Photography by George Elder

The bi-annual, multi-city clothing rodeo touched down in New York this past week, narrowly missing a snowstorm that delivered on its hype, but still finding the coldest day on recent record. On said day, French outerwear company Moncler decided to show outside, but only after it was dark and the temperatures dropped to their full potential. Those who huddled around for the show must have been standing still outside for the first time all week. 

The proposition of February’s fashion shows is that you’re going to rush around town for nine days balancing grace, warmth, and practicality. To the degree any of it is particularly graceful or practical was never the point. To put it another way: Fashion Week in the winter is people putting on coats to go look at other people wearing newer coatsor at least different coatsand taking pictures of each other wearing coats, for others still, who will then write about all the coats. (Apparently, inside of fashion shows, they still show dresses and the like.)

The attention heaped upon the attendees of fashion shows has hit a critical mass. There has been a general move as of late, at least by professionals, to place the emphasis back on the shows, and to dress oneself for form and function rather than full display. Sure, you dress well, but if you’re working, you want to be comfortable, and it’s the middle of winter on the eastern seaboard. As soon as one of these 10-minute shows is over, it’s on to the next—regardless of the weather.

This season’s sidewalks displayed every iteration of the three-quarters’ length topcoat; camels and plaids, gortex and heavy wool all got their play. Double breasted was a quirk that kept repeating itself. Shearling planted its flag back in the popular imagination through some feat of revivalism. The ’70s might have a dignified say in the male silhouette after all, especially where turtlenecks are concerned. In my mind, I see this as a hopeful peek into a future when it’s the casual ’90s turn to get dressed up (the time is almost here) and we see bedazzled, white Pelle Pelle leathers draped over Italian blazers with the power shoulders. For now, however, we have those odd hems on shearlings, and pants cut at or above the ankle.

As palettes (temporarily) cool, patterns reign themselves back in, and updates on jackets your dad owned creep into the marketplace, you are reminded that the fashion-ninja Rick Owens devotee is a subset, not a standard in the world of commercial clothing. Regardless of the demographic, the focus is on clothing that looks good in motion. It’s the point of seeing clothes on a model instead of in a magazine, and it’s how you choose what to wear in the morning. In the drab, subtlety can shine, and as a gust of cold wind hits your unbelted teddy coat, you can feel the comfort of walking through midtown in an open bathrobe.