A British school is banning Canada Goose-brand coats and other pricey outerwear starting in 2019, after students return from winter holidays.
The decision at Woodchurch High School, affiliated with the Church of England and located in a suburb of Liverpool, is meant to protect the self-esteem of youngsters who can't afford the coats — some of which cost as much as $1,000. The ban, which extends to Pyrenex coats that cost $800 and Moncler coats that go for $2,000, is generating widespread reaction in England as well the United States.
Explaining the ban, Woodchurch's head teacher, Rebekah Phillips told CNN: "These coats cause a lot of inequality between pupils. They stigmatize students and parents who are less well off and struggle financially."
Support from parents in the school, which CNN reports has a student body that is 46 percent disadvantaged, has been positive, according to the Liverpool Echo. The decision was made after students and parents had been consulted, the Echo reported.
The ban is part of a campaign of what's being called "poverty-proofing" in British schools. "Poverty-proofing enables schools to identify and overcome the barriers to learning that children and young people from families with less financial resources face," Jeremy Cripps, chief executive of Children North East, a British education nonprofit, told CNN.
The ban roiled the Twitterverse. Opposed to it, some wondered whether expensive haircuts would be outlawed next, or if students would be limited to $10 shoes. One person labeled the ban "absolutely ridiculous."
Others cheered, with one British woman calling Canada Goose coats "an egregious" symbol of wealth.
In Philadelphia, a School District spokesperson said he'd not heard of any such bans of high-end clothing in local schools. "I highly doubt it," he said.
Representatives from the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools did not respond to requests for comment. Neither did anyone from Canada Goose Inc., based in Toronto, or Nordstrom, one of the stores that sell the coats.
The garment is something of a status symbol at the University of Pennsylvania, according to students.
Sophomore Carmen Duran, from Maiden, N.C., said she was amazed that "Penn kids are saying the best ways to stay warm in winter are Canada Goose jackets. I'm from low-economic status, and my father's incarcerated. I can't afford it."
Penn sociologist Annette Lareau said that she and a doctoral candidate have been conducting research on the experiences of first-generation students, the first in their families to attend college. Lareau said that many students brought up Canada Goose coats in their conversations.
"The first-generation students were in wide-eyed amazement that so many others had them, because they're so expensive," Lareau said.
The Canada Goose ban brought to mind school uniforms for Temple University sociologist Judith Levine.
"Schools put students in uniforms usually to take away inequalities, so the cost of fashion is not in the way for kids," she said.
She said, however, that she's not aware of school uniforms extending to coats. At Woodchurch, in fact, students wear uniforms. "I don't know of any example of a U.S. school saying no to North Face jackets," she said.
For high school students, Levine said, "clothing is a real marker of class status. It can be a really socially difficult thing for students who feel pressure to wear clothes they can't afford."
In the United States, Canada Goose isn't widely known, according to CNBC, which reported that the company, with a logo that includes a rendering of the North Pole surrounded by maple leaves, achieved only 16 percent brand awareness in 2017.
Still, as CNBC reported, with overall Canada Goose revenue at $291 million as of 2016, it's clear the coats are winding up on the backs of quite a few customers. Company officials like to point out that the coat was worn by the first Canadian to climb Mount Everest, the man who had the fastest solo South Pole expedition, an Iditarod champion, and Arctic pilots.
The animal-rights group PETA has criticized the manufacturer for using coyote fur and down feathers for its coats.