The Biggie: a tainted status symbol
The New York Times
November 17, 2013
The rise in violent fashion-related crime has coalesced around the growing cachet of streetwear and fashion’s embrace of celebrity culture — as the crowd skating at the Bryant Park ice rink on Nov. 9 can readily attest to.
Corey Dunton, 16, of the Bronx, has been charged with shooting Javier Contreras, 20, at the rink that night after he tried to steal Mr. Contreras’s Marmot Mammoth parka, commonly known as a “biggie.” Adonis Mera, a 14-year-old on the rink, was shot in his back.
The biggie, so-called because of its baggy shape, costs around $680 and is not just a must-have, but a mark of status.
On Monday the jacket was withdrawn from sale at Paragon Sports, its exclusive retailer, joining the dubious category of clothing items so desirable that people will kill for them.
In June, CNN reported that a man who tried to rob customers waiting in line to buy the new $180 LeBron X Denim sneakers by Nike was shot and killed by a customer. The New York Post reported last week that belts made by Gucci and Fendi have also become top targets for muggers.
The phenomenon gathered at a dark pace in the 1980s, focused on sportswear and sneakers. In 1989 Michael Eugene Thomas, a 15-year-old from Maryland, was strangled to death over a pair of Nike Air Jordans. Other crimes were committed over Fila sneakers, Avia high-tops and Triple Fat Goose jackets. Today, teenagers are targeted for their iPhones.
Last weekend’s shooting was not the first attack related to the Marmot biggie. In January, a young member of the Boys’ Club of New York, a social support organization, was shot for his Marmot jacket, according to Meishay Gattis, the director of the Harriman Clubhouse at the Boys’ Club on the Lower East Side.
“I asked our kids why, and they told me it was probably a form of initiation,” Mr. Gattis said. “The idea is to get as many differently colored Marmot jackets as possible, then post the pictures of the jackets on Instagram or Twitter. They call it Skittles.”
Kris Gibbs, 22, a part-time staff member at the Boys’ Club, said he owned two Marmot jackets. The premium was on owning the most expensive Marmot, he said, adding that Pelle Pelle and Moncler are also popular brands.
Adding to the allure of the jacket may have been the fact that the Mammoth parka was discontinued last year. Jordan Campbell, a spokesman for Marmot Mountain in Santa Rosa, Calif., said the decision was “due to waning sales and warmer winter temperatures,” rather than its links to violence. (Paragon had been selling its remaining stock, according to The Daily News.)
As to what motivations belie such violence, some point to peer pressure.
“If they don’t acquire that Marmot jacket, their status, maybe even their lives, are endangered on the street,” Mr. Gattis said.
Helen Frank, a spokeswoman for the Boys’ Club, said it tries to offer a different standard for what it means to be a “real man.”
But good intentions must duel with ravenous consumerism. Mr. Gibbs recalled “the big lines and crazy lot of fights” over the Nike Air Jordan 11 Concord sneaker when it was rereleased in 2011.
And Angel Gonzalez, a blogger at Sneaker Freaker magazine, recalled the ruckus when the New Balance x Staple White Pigeon sneaker was released last year. No one was killed or injured, he wrote, “but the intense feeling of that morning is something I will never forget.”
In 2005, the police intervened, he said, after the debut of the Pigeon Dunk SB sneaker at Reed Space on the Lower East Side.
Now that the Marmot biggie is no longer available, another coveted fashion item will likely take its unenviable place.
“The Canada Goose jacket,” Mr. Gibbs said. “Everyone’s wearing those. Everyone’s robbing those.”