In the first week of November I venture into the attic of my parents’ house. They’re all sat there in bin bags. Look at them. Shiny. Puffy. Swollen. They’re taking up so much room. Self-assured. I reach into one bag, holding my breath, excited as to what I might find. I have precisely four coats that count as Big Coats. Each year my love for them is renewed as I always forget which ones I own. I reach into the bag slowly and, actually, no, this is the wrong bag: this one has all the Christmas decorations in it. The next one – the one that I am sure of this time – sits in waiting.
I press its exterior excitedly and my hand sinks through the plastic bag and into its softness beneath. I pull the hand back and put it to my lips, my heart starting to race. I open the bag and pull out its innards, splaying them all around me, all over me, basking in it. I am enveloped in warmth, down, fake fur. I pull everything all into my arms and bury my face into it, whispering: “It is Big Coat Season.”
I pull a big parka on, feeling like a duvet-wrapped burrito, fur-lined hood pulled around my face, like being put in a headlock by a cloud, and I run out into the street and thrust my face to the sky, like a transformed werewolf howling at the new moon, and shout: “It is Big Coat Season.”
On the train to work, I pass out from heat stroke. But when I come to at Tottenham Court Road, I bound off the carriage and run along the platform, continuing the American Werewolf In London vibe. I burst through the gates and up the stairs, past the freezing commuters who’ve misjudged the weather, and let the biting wind hit me and carry me along, resting assured that no harm can come to me because this is, truly, indisputably, thrillingly, Big Coat Season.
The reasons to love Big Coat Season are abundant, copious, overflowing, and many other synonyms:
I love my Big Coat because I like to be warm; I love my Big Coat because it has lots of pockets; I love my Big Coat because I don’t like gloves, and it kinda feels like you don’t have to have both; I love my Big Coat because I look awful in hats, and it kinda feels like you don’t have to have both there, either; I love my Big Coat because I can stand outside the pub with a beer without worrying about catching a death; I love my Big Coat because they make me feel physically imposing when crossing the road, making cars more likely to stop for me; I love my Big Coat because if I’m very tired I can come home and lay down anywhere and it will be as comfortable as my bed; I love my Big Coat because I can wear a West Ham shirt underneath it when I pop to the shops and nobody will know; I love my Big Coat because I’ve really missed it. I’ve missed all of them.
There has been some dispute as to when Big Coat Season starts, with many suggestions that it only begins in earnest when temperatures start to threaten actual bodily function, that it starts when clouds of water vapor reliably waft from your mouth every time you pretend to be smoking. But I am a man with cold bones, bones like the petrified husk of a sunken pirate ship, and I am more flexible with my demarcation:
I just like Big Coats, man. I don’t mind the odd misjudgement, the odd emergency orange juice to stave off a panic attack brought on by an unexpectedly warm autumn morning. I find it emboldening. It makes me feel alive. For me, my Big Coat is the perfect way to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is Godzilla to winter’s Mothra. When everything is dark and you just want to stay in bed, what better way to carry on than to take your bed with you? A bed you can tuck a decent sized book and a packet of crisps into; a bed you can zip up and wrap around your head?
I have only one expensive Big Coat. Like all important purchases, it involved a lot of forward planning, research, reading reviews, weighing up of positives and negatives, sacrifice, and then drunken spontaneity. A few years back I bought a Woolrich parka on sale; it was expensive, but not as I’m-only-eating-dry-bread-now expensive as its RRP. It was a lot, though, and was the most expensive item I had ever owned. I had saved up for my goal of ‘buying a Big Coat’ – squirreling away money, especially – but struggled to hit go. Were it not for a few Guinnesses on an empty stomach guiding my hand towards an email informing me of a sale on at Oi Polloi, I may never have gotten here. I purchased it unblinkingly, without even taking the steps to pour over the measurement details as I usually would, and I sweated my purchase until it arrived. Had I made a mistake? It was cold, certainly, but would it ever get this cold?
Khaki-green, down-filled, fur-lined: it is undoubtedly a Big Coat. It is, in many ways, the Biggest Coat. It is definitive. It is a shield against the world. Did I need a shield? Turns out: yes. Late at night, walking home, in this Big Coat, I feel unassailable. It is a statement piece, requiring me to dress the rest of my body unthinkingly, but in a relatively un-showy way. Even my dad approves of this coat. It is arrogant in its extreme functionality. It has no reflective patches or technical details: it is an ordinary coat made extraordinarily well. If Steve Jobs had the black turtleneck and jeans as his brain-space-saving uniform, mine is a hysterically over-puffed parka with a hood so large that it makes me immediately fall asleep when I put it up. When I wear it, people say things like “That looks cosy” or “Fucking hell” – I love that: the Big Coat should inspire equal parts envy and consternation: people should feel first “I want that coat” and then “Why don’t I have a Big Coat on yet?”
Walking down the street, other people in Big Coats give me a nod. I eat up their acceptance like cake. I don’t even care if I’ve imagine their head-movements at this point: that I feel these nods could exist is enough.
As Amanda Mull wrote brilliantly on Racked, “Fashion is, among other things, an opportunity to buy into an idea of yourself.” Like in a turtleneck, I am my best self in a Big Coat. As a boy from a working class family, I have always known the longing for a Big Coat and the power that an expensive item of clothing can have on the psyche. Not to kiss capitalism’s arse too much, but I had gotten myself to a place where I could afford one, warming both my bones and my self-esteem. Big Coat Season is here once again, and I couldn’t be happier.