On a chilly Thanksgiving afternoon, a group of 40 men in their 20s trooped through New York’s Times Square wearing hooded Gore-Tex winter jackets in so many different colors they looked like brand reps for the M&M World store nearby. Through the course of an hour more people wearing the coat arrived, and began geeking out over each other's coats and discussing different colorways like "Barney Purple" or "Smurf Blue." Tourists coming out of the candy store quickly trudged through the sizeable crowd on the corner, giving off anxious looks to the group who were smoking blunts in oversized jackets with B.B. Simons belts and fitted Yankee hats.
This group gathered to celebrate “Biggie Day,” an unofficial holiday created by hardcore fans of the “Biggie” coat or the Marmot Mammoth Parka. Dubbed the Biggie, or “Big Boy,” due to it’s baggy and oversized look, the jacket—along with garments like The North Face Nuptse or a bedazzled leather Pelle Pelle—is a New York City outerwear staple. A large majority of the attendees hailed from East Harlem, but also came from from neighborhoods in the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn. The coat, which originally retailed for $575 without tax, was first introduced by Marmot in the ‘80s as a basecamp coat but was later popularized on the streets of New York when it was sold exclusively at the Paragon Sports flagship location in Union Square from 2009 to 2013. But after a string of violent crimes surrounding the jacket took place in New York City, which culminated with a shooting in 2013 at an ice skating rink in Bryant Park that left a teenager paralyzed from the waist down, Paragon and Marmot agreed to pull the jacket from shelves in 2013.
But its disappearance from the New York market never stopped its cult following. Compared to the first annual Biggie Day held last year, the event’s organizers say the number of attendees has doubled. And their love of the jacket has extended to wearing coats from Supreme and a Bathing Ape that were inspired by the original Biggie. Less than six years after it was pulled from Paragon Sports, celebrities and Instagram influencers have endorsed it, and a Biggie culture has emerged in countries like Japan.
One attendee of Biggie Day, a 26-year-old East Harlem native named Jeremy Hernandez, arrived to the event wearing a dark purple Biggie from the early 2000s. He says he’s owned at least 10 Biggies in his lifetime and excitedly logs onto Facebook to show an old picture of himself when he was a teenager. He’s wearing a red Biggie from 2009 with Hollister sweatpants. It was the first Biggie he ever purchased.
“I took this picture the day I got it. If you peep my eye, you see someone tried to jump me for my shit, and I took this picture and posted it on Facebook to show n****s that I still had it,” says Hernandez who remembers when walking Uptown on Lexington Avenue in East Harlem with a Biggie was a sure fire way to get robbed, therefore Biggie owners had to be prepared to fight for their coat. “I knew certain n****s that used to have the coat and not leave their hood. They used to just wear it on their block, and then switch up to go outside the block.”
But hardcore Biggie collectors attest that times have changed for a garment that was once pedestaled as the blood diamond of winter coat robberies in New York City. And brands, retailers, and Marmot understand there’s a demand for colorful, puffy, winter coats due to a resurging interest in ‘90s fashion. In addition to Paragon Sports picking it back up, other local retailers officially began stocking the coat in stores again. This follows an Opening Ceremony collaboration with Marmot last year, which officially re-introduced the jacket to the New York metropolitan area for the first time in five years.
“We did a collab with Opening Ceremony last Fall and it sort of blew up,” says Marmot’s Brand Manager Chris Harges. “A whole bunch of dealers who hadn't carried the jacket, or hadn't carried Marmot for a while, approached us over the past year and said, ‘Hey, can we restock that jacket?’ So, that's why you're seeing it in those stores.”
Marmot has been selling the Biggie, or Mammoth Parka, since 1982 and Harges says it was never actually pulled out of the brand’s product line. “It may have fallen out for a season or two in certain geographies, but it's been in our core line for over 30 years,” says Harges. “So it all depends on which dealers decide to stock that item in a given season.” Although Harges believes it was pulled out of Paragon Sports due to the crimes surrounding the jacket, he also thinks a Biggie jacket could have possibly been sold within the last six years at a random Marmot dealership in Aspen, Colorado, or elsewhere. But why the jacket hasn’t resurfaced earlier in a bigger way is likely because it’s not what most outdoor retailers are looking for.
“Our accounts are elite outdoor specialty accounts and most of those guys are buying stuff that's specific to skiing or mountaineering,” says Harges. “On the other hand, The Mammoth is super warm and super heavy, it’s more suited for use at base camp or in the arctic. In outdoor specialty stores, it's just not that popular of an item.”
But in the world of New York streetwear, where heavy outerwear is a game that’s taken just as seriously as sneakers, the Marmot Mammoth Parka is a coat that’s never been taken for granted. “I honestly liked that it was technical and it's actually warm. There's a lot of expensive coats, but I feel like people back in the day just wanted to look nice and not warm,” says Miguel Rodriguez, a 24-year-old East Harlem native who helped organize Biggie Day. “To this day, these are the most down-filled jackets you can buy for a good price.” A month after Paragon Sports restocked the jacket in November for a sticker price of $575, it has completely sold out of its teal blue colorway online and currently has only one size left in yellow or gray colors. Although Paragon Sports refused to comment on this story, collectors feel the risk of getting killed or robbed for the jacket has quelled since the store pulled the jacket from its shelves six years ago.
“Times have changed now because everybody getting money now. N****s ain't worried about robbing people for coats anymore,” says Biggie Day creator Felix Thillet, a 25-year-old “Biggie ambassador” from East Harlem who runs a cult Instagram Biggie fan page named @marmotmammoth. Thillet, who brought his first Biggie a year before they were officially discontinued at Paragon Sports, is a Biggie obsessive who has an encyclopedic memory of every Biggie that was ever released at the New York City sporting goods store. He proudly says he’s only three Biggies away from being able to say he’s owned every Biggie that was ever released exclusively at Paragon. Although Thillet says Biggies were well known in the hood throughout the ‘90s and early 2000s, it was when the jackets became exclusively sold in Paragon Sports that colors became more attractive to young kids like himself—he remembers seeing his first Biggie in middle school.
“The only colors they had before that were like dark red, black, gray, dark blue, dark orange, and a light yellow,” says Thillet. “After 2009, they started dropping super bright colors like neon green, bright purple, magenta purple, traffic cone orange and other nice colors with even gold or silver guts [lining]. That's when people started really liking them.” Harges could not explain why the brand decided to release the jackets in brighter colors, but says producing coats in multiple, bright colorways is typical within the outerwear industry.
Shortly after the jackets were discontinued from Paragon, Thillet began scavenging for them on Craigslist, local Facebook groups, and by asking older heads on the block if they had any they were willing to let go. Typically, he would pay $150 to $300 for a coat. But nowadays Thillet says the jacket is becoming more difficult to find and resell for that price. The few Paragon exclusive Biggies currently available on e-commerce sites like Grailed are selling for $1,000-$2,000 and older listings have sold for $600-$1,000. As a joke, Thillet once posted a Biggie for $2,000 on the site two years ago. To his surprise, someone in Japan brought it for $1,200.
“There are many things that make me feel like a New Yorker. Like a blue Yankees fitted with a gray brim or ‘Beef and Broccoli’ Timberland field boots. The Marmot Biggie is just like that,” says Takayuki Ohashi, the owner of the Japanese clothing boutique, The Apartment Tokyo. Ohashi’s store primarily specializes in selling clothing that represents urban New York City fashion. Last year, The Apartment officially collaborated with Marmot to bring the jacket to Japan. One Biggie, which the Apartment Tokyo released this year, recently ended up in the hands of A$AP Ferg. “There are so many customers overseas who wanted to buy it and most of them are from New York,” says Ohashi. “It convinced me that this jacket will always be a New York thing."
Internationally, the Biggie has become an unmistakable icon of New York City style, similar to vintage Polo, ‘90s North Face jackets, and Timbs. “We’ve shipped our Baby Biggies to South Korea, London, and Japan,” says Ivan Rivera, the founder of Little Giants Giant Shorties, a Brooklyn-based children’s streetwear brand that started producing a bootleg toddler’s version of the Biggie last year. “We’ve shipped over 12 seperate orders to Japan.”
The Biggie’s wider popularity outside of New York City could partially be indebted to celebrities and Instagram influencers. Supreme’s version of the Biggie, which dropped in 2015 and is named the “Uptown Parka,” has been worn by the likes of Kanye West, Travis Scott, and Playboi Carti. Young Harlem fashion icons like Bloody Dior and Bloody Osiris have frequently been photographed wearing the Opening Ceremony, Supreme, and Paragon Biggies.
“It’s been coming to the point where the people who we are inspired by, such as ASAP Rocky and other fashionistas from Harlem like my boy Bloody Osiris, have the image to wear something and it inspires people beyond locals,” says 23-year-old Biggie Day attendee, Guy Angel Nerys, who is from East Harlem. “They'll look at these guys and comment ‘Yo, bro, where did you get that coat?’ It's usually an Instagram picture that blows people’s minds.”
Harges says Marmot is very aware of the coat’s cult following—he has come across the @marmotmammoth Instagram account. “It's part of what you're seeing in wider fashion. First that ‘80s look and color palette came back, then it moved into a ‘90s color palette with ‘90s styling,” says Harges. “When that happens in the wider fashion world, people will go back to outdoor brands and re-appropriate some of the styles from the past, if they can get them."
With the rising popularity of the Biggie comes an opportunity for hardcore collectors to recast the jacket’s negative image. Biggie Day doubled as a community Thanksgiving food drive. One of the most iconic elements of a Biggie jacket is its hidden velcro pocket built into the zipper seam nicknamed the “pistol pocket.” Some attendees used it to hold cans of food. After a solid horde of collectors arrived, the mass of Biggies assembled for a group photo at the red TKTS staircase on Duffy’s Square. They then went into the crosswalk and stopped oncoming traffic in the middle of Times Square to pop off a bottle of champagne and get another picture to commemorate the event. The one photo left to shoot on Biggie Day? A group photo in front of Paragon Sports before heading home for Thanksgiving dinner. They quickly ran into the subway station and effortlessly glided over subway turnstiles wearing jackets twice their size to catch a train to Union Square—unfortunately the group dispersed before getting to the shop.
“If you look now, there’re mad n****s from different areas. Back in the day, you couldn't do this,” says Hernandez. “There's still some people who are threatening to rob people’s coats and ruin the events. But at the end of the day, there are too many people here to really do that. So as long as everybody got a level head, this is a good opportunity for everybody to build, especially in New York as a whole.”