fashion people (or super-lame significant others) might consider them outrageous. You know what is embarrassing? Dulling someone else's shine because you're uncomfortable in your own skin.

Personally, if I must continue trudging through New York in freezing cold temperatures for several more months, you will only catch me doing so while wearing the kind of absurd coats that get me constant double-takes and attention from strangers and friends alike. Winter can feel fucking eternal, and the best way I know how to survive it is by surrounding myself with people who accept me for my (loud, kind of impractical, a little obnoxious) style. This, much like my preferred outerwear, makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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