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The coolest thing at cold colleges: Warm $700-plus Canada Goose coats

Boston University's marketing and communications team asked students to describe their most important piece of winter survival gear. (Video: BU Today)
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BOSTON — If you’ve never heard of Canada Goose, you probably haven’t been walking around college campuses in the frigid Northeast recently.

The Canada Goose reference in this case is not to the animal species (with white patches on their face, black head and neck and brown bodies) but rather to a brand of goose down coats with coyote fur trimming on the hood that many say are at least as warm as any coats anywhere.

Without a big marketing campaign, the brand has taken off in recent years, despite the price tag: Typically about $700 or $800, but which, depending on the style, can exceed $1,500. (This is actually a bargain, if you compare it to Moncler, an Italian company that started in France, which markets its coats’ warmth as well as styling and typically charges more than $1,000 per coat, depending on the style.)

Canada Goose, which started in 1957 in a small warehouse in Toronto, has been popular for years in Europe and Japan but more recently in the United States. Sales growth in the last year was projected to be in double digits and topping $175 million, and last month the company bought a second manufacturing plant in Toronto, according to CBC News.  In 2013, Bain Capital, a Boston-based private equity firm (co-founded by Mitt Romney), bought a majority stake in the company for some $250 million, a sale predicated on a promise that manufacturing would remain in Canada, according to the New York Times.

The coats have become popular with Hollywood types (Matt Damon, Emma Stone, Hugh Jackman, and Jimmy Fallon are just a few who have been photographed wearing one). They also, perhaps surprisingly given the cost, have become popular on many college campuses where the temperatures routinely drop below freezing — or, at least at colleges and universities where there are a decent percentage of students who can afford to plop down so much money for a coat.

In Boston, there are a number of them. Take Boston University as an example. Walk down Commonwealth Avenue and you can’t miss these coats with their signature brand patch of Antarctica. Why Antarctica? Because at least one of the coats was designed for scientists working in Antarctica.

The university’s communications department, in a weekly series of “YouSpeak” videos that it shares with parents as part of a newsletter about life at BU, just published one about how students are staying warm during a period when the area got some 60 inches of snow in a month and frigid temperatures have stubbornly remained. In the video, BU students were asked to answer this question: “What’s your most important piece of winter survival gear?” A good deal of the video turns out to be about Canada Goose, and, when BU posted the video to YouTube, added this description:

For this week’s YouSpeak, Boston University students talk about staying warm for the winter, and the sudden popularity of Canada Goose jackets.

Here is some of the dialogue:

Yasmina Tawil, senior: Everybody wears the same coat though.

Keith Clarke, freshman: The Canadian Goose, the little Antarctica patches going on.

Nicole Manfredonia, senior: I don’t know what side the logo’s on, but it’s Canada Goose.

Mackenzie Pena, senior: I’m actually one of those kids who’s wearing a Canada Goose jacket.

Manfredonia: It’s probably the only thing keeping me alive right now.

Charlotte Vystavel, sophomore: I didn’t know what it was before I came here, but everybody seems to be wearing these.

Tawil: I would not, probably not wear a Canada Goose jacket, at least not here, because everybody else wears them.

Christina Alvarez, senior: I don’t like wearing stuff that everyone wears, but at the same time it’s a good indicator, I guess. If everyone’s wearing it, it means that it works.

So, in the end, are the coats worth it? ABC News, in this report, quoted Sam Moulton, executive editor with Outside magazine, as saying that he thinks that they are. The story says:

“Canada Goose makes a really high-quality jacket,” Moulton said. “Maybe it’s not your style, especially if you don’t like fur, and that’s fine. I think a lot of people think the fur lining around the coat is for show, but it’s actually not.”
… Moulton said jackets from “high-quality” manufacturers like Canada Goose, LL Bean, North Face, or Marmot, are probably going to last longer than other brands sold from big-box stores. He said higher quality insulation is important for durability.
“Insulation can get matted, shift around and create cold spots if the fabric itself is not high quality. If the down isn’t stitched in well, you will lose insulation. It happens with normal wear and tear but can happen faster with a lower quality jacket,” he said.

And finally, a 2009 Chicago Tribune story rated the warmest coats, and Canada Goose won. The article (which came up first in a Google search of “warmest coats in the world”) says: “Leave it to the Canadians, whose country includes wide swaths of Arctic territory, to know how to produce a real coat.” The headline of the story: “Oh, Canada, thank you for this coat.”