I saw it as I was stuffing leftovers into a bag at my sister’s apartment: a bulky green coat, slung lovingly around a wooden chair. It had bright orange lining and a shearling-padded hood. It was malleable like a puffer, hefty like a snow coat, cut like a utility jacket. I slipped it on. It was formidable. It hung off my shoulders like a heavy hug.
“What is this?” I asked my sister.
“Oh — isn’t it the best? It was like $100. I got it on Amazon after I saw it on Liz last week.”
“She bought it on the spot,” my brother-in-law qualified. “Pulled it up on her phone and clicked purchase right then and there.”
Within five minutes, I’d done the same. The coat was actually $130, by a new-to-me brand called Orolay, and it arrived two days later via Prime shipping. As I held it in my hands, tucked it around a hanger and into my closet, I felt genuinely satisfied. I’d finally found a coat that was basic enough to wear often, comfortable enough to sleep in, and useful enough to wear over anything, in any weather.
The next day, I shared it on Instagram, which was a mistake of colossal proportions.
“You know that’s the official coat of upper east side moms right?”
“Omg is that the famous amazon coat?”
“Ughhhhhhhhhh noooooo you got the coat!”
“Lol google ‘amazon coat the strategist’”
The patronizing DMs emerged like disembodied hands on Youtube, and my ego was the rainbow-colored slime. I took to Google. “The Unlikely Tale of a $100 Amazon Coat That’s Taken Over the Upper East Side,” announced NYMag. “There’s A Reason This Affordable Amazon Puffer Is Famous,” wrote Refinery29. “Why Are Moms Everywhere Buying This Amazon Coat This Winter?” asked Today.com. The articles stretched over multiple Google pages. Why indeed?
At first I found it funny, following up on Instagram with nihilistic musings about how none of us are special and we’re all going to die. Ha ha. I wore The Coat into Manhattan the next day. It was a crisp 10 degrees and my eyes darted around in search of clones. Remarkably, I saw none. I lowered my guard.
“You have The Coat! How do you like it?” said the first person I knew who saw me in it. I was at a press preview on Lafayette Street and all the girls wanted to try it on. I passed it around benevolently — cheered by the enthusiasm. I fielded questions about sizing (I prefer the Large), quality (surprisingly high), and design (the zippers and pockets are a lot). We discussed little else.
An hour later, at an appointment for an outerwear brand, one of the employees whispered to me that she was going to buy The Coat, too. “It’s 90% down! Our coats are only 70%.” I fact-checked her later on Amazon and it was true: “90% White Duck Down; 10% Feathers,” the product breakdown read. “Adopted polyester material with a density 60% higher than common material in the market. It has excellent windproof and warm-keeping quality.” That I can confirm.
My day continued as it started: With every person I encountered mentioning that I was wearing the most popular coat in New York. The DMs continued to pour in, some calling it a poor man’s Balenciaga; others sending confirmation of purchase; others being curiously dismissive of the consumer category that is women who have children. The more time that elapsed, the heavier the coat sat on my shoulders, a hug transformed into an uptown grip.
Orolay’s Women’s Thickened Down Jacket features seven zippers, four pockets and 12 unnecessary buttons. It has 6,267 reviews on Amazon that feature a whole lot of caps lock and an average rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars. Orolay, which sells variations of The Coat almost exclusively, was founded in 2006 and is owned by a Chinese trading company called Jiaxing Zichi Trade Co., Ltd., which exports apparel, accessories, furniture and plastics. Its website is somehow both overwrought and seemingly cobbled together, like a fancy building filled with bean bags.
The Coat may have murky origins, but the zeitgeist is unconcerned. I challenge you to take a lap around a New York city block and not spot one. Or a scroll through my DMs and find no mention of its unassailable ubiquity. Both would be impossible tasks, because The Coat runneth over, and I’m drowning it.
It’s been almost three weeks since I first donned mine, and I have yet don it a second time. It hangs in my closet looking like a sullen teenager I’m both scared of and want to hug. And yet, something about it has changed. Its pockets are too pocket-y. Its zippers are too silver. The back is longer than the front in a way that makes my liver cringe. It seems to have transformed into a different creature before my very eyes, calling into question my former ambivalence about looking like everyone else. Why would my tastes have changed in the span of a month, if not because I fear death by hive mind?
Before I posted The Coat on Instagram, the wool still pulled over the hearts in my eyes, I was deeply satisfied. The garment wasn’t perfect, and I had no delusions about its relative coolness, but it was warm, it was cute, it was enough. And just like that, poof, it became less. The ultimate Instagram paradox: death by popularity.
I will wear The Coat again — I have to, it’s perfectly fine! — but purchasing it by accident was like gazing into a black mirror: There I was, clad in olive green, surrounded by a sea of my peers in the very same shade, each of us sure we’d solved the calculus of our individuality. And if that’s not a humbling lesson, then I’m an Upper East Side mom.