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When did parkas go from being a wardrobe workhorse to a status symbol?


Yoga pants have struck again. The enormous athleisure fashion trend they helped create has sucked in a whole new category of clothing: the once lowly snow jacket. And now we’re expected to pay mortgage-payment money for the previously utilitarian item.

But what else are you going to wear with satin joggers but a $1,500 Canada Goose parka, or a $2,360 Moncler coat, or a $3,095 Burberry puffer?

As fashion industry analyst Marshal Cohen explained, a person of fashion certainly can’t parade around in active wear and a long wool coat.

“That’s like wearing dress shoes with a workout outfit,” said Cohen, of the NPD Group.


Snow jackets are following the same trajectory taken by jeans — transitioning from functional apparel to fashion statement, with rising prices to match.

The “comfort zone” for spending on a winter jacket has risen from the $35 to $100 range to a $100 to $300 range, he said. But that’s low compared to what some of the best-known labels are charging for their coats.

Although there are more expensive jackets on the market than those sold by Canada Goose, the firm’s marketing campaign has made it the poster parka for high-end outerwear. You cannot stroll through downtown Boston these days without seeing ads featuring mussed-haired millennials in their cozy Canada Goose.

Earlier this year BuzzFeed ran a quiz asking readers, “Can you pick the most expensive Canada Goose parka?” (Hint: It’s not the “Chateau,” which, at $900, is only the fifth most expensive. The winning answer was the $1,500 “Snow Mantra.”)

The jackets have become so well-known as a status symbol that last winter they became a target for thieves at Boston University, according to BU Today . As a school detective told the paper: “A Canada Goose jacket is probably twice as valuable as an iPhone.”


In addition to signalling that you’ve got $1,000 to drop on a snow jacket, the garments also signal another status symbol, said Susan Fournier, a professor of marketing at Boston University Questrom School of Business.

“Our society has shifted a little bit from things conveying status to experiences,” she said. “It’s where you go, and what you do, that confer status. It’s not, ‘I’m going to Vegas,’ but ‘I’m going scuba diving in the Mariana Trench.

“You have the possibility for this whole new category to give you credentials,” she said.

And in 2016, what says “I’m rich and outdoorsy” better than an expedition-worthy snow jacket?

Happily, it’s still possible to survive the winter in a non-designer jacket from a big box retailer or a reasonably priced department store.

But for those who need a story with their outerwear, it’s going to cost you.

On the Trek Inn website, the text accompanying Patagonia’s $400-plus Stormdrift 3 in 1 parka reads: “From moving cattle to mending fence, ranch work requires a good horse, no crying and a warm, rugged coat that is versatile enough to wear to town.”

North Face customers interested in the $599 “Dihedral Shell Jacket” can be rest assured that the jacket is good if you want to “navigate extreme mountain environments” and is “patterned for vertical movement and also features harness-friendly pockets and a helmet-compatible hood.”

For $1,000, the outdoor retailer Columbia really delivers: The “OutDry Extreme” long parka is “perfect for arctic exploration and was the parka of choice by an Iditarod racer in 2015.”


The Iditarod. That sounds so glamorous. But I’m wondering if it isn’t just a bit too much, at least for my life. How about a jacket that is the parka of choice for dog walking. I’d like to see more moderately priced jackets that tell a more realistic story.

Such as: The Schlepper. Tested by suburban mothers, this jacket will take you from your heated, if messy, home, down your driveway (there’s too much junk in the garage to park the car there) to the kids’ school, where you will stay in your heated car, to the Dunkin’ drive through, and back home again.

Beth Teitell can be reached at beth.teitell@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @BethTeitell.