New York Times’ fashion photographer Bill Cunningham once said that the best fashion show takes place on the street. While Amherst College fashion may not be New York City fashion (Bean Boots replace six-inch heels), Amherst fashion still tells the story of our students.
Because this winter has made it almost impossible to even unzip our jackets in between snowstorms, outerwear has gained a new level of importance — jackets now appear as our only vehicle of self-expression. As college students who must bare the elements for class, we’re in our winter jackets during most encounters with our peers. In fact, we are probably recognized or known by our winter jackets. What follows are the stories of a few Amherst students and their winter coats.
The frigid temperatures and cold wind gusts of a New England winter may cut the skin of West Coast natives with an exceptionally severe amount of pain. For some, winter marks new experiences and new adventures.
California native and sophomore Katie Warshaw fumbles around her desk on Frost’s A-level for her phone to show me a picture of her jacket. As she scrolls through the photographs, she describes her jacket as “a standard black puffy coat.” It’s not the jacket’s aesthetic that causes Katie’s excitement, it’s the coat’s technical components that really capture the West Coaster. Indeed, it’s with a refined enthusiasm that Katie describes the uniqueness of the jacket’s temperature-stabilizing lining: “It has an interior lining that keeps the temperature stable. So when I am outside it keeps me really, really warm. But then when I have to wear it inside, I am never too hot.”
While now amused by her own level of excitement, Katie proudly announces, “It’s my first winter jacket.” She continues, “Since it’s my first winter jacket, it feels like a part of me. It is a very personal thing. It’s come to represent my transition from California to Amherst. Plus, I’ve had a lot of good times in the coat.”
While fellow California native and sophomore Judd Leibman may have his big black Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) puffy to keep him warm now, a year ago Judd could not have said the same thing — as he didn’t have a winter jacket.
“I was really homesick last February,” Judd recalls. “So my parents came to visit me and when they saw how unprepared I was for a New England winter, we went immediately to EMS.”
Judd also did not forget one very important detail: as I left his cubical in the library, he remembered to tell me that EMS has a great student discount: “Put that in your article,” he said. “Students should know that.”
Freshman Gaby Edzie from Massachusetts rocks a more casual look in her new black Patagonia jacket with adjustable hood. Although she loves her jacket, Gabby did not expect to be on the market for a new one this year, but was the victim of a near rite-of-passage for many Amherst students when she lost her former winter coat at the Socials. The timing could not have been worse, as weather reports were predicting yet another snowstorm.
“I ordered my jacket during the snowstorm, so it got backordered.” Gabby recalls. “I had overnighted it, but it arrived a week later because of snow.”
Despite having to wait a week, Gabby reports a positive experience with Patagonia; she called customer service to inquire about the jacket’s postponed arrival, “the Patagonia costumer service guy was great. He offered me free shipping, which was really nice.”
But in terms of the style, while the adjustable hood is a major selling point (Gabby is fascinated by the hood’s ability to tighten to her head size), it is ultimately her familiarity with the brand that led her to select another Patagonia item, as she says,“I already had a Patagonia fleece which I loved because of its warmth. I wanted a jacket that I could layer. So I chose a lighter weight Patagonia shell.”
Plus, Gaby liked that the jacket was short, despite the growing trend of longer winter coats. But a Patagonia jacket is not without a little flare of its own, as Gaby observes, “It is really flattering because it’s tailored in at the waist.”
Sophomore Kiko Aebi has found a way to keep her winter coat warm and classic while stepping away from the ubiquitous black puffer. Her grandmother, who was a seamstress, made Kiko’s favorite winter jacket. Kiko proudly shows off her grandmother’s incredible craftsmanship (the neatness and tightness of the stiches) as she announces that the coat was made the in the 1980s. While her grandmother had originally made the jacket herself, Kiko discovered it while cleaning out her grandmother’s closet after she passed away. But it was not the jacket’s contemporary style that Kiko was originally drawn to, as the coat was floor length and had to be shortened if she wanted to wear it; it’s a high quality jacket and evokes traditional Japanese style. Indeed, the jacket has traditional kimono sleeves and drop shoulders. It is a wrap style.
“Wearing the jacket not only brings me closer to my grandmother,” Kiko remarked, “But also my Japanese heritage.”
Sam Javit’s winter coat represents a new trend among boys towards a more formal look. “My aunt works at Ralph Lauren and gets a huge discount,” Sam says with enthusiasm. He explained that every year for his birthday, his aunt takes him shopping at Manhattan’s Madison Avenue Ralph Lauren store. For his twentieth birthday, he recieved a winter jacket. To mark the new decade, Sam wanted a more mature look, which is what ultimately led him to his final decision — a jacket that combines the best of Woolrich and Barbour with a cinched waist.
It’s true that good fashion can be found on the streets … or in Frost Library. Even in temperatures falling below zero, Amherst fashion can be seen in something as simple as the practical warm winter coat. With the (eventual) arrival of spring, Amherst students undoubtedly have more of an opportunity to show off their newest looks. Better start planning!