If there’s one thing a New Yorker never slacks on, it’s owning a top-notch winter coat. Although out of towners laugh at the sight of New Yorkers dressing like they are about to trek across Antarctica, they just don’t get it. Yes, New York isn’t that cold—the average temperature in Jan. is 32°F—but rocking a fly coat is as important as owning a wavy pair of sneakers in this city.
The type of jacket a New Yorker rocks on any given day can identify who you are and what you are into. One can guess that the 40-year-old who just stepped onto a subway car in a rare vintage North Face jacket and ‘92 Polo Bear sweater was someone who was able to stand his ground at West 4th back in the day. Meanwhile, that OG sitting in the corner of the train car with an iced out Pelle Pelle on, probably knew who Cam’Ron was when he was writing bars for Lil Cease in the ‘90s. And that one person in a Canada Goose who refuses to take off their backpack, probably comes from an old money family in the Upper East or Upper West Side or has been eating Top Ramen everyday this past month to pay off his coat.
Obviously, the most “New York” jackets on this list weren’t solely worn or popularized in New York City. But Complex wrote this list to highlight jackets we see everyday on the streets of New York and to describe why these brands have become ubiquitous in this city. Of course, there are also many New Yorkers who struggle to afford coats in the winter, and thanks to New York Cares it only costs $20 to keep our less fortunate neighbors warm.
Here is the definitive guide to New York City outerwear.
The Pelle Pelle
You know a Pelle when you see one. In New York and many other cities, it’s a jacket that demands your undivided attention. The rhinestone studs, raised embossed lettering, color blocking, and insanely detailed embroidery make each leather Pelle a masterpiece in itself. Founded by Marc Buchanan in Detroit in 1978, Pelle Pelle leather jackets were quickly embraced by hip-hop culture. East Coast rappers like Craig Mack, Redman, and even Guru of Gang Starr starred in Pelle Pelle’s ad campaigns through the 1990s. In the 2000s, rappers only made Pelle Pelles even more iconic when rappers like Juelz Santana wore one in music videos such as “Dipset Anthem.” One reason why 50 Cent thinks he popped off? “America got a thing for this gangster shit, they love me/Black Chukkas, black skully, leather Pelle Pelle.”
Even within the brand’s last decade, Pelle Pelle has never lost sight of its roots in hip-hop. New York rappers like French Montana and Casanova appeared in ads for the brand, Pelle Pelle annually produced custom jackets for XXL Freshmen winners, and numerous Supreme leather jackets have been inspired by Pelle Pelles. Unfortunately, the odds of seeing a Pelle Pelle—or any oversized leather jacket—seem to be slimmer among a younger crowd nowadays. But even though Pelle Pelle–which means "leather leather" in Italian–went out of business around December of 2018, it’s still considered to be a revered winter coat Uptown.
The Marmot Mammoth Parka or “Biggie”
The Marmot Mammoth Parka, aka the “Biggie” coat, became one of the most coveted jackets in New York City when it was exclusively sold at Paragon Sports in Union Square. Originally released by Marmot in the ‘80s as a basecamp coat, it popped off on the streets of New York because of its super bright colors. Although many thought it was ridiculous that New York teenagers were spending nearly $600 on a jacket that looked like a Skittle, the Biggie was undeniably a top shelf winter coat worth dropping bread on. The 700-fill coat was shielded by a waterproof Gore-Tex shell, had a removable insulated hood, and multiple pockets—such as a hidden velcro pocket built into the zipper seam nicknamed the “pistol pocket.” Those specs translate into this jacket being the only coat you would ever have to buy if you were tough enough to hold onto it. Like other hyped pieces of clothing, the Biggie became so sought after that it led to some violent crimes—a shooting at Bryant Park pushed Marmot and Paragon to pull the jacket from the New York City market in 2013. But recently, Biggies have been rereleased in the region due to its cult following within New York streetwear. Let’s take a quick moment to remember this iconic video of Harlem’s own Vado dropping bars in a Big Boy.
The Canada Goose
One question that pops up in everyone’s heads when standing on a crowded MTA subway car during winter is: “Why does everyone wear Canada Goose?” Like The North Face, it’s literally impossible to go a single day in New York without seeing that red, white, and blue circle patch in the field. The brand’s most popular model, the Expedition Parka, was originally designed to be worn by scientists in Antarctica for temperatures of -22°F and below. In New York, it’s the go-to outfit on a 40°F day for Yuppies who live on the Upper East and Upper West Side of Manhattan. How did these jackets become so popular in major cities that never really get that cold? Starting in 2010, Canada Goose began sending their jackets to Hollywood celebrities and the brand continuously sponsors major film festivals like Sundance.
It’s difficult to ascertain if Canada Goose wearers are actually looking for superior warmth or just spending upwards of $1,000 for a jacket with an eye-catching logo. Seeing how many fake Canada Goose patches are sold on eBay, and the knockoff “Canada Weather Gear” coats commonly spotted in New York, it’s clear that a large part of Canada Goose’s popularity revolves around its eye-catching logo. It’s always difficult to hear someone explain why they needed to buy a Canada Goose. They always swear it’s about “the quality’ and don’t even know what fill power their coat is.
So are these jackets valid? I’m not going to hold you, the only Canada Goose I ever fucked with is that Lil Uzi song and that oversized Vetements collaboration. At the end of the day, rocking a Canada Goose in New York comes down to just flexin how much bread you’re able to drop on a coat.
The Lo Goose
The Lo Lifes and Lo Heads of New York City won’t settle for anything else. Every year, on a winter night in January, hundreds of Polo Ralph Lauren fanatics converge in Times Square to celebrate “Lo Goose On The Deuce”—an unofficial holiday specifically focused on highlighting the best in Polo Ralph Lauren down jackets. Polo collectors from around the world come to 42nd Street to flex the rarest Lo Gooses that range from Polo’s golden era in the ‘90s to freshly released pieces found in stores today. Although a Lo Goose isn’t for everyone, if you ever wanted to fully understand what rocking a Lo Goose meant to Raekwon as a young youth, just visit Times Square for 15 minutes when this event is popping off.
As explained in Complex’s Ralph Lauren documentary Horse Power, “The Deuce '' were stomping grounds for the shoplifting Lo Lifes before Mayor Rudy Giulani turned 42nd Street into a watered down version of Disneyland. “We used to meet up there to show off what we had and what we caught.” one Lo Life named Rudy-Lo told Complex. In 2020, you won’t see any Lo Lifes robbing Lo Gooses off people’s backs. But you will see their undying love for these jackets at events like “Lo Goose On The Deuce.” Because of that event, New York City is probably the only place in the world where you can see a mob of people wearing rare Polo grails, like the Ghost Skier and Ski ‘92 jackets, in mint condition on the streets.
While bedazzled Pelle Pelles made New Yorkers look like Liberace, in the ‘90s, Avirex leathers made them look like World War II pilots who landed their planes in the Queensbridge projects. Surprisingly, Avirex was launched in 1975 by a Long Islander named Jeff Clyman, a pilot who flew warbirds as a hobby and loved the look of vintage aviator jackets. Despite having a large collection, Clyman realized he couldn’t survive off reselling vintage flight jackets because they were so scarce. So Clyman began remaking them. The brand became so respected for recreating aviator jackets that the U.S. Air Force even tapped the brand to make jackets for their pilots. In the ‘80s, Avirex received a huge boost in popularity when Tom Cruise wore it in his 1986 blockbuster film Top Gun. Subsequently, Avirex opened its first retail store on Broadway in SoHo, Manhattan, which was located just a couple blocks away from Hot 97’s offices. So, New York rappers stopped by the store and picked up Avirex pieces.
According to a story the late Prodigy told Jeff Weiss, Panda P met the other half of Mobb Deep, Havoc, after seeing a goon try to slice through Havoc’s Avirex jacket with a switchblade in midtown Manhattan. “Then Havoc spazzed out and fucked this nigga up. That was my introduction to him," Prodigy told Weiss. Later on, Prodigy really sat in the studio and spit a whole verse about his love of Avirex. Although Avirex’s have been seen on everyone from Biggie to Cam’Ron, the most iconic New York moment for Avirex is likely when Nas wore that white Avirex USA joint in Hype Williams’ 1998 film Belly. That scene when Sincere smokes a blunt with a 12-year-old drug dealer, while trying to convince him to leave that street shit behind, is a tearjerker to this day.
Moncler Maya Jackets
Another way you can tell a New Yorker is really stacking that bread is when he steps onto a train with a crispy af Moncler on. Canada Goose and Moncler are head to head competitors when it comes down to flexin how much money one can spend on a winter coat. The cheapest jacket Moncler offers this season will run you at least $1000 and it doesn’t even come with a hood. Although the 58-year-old brand is known for high fashion collaborations with designers like Matthew Williams and Hiroshi Fujiwara today, Moncler originally launched with sleeping bags and tents. When Moncler started making down jackets in the ‘50s, they were worn by climbers like Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli on expeditions to K2–the second highest mountain in the world.
Moncler has historically been associated with the upper crust sections of New York City. Walk into the luxury supermarket Eataly in the Flatiron and you’ll likely see a couple Tribeca moms rocking Monclers while buying a $45 bottle of white truffle olive oil. But recently, it seems nearly impossible for any Brooklyn Drill rapper to not have a Moncler on. Whoever sold Sheff G, Sleepy Hollow, Pop Smoke, and 22Gz black Moncler Maya coats last year must be eating hella good right now. Of course, we can’t disregard that Moncler Mayas were already popping off four years ago when Drake wore that same coat in red for the “Hotline Bling” video. But it’s nice to see that as Brooklyn Drill has gotten more mainstream attention, these rappers have glowed up from wearing Nike Tech fleeces and Puma tracksuits.
The North Face
Today, a North Face jacket is typically highlighted as the stereotypical staple piece of a supposedly “real” New Yorker. Every corny “deadass” meme ever made shows some photoshopped pop culture character wearing a Yankee fitted, Timbs and a North Face Nuptse jacket. Those memes deliver a decent chuckle, but The North Face’s relationship with New York has always been larger than played out internet memes. In the ‘90s, the heritage outdoor clothing brand was recontextualized as an deified streetwear brand when graffiti writers began boosting it out of high-end outdoor clothing retailers in the tri-state area. Many trendy North Face jackets released in collaboration with Supreme—such as Mountain Lights, Steep Techs, Mountain Jackets, and Trans-Antarctica pieces—were modeled after some of the most popular North Face jackets in ‘90s New York City.
There really isn’t a single North Face piece one can point to which fully encompass the brand’s relationship with New York City. The Nuptse puffer was immortalized on the cover of New York Magazine for Nancy Jo Sales’ 1996 cover story “Prep School Gangsters,” a piece about rich Upper West Side teenagers who hustled drugs and finessed other rich kids who wanted to be down. Skateboarder Harold Hunter belly flopped onto the sidewalk while wearing a 1997 Steep Tech Azimuth in the music video for “1999,” a killer single off of Rawkus Records’ Soundbombing 2 mixtape released that same year. Graffiti writer Earsnot wears a yellow Heli Vest in that memorable Polaroid shot by Ryan McGinley—as the name suggests, IRAK was a graffiti crew well known for racking North Face jackets. Let’s also not forget that Puff Daddy spun an 18-wheeler out of control wearing a coke white Steep Tech Moto jacket in Black Rob’s music video for “Whoa.” You know what kind of jacket you wear while chilling inside an Igloo built in Brownsville, Brooklyn? A North Face McMurdo parka.
If you approach any New Yorker who grew up in the ‘90s loving graffiti and hip-hop, or who was a proud member of the Vintage Gear Addicts forum, they probably have a million stories about what wearing a North Face in New York City meant back then. Those are the people who can really tell you why North Face jackets are considered to be some of the most iconic pieces of “New York” outerwear. Rest in Peace Tent & Trails.