Our winter coats are the thick skin we dawn in the winter months to protect us from the bitter bite of the air and the cold stares of our peers. They are insulating and snug. But when do our coats teeter between merely a layer of protection and a part of a curated outfit? When are our coats just warm? When do they become statements? The past few weeks, runways have been peppered with colorful, flamboyant and courageous coats that are also exuberant and experimental. From New York to London, shows like Tom Ford or Burberry exhibit bulky and attention-grabbing coats defying the standard puffer, trench or parka. Off the runway, street style and clothing franchises have popularized the faux fur, color-blocking puffer and the reemergence of the leopard print coat. As articles of clothing, coats are not simply utility outerwear which conceal your outfit in return for comfort. They have been re-imagined and redesigned by the minds of fashion icons to interact and create inspiring outfits. Within our own sphere of University students, for the most part, the lexicon of coats is comprised of Barbour barn coats and Canada Goose parkas. Each hundreds of dollars, these coats not only contribute to the socio-economic hierarchy that defines the hegemonic culture of the University, but further stagnate creativity and individuality. However, in the sea of hunter green, black and navy coats emerge students flaunting eye-catching, visceral outfits with their coats as centerpieces. From bold red puffers to elegant faux-fur, individuality is maintained and encouraged — breeding an emerging, possibly hibernating, culture of artistic expression here at the University. Fourth-year College student Lona Manik wears vintage high-waisted velvet trousers, a thrifted qipao-style crop top over a fishnet bodysuit and a self-made industrial statement necklace. Her final piece — a cherry tomato red puffer coat purchased from American Eagle Outfitters. “Most of my coats are meant to make my outfits stand out since I’ll spend most of my day with my coat on,” Manik said. “I also wear a lot of black and so my coat is usually the piece that will make a statement. I also like my coats to have a nice silhouette to them especially because most of my outfits are very oversized and baggy in the winter times, so a coat with a good shape will frame it well.” Manik said the perfect coat is one that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. “I like coats with hoods, coats with padding, coats with multiple pockets, waterproof coats, etc. If a coat has all of this and also features an interesting color or texture, then I’m all in,” Manik said. Manik’s outfit is layered with detail and her coat remains open, although she stands in the cold rain, still shielded but exposing the delicate fishnet and black ensemble. The red coat is both independent and interactive — it serves as a refreshing complement to the textured outfit by standing alone as a statement while contrasting color with solid black. Third-year College student Ian Ware wears J.Crew sweatpant trousers, an adidas Originals sweatshirt purchased in Japan, black adidas by Juun.J sneakers, and a taupe faux-fur coat purchased from Urban Outfitters. Ware also wears a handmade bracelet which spells “Queer Liberation.” “They are really comfortable but also cool, functional clothes,” Ware said. “Things that can look nice but can also be spruced up. [Coats] should not hide your outfit but add to your outfit. They shouldn't be a bulky mess of fabric that covers your entire body, but [instead] accent what you are wearing underneath.” The faux-fur, with its hypnotic texture and universal color scheme, exemplifies how coats can be worn as an article — an addition to an outfit rather than a subtraction. Ware’s outfit marries comfort with elegance — his fur embodies an ironic bourgeois aura, which contrasts with his athleisure attire. This style of coat and the way in which Ware appropriates the classic fur look presents how a coat can stand alone as a statement. In the winter with all of our layers, a coat may be one of the best ways to stick out and channel creativity through fashion. Coats are the final layer which can either distract from or artfully complete an outfit. Although the warm weather seems to be readily approaching, the winter coat and its power is equally important and sustained each fall and winter season. Stay warm — or rather, stay cool — in this odd period of warmth this February.