Reporting by Laura Block. Photos by Kshithija KJ Mulam. Interviews have been edited for content and clarity.
Laura Tremblay, Barnard College sophomore from Miami, Florida.
I’m from Miami so I never needed [a winter coat]. Occasionally I went for debate to some place that was cold and I would just layer like 7 hoodies, so that was my go-to. And then at Barnard [admitted students weekend], I came up to visit and stay a night and it was freezing. …
[My friend from NYU] already had winter coats because she went to Vail for skiing—and I never did any of that—so she helped me pick one out. … I decided to get a suede one cause it was April I feel like that’s a good time to get one of those. …
So I got to college and used that coat everyday; it was like my best friend for the fall. And then winter really came along and I was like, “This is not sufficient.” So I got one of those big puffer coats cause it was really cold and also I didn’t realize about layering. … So when I bought the coat it fit me good but without layers, with a T-shirt. Then I got a big coat that like was big under me but then I could fit like a 1000 layers under it. … I was living with my roommate Eca from Connecticut, she gave me a low down; she taught me how to layer.
Pranav Arora, SEAS junior from New Delhi, India.
I think it was a little confusing to buy my first winter coat because I come from a place that doesn’t really require one and it’s pretty hot there. I was very confused about what size and how big and wide and warm it has to be to survive a New York City winter, which I had never been in. … My freshman year suitemate who lived in the city all his life was nice enough to guide me through the process and we looked at things online. We ended up ordering it online and I found a good discount on Macy’s. …
[Wearing a winter coat for the first time] felt quite heavy. … All your life you’ve been wearing a smaller coat and suddenly you have this huge thing which can protect you from a blizzard.
Natasha Simadibrata, Columbia College first-year from Jakarta, Indonesia.
My mom was visiting from Indonesia in my first semester … and she came to stay a bit longer because she knew winter was coming ... and I was so unprepared. We went downtown to SoHo and we looked at all the stores.
The only thing that I knew about coats before coming to New York was that you had to get Canada Goose because, I don’t know, that’s what all the Indonesians get. … But I didn’t really like Canada Goose that much. It seemed a little stiff for me, and honestly I didn’t want to be basic.
There’s definitely a lot of people who want to have it for the brand, but I feel like there are also other people who genuinely think that it’s a warm coat. But also at the same time, I feel like it’s overrated.
Joel-Isaac Musoki, Columbia College sophomore from London, UK.
My first pair of winter boots was last year during freshman year, it got ridiculously cold and I just couldn’t really handle it anymore.
I just happened to come to this shop and there was a huge sale and I was like woah that’s crazy. So it was kind of on a whim; I wasn’t prepared to pay that much money. … But then I was like, oh, yeah, you know that this is fantastic, this is on sale so I got it and I was proud of myself.
[Discussing Canada Goose jackets] Although Canada Goose might have connotations of wealth … it’s now become so widespread that I don’t think, I personally, would no longer associate Canada Goose with high wealth ... even people who maybe come from disadvantaged backgrounds who may really sacrifice to buy these kind of coats because one, they are actually reliable, they are super warm, they’re big, and it seems like almost everyone is wearing them now.
“Are you suggesting... because Canada Goose is 1000 and upwards”
Wait really? I didn’t even know that! What!? Are you having a laugh? Okay, well, that’s ridiculous...
How much did you think they cost?
Jesus! I thought Canada Goose jackets were maybe like $200 and I was like, that’s a lot, that’s pricey ... I can’t afford that. Gee! Oi, over 100 dollars? This is ridiculous. What? Okay. Backtrack … Number one, that’s ridiculous, number two, low income people can never ever afford that. I didn’t actually realise that CG were actually so expensive so my apologies for that. We learn something new every day.
Trisha Sinha, Columbia College sophomore from Taipei, Taiwan.
I was with my parents. It was when I first came and they moved me in. The reason why they came with me was because they were super worried about how it gets during the winter. Them being from really hot places, like my dad’s from India, my mom is from Taiwan, they were always worried about me keeping warm so they wanted to come and buy the warmest jacket. This was during the summer so it was kind of a waste of space in my closet for a long time.
Zoey Massey, Barnard College sophomore from Fort Myers, Florida.
My mom is from Minnesota so she kind of knew what I was gonna need. But I didn’t believe her that it was gonna be as cold as it was. … [The first coat I bought] worked last year but it’s waist length and not as heavy, and it was fine because last year was a warmer winter. But I got this coat a couple weeks ago because I came back from break and I thought this is not gonna work. …
Getting this coat I knew that it needed to be over my butt and have a hood cause the other one doesn’t have a hood, so I definitely knew what I wanted this time round. …
[It cost] more than I wanted to spend but it was also what I knew I needed to spend. And my parents helped with it. Cause it’s an expensive coat.
Sam Cordner, Columbia College junior from Norfolk, UK.
My first year I didn’t have [a winter coat]. I had a normal jacket thing that I had from England. And then my second year I think I bought one just at the start of spring semester. … Part of [waiting so long] probably was the cost, especially my first year because I didn’t have jobs straight away so I was kind of tighter for money. But also the winter that year wasn’t that cold. …
When I saw it in [House of Fraser] I think it was about 350 pounds and I think I paid like 120 on Amazon, which I thought was a pretty good deal given that a lot of people wear 1000-dollar jackets.
Michael Chu, Columbia College sophomore from Singapore.
It was the summer before coming [to college] and I realized that I need an actual winter coat. … I was just online shopping with my mom [and we] just got it shipped to Columbia. Everything was on sale during the summer anyways. …
[My mum] has some experience with [winter coats] for sure. We knew that we didn’t want a flashy name brand coat … because of the potential of it being stolen.
I feel like the stereotype [of people with high priced winter coat brands] is somewhat justified because you don’t need to pay that much to get a winter coat that will last you, because it doesn’t get that cold to the point where you need a super insulated jacket. … It definitely is a luxury item, and a very high-cost luxury item at that.