When I graduated from Literary Analysis Academy, the dean stopped the graduation ceremony and shook my hand. “You are so smart,” he said, “that we’ve decided you’re the only one who gets to graduate this year.” He said that right in front of my academic rival, who was always really mean, but also good at a sport. Everyone clapped, and then I did a sick ollie as I skateboarded off the graduation stage. I’m not sharing this anecdote to brag; I’m sharing it so that you understand why I am especially qualified to speak to the relative qualities of selected pieces of outerwear in science fiction and fantasy literature. After several years of dedicated study, I have developed an unimpeachable scientific ranking of ten such articles of clothing.
Harry’s Invisibility Cloak
The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
When I was in grade school I would have given my right arm for a way to get through my day without anyone seeing me. But does this cloak really deserve to beat out all other forms of fantasy outerwear? I say no. It’s not water-resistant, it’s uninsulated, it doesn’t even have pockets. Don’t give me that “cloaks don’t usually have pockets?” business, either—if a garment is intended for adventuring, it should have a place for me to put my phone. No exceptions.
9. Dracula’s Opera Cloak
Dracula, by Bram Stoker
Okay, one exception. This cloak doesn’t turn Dracula invisible, and you might think that means the invisibility cloak should beat it in the ranking. But this cloak does enhance Dracula’s power of Being Extremely Dramatique, which is so much more important than invisibility. It is, like, the opposite. The only things that can take Dracula down: a crucifix, a box of garlic knots, and a boring evening look.
8. Katniss’ Hunting Jacket
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
It might not be magical, but this baby is the dream-jacket of revolutionaries everywhere. It’s got sad Dad-memories attached, just like the invisibility cloak, but it’s warm and it has pockets. It’s also too big, which is a huge bonus as far as jackets go, because you can hide a lot of stuff in there, from rabbits, to lamps, to love triangles.
7. Elven Cloaks
The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkein
These things are great. They’re warm but breathable—like good yoga pants—and they color-shift better than hypercolor shirts. Plus, each cloak comes with a special Fancy Brooch. Outerwear that comes with accessories? Absolutely. But they stay low in the rankings because they also don’t have any pockets. (I don’t know where my old pal Jolkein Rolkein Rolkein Tolkein thought elves kept their crumpled-up CVS receipts… those things are like two feet long!) These cloaks are attractive and almost-practical, but without pockets, they stay toward the bottom of the heap.
6. Sophie’s Hats
Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones
These hats are nice. They’re good listeners, and they make people look cute. Each hat is like a big pocket for your head. No further questions.
5. Harry Dresden’s Duster
The Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher
It’s not inherently magical, but it is enchanted, which is neat. There are limits on the enchantment, though, and listen: I’m just not wild on dusters. Tailor that thing. Give me a silhouette, Harry Dresden. Pair it with a statement belt. Take a risk.
4. John Constantine’s Trenchcoat
Hellblazer, by Alan Moore
So much better than a duster. This thing is resilient as heck, plus it does great swooshy flourishes, plus it has demonic powers. A coat that’s water-resistant and can drive people into a mindless rage? It’s already on back-order. Also, it has pockets. Sit down and take notes, invisibility cloak.
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3. The Sorting Hat
Harry Potter, again
I do not trust this hat, not even a little. It is a terrifying omnidimensional creature of fathomless intelligence. Why does it work at Hogwarts? Why does it sow merciless division between children? Why is it so interested in, y’know, shaping the fates of every magical child in Britain?? Extra points, though, because it can somehow store and produce legendary weaponry at the drop of a… well. Who needs a mysterious lady in a lake to give you a magic sword, when you have an eldritch abomination that’s also a hat?
2. Hagrid’s Coat
Harry Potter, ibid.
Now we’re talkin’. I know Harry Potter is disproportionately represented on this list, but I can’t overlook this beat, because she is all pockets. It’s got enough pockets to fit a whole picnic in it, plus a live owl, an entire birthday cake, cash, and booze. It’s like the purse you take with you on vacations, except that it’s also warm and it won’t give you back problems. It’s made of moleskin, which is soft as heck. The invisibility cloak could never. What a role model.
1. Kell’s Coat
A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab
OMNI-COAT. This thing is the dream: it can turn inside-out a zillion times, and although the text claims that not every version of the coat is fashionable, every single one of them sounds fashionable. There’s a lot of black and red and silver, as is appropriate for the Shades of Magic series, and several offer high collars. It’s a good coat for brooding in, and also for traveling between dimensions, and also for adventures. Every version of the coat has pockets, as far as I can tell, and some of the versions even have extra-deep pockets. Bonus points because the coat canonically has opinions and doesn’t work for everyone. I relate.