As students flock to Cornell for a wintery start to the semester, $1500 Canada Goose jackets seem to cover every corner of campus. What seems to be fueling the popularity of these pieces?
Before we dive into the less obvious reasons why Canada Goose products have gained popularity despite the company’s controversies, here’s a quick history lesson behind the infamous “Canadian holding company of winter clothing manufacturers.”
Sam Tick founded the company in 1957 under the name “Metro Sportswear Ltd.” It began as a working-class brand catering to laborers in Canada.
In the early 1980s, David Reiss purchased the company from Tick and began making a custom parka designed to help scientists withstand one of the coldest places on Earth: Antarctica. These scientists nicknamed the jacket “Big Red.”
By 1985, Reiss started trademarking the parkas as “Snow Goose.” However, once the company began selling winter coats in Europe in the early 1990s, it found that this name was already trademarked. They developed the famous modern name of “Canada Goose.”
Canada Goose underwent its largest transformation in 2001 when Reiss’ son, Dani Reiss, became president and CEO of the company. Immediately, Dani Reiss made two major decisions for the company: to produce solely under the name Canada Goose and to only make products in Canada.
In an interview with Business Insider, Susan Fournier, Allen Questrom Professor and Dean at Boston University, commented on the craze behind Canada Goose’s reputation and cultural effect.
“We’re trying to find the authentic in a saturated world that’s kinda contaminated by materialism,” she said. “You get those credentials through craftsmanship. You also get it through a history of the brand, where it’s born of experiences that were actually real that then became products.”
A luxury market expert, Pamela Danziger, told Business Insider that “it’s unusual to see such a brand transform into a luxury brand, but Canada Goose has been very successful at making that transition.” Canada Goose tied prestige and fame to its name through mass media marketing strategies with notable projects and celebrities, among other strategies such as features in Sports Illustrated and magazines campaigns.
Whether Canada Goose products are popular as a status symbol or because of their high quality, their company excels in sales mainly because of clever marketing. Now, let’s step away from the business side and more towards a psychological analysis of the Canada Goose products.
Canada Goose jackets fall between the functionality of a Patagonia jacket and the prestige and appearance of a Prada jacket. Because they allow wearers versatility, they entice new buyers.
These jackets are not binding in terms of when and where one could wear them. The possibilities are endless. Additionally, the status symbol effect of these jackets definitely makes an impact. Although many of us try to avoid this mindset, let’s face it: it’s pretty tempting. We tend to quickly view someone who wears something from Canada Goose (with jackets ranging from $500 to $1500) as someone who is wealthy. Many people desire that association. Another reason that could contribute to the popularity of Canada Goose products is the feeling of inclusivity and belonging.
“On average, 75 percent of the people I see on campus are wearing Canada Goose jackets,” said Julia Salatti ’25.
“I see about 50 plus students sporting Canada Goose jackets on a daily basis,” agreed Josh Bernardino ’25.
Morgan Meddings, a Syracuse University student, commented on the large number of students she sees wearing Canada Goose jackets, saying that the vast majority of the female population and half of the male population wear Canada Goose. This repeated exposure to the brand subconsciously signals to our brains that the overall student body favors Canada Goose products. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs includes that a sense of belonging is vital for our psychological development. Subconsciously, we want to maximize our feeling of belonging on a diverse and huge campus like Cornell – even if that sense of belonging lies in a jacket.
When I asked Cornell students why they believe Canada Goose Jackets are so popular on campus their responses were similar. Kathryn Spiegel ’25 said that they were “warm, prestigious, and expensive.” Another student, Jasmine Chang ’25 cited Canada Goose jackets as a status symbol.
I believe it is safe to say we can applaud Canada Goose’s marketing team for creating an aura of prestige and high quality. However, like most status symbols, its psychological effects on culture could lead to an unhealthy obsession with materialism.
Haley Qin is a freshman in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].