The weather in Chicago is so frigid this week that temperatures rival those in Antarctica. To survive the extreme cold, Chicagoans are bundling up in their warmest outerwear, including Canada Goose coats, the most expensive of which retail for roughly $1,700. But in the Windy City, Boston, and even in the United Kingdom, the outerwear has been linked to violent crime.
This month alone, Chicago police have reported more than a half-dozen robberies involving the coats. One of these incidents was caught on camera: Surveillance footage showed armed men jumping out of a white Mercedes and forcing the coat off an unsuspecting pedestrian. A year ago, criminals robbed a man in Manchester, England, for what they thought was a Canada Goose jacket, but was actually a knockoff. And in 2016, campus police at Boston University reported several Canada Goose coat thefts. They warned students to keep their outerwear under lock and key.
While the coat thefts have predictably sparked outcry, criminals have robbed people for high-end apparel for decades. But how did Canada Goose, once a brand worn exclusively by police and rangers, become a status symbol? A company rebrand, celebrity partnerships, and product placement have all played a role in making Canada Goose a hot commodity for thieves, counterfeiters, and the general public.
How Canada Goose got its start
While Canada Goose only became a fashion must-have in the past decade, the company started in 1957 in Toronto as Metro Sportswear. It specialized in cold weather basics like snowsuits, woolen vests, and raincoats, and its main customers included city police departments and the Canadian Rangers. In the 1970s, founder Sam Tick’s son-in-law, David Reiss, came on board and later launched the label Snow Goose. When the company began marketing its outerwear in Europe, however, it found out that another company went by the name Snow Goose, so it became Canada Goose.
The name change helped cement the brand as an outerwear company with apparel reliable enough to withstand the most frigid temperatures. The fact that scientists in Antarctica wore Canada Goose’s expedition parka in the 1980s, and the first Canadian to climb Mt. Everest wore custom-designed Metro Sportswear outerwear, only helped the company’s rep.
During the aughts, a number of professionals continued to wear Canada Goose gear, including film crews in the Arctic and extreme athletes. But it took until the 2010s for the company’s outerwear to become a mainstream status symbol. Over the past decade, Canada Goose has made a concerted effort to win over celebrities — and it has succeeded.
In 2012, the company passed out coats to film industry professionals at Sundance. Since then, Kate Upton has modeled a Canada Goose coat on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Daniel Craig has walked the streets in the brand, as has Rihanna. And last year, Canada Goose did a collab with Drake’s OVO clothing line, endearing it to the hip-hop market. Rapper Lil Uzi Vert has an ode to the brand, called simply “Canadian Goose.” The brand has not only been the subject of songs, it has also been prominently displayed on screen — in films like Manchester by the Sea and Spectre.
Two years ago, the New Yorker published a feature called “The Rise of Canada Goose’s Hollywood-Friendly Coats.” In it, writer Rachel Syme asserted that wearing the coat says, “I earned the money, and then I spent the money, and now here I am, warmer than you are.”
The downside of an apparel brand’s viral popularity
While interest in Canada Goose is good for the company’s bottom line, the downside has included negative attention as well. In December, PETA launched a campaign, featuring Charmed Star Sarah Jeffery, against Canada Goose’s use of duck down and coyote fur. The tagline is: “Canada Goose kills.”
As animal rights activists try to get consumers to boycott Canada Goose, counterfeiters are producing knockoffs of the outerwear — complete with the signature red-white-and-blue patch. The brand’s most expensive coats cost more than twice the amount of an iPhone. The priciness of the outerwear, along with their celebrity endorsees, make them attractive to counterfeiters and thieves alike. But Canada Goose is hardly the first brand to experience this.
Last year, a Michigan man made headlines for refusing to surrender his Louis Vuitton bag to an armed robber. As far back as the 1980s, headlines about teens being robbed or killed for their Air Jordans were splashed across newspapers and magazines. More recently, Yeezys have made similar headlines. And Cartier sunglasses are reportedly so coveted in Detroit that they, too, have been tied to violent robberies — going back decades.
Because they’ve often been linked to young black men, these robberies have fostered debates about race and class. Since Air Jordans took off in the late 1980s, school officials, public figures, and the press have repeatedly weighed in on why disempowered youth want clothes that make them feel important. Anonymous commenters discussing the Canada Goose thefts have invoked hateful stereotypes about young black men.
But these youth alone didn’t give luxury apparel the status it enjoys; the high cost of these items and the influencers who wear them do a good enough job of that on their own. That some misguided people are willing to steal expensive coats says as much about the importance of consumerism in a capitalist country as it does about their morals.
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