The Toasty (and Timeless) Appeal of the Puffer Jacket

Finlay Renwick
·4-min read
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

From Esquire

Worn by everyone from delicate celebrities wrapping up warm at Sundance, to streetwear kids, to bored accountants who have decided to plough five figure sums into climbing a famous mountain in the hopes of feeling something… anything, the puffer jacket is a truly versatile winter staple. Cozy, durable, stylish and at the forefront of the intersection of fashion and functionality, it's the everyman’s piece of outwear!

The first truly ‘iconic’ puffer was The North Face Nuptse, which gets its name from a mountain in the Nepalese Himalayas, near Everest, you know? First arriving on the scene in 1992, the Nuptse was designed for the rigorous requirements of climbing that renowned peak, a light, down-filled puffer with a slightly cropped finish, a design element that allowed climbers to access their harnesses without too much difficulty. Because of these unmatched performance credentials and its bold colour blocked design, the jacket was quickly adopted by Nineties New Yorkers who wanted to look good while enduring the city's grim winters. A classic was born. Simple.

Photo credit: Edward Berthelot
Photo credit: Edward Berthelot

Yet the Nuptse, despite being a great piece of kit, is hardly the only puffer that TNF has in its locker. For A/W20 the brand has introduced a new-and-improved Himalayan Parka, another Nineties icon. “The Himalayan Parka is truly an authentic and original piece of design; its release in 1994 was accompanied by our first ever Himalayan Suit,” says Tim Hamilton, Global VP Creative The North Face. “The Himalayan Suit has always been a pinnacle piece for the brand, representing exploration on the highest of peaks and most extreme conditions. The Parka maintains the technical capabilities but is packaged in a much more wearable silhouette offering functionality and style that is hard to replicate or reproduce.”

So what should you be looking for when it comes to prime puffer investment? What boxes need to be ticked? “First and foremost, it has to work,” says Hamilton. “It has to serve its primary purpose – to protect the wearer from the elements and keep them warm. For The North Face, our most iconic styles throughout the history of the brand were born on the mountain and with real needs. The goal has always been to create the best gear, so our athletes can focus on their climb as even the most minute gear failures can result in the highest price. Starting with technical design and following through with simple, orderly design lines – everything else followed.”

Let’s leave TNF for just a minute, elsewhere, you’ve got Descente Allterrain, a Japanese outdoor label with an obsessive approach to the puffer jacket. Designed for the frigid and snowy conditions of Hokkaido and beyond, its Mizusawa down jacket is as good as it gets. Light, warm, comfortable, waterproof and with a futuristic design and just a hint of branding, it’s a puffer for a stealth wealth-inclined client who is after a top of the range piece.

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Then there's Orlebar Brown, best known for Riviera-ready swimming shorts, which has recently made gains in the puffer game with its Shark capsule, inspired by that sharp-toothed and dead-eyed apex predator. Its Ritter jacket (in shark grey of course) is water and wind-resistant, with 650-fill power down and an easily detachable hood.

At Woolrich, a newly-introduced ‘Outdoor Label’ is designed in Japan. The collection is perhaps best demonstrated by the Wintertide Padded Parka, which comes packed with 30D Gore-Tex and specially-bonded recycled down, resulting in a light, stylish and super warm jacket.

Then, on the runway-meets-ravages-of-winter side of things, there’s Paria Farzaneh, a Brtish-Iranian designer who takes inspiration from her Persian heritage and melds it with high tech performance. Her jackets are both intricately patterned and fully loaded with Gore-Tex Infinium.

Photo credit: BEN STANSALL
Photo credit: BEN STANSALL

So whatever your price range, whether your look is more Brunello or Brain Dead (the brand, not your mental state) there is, undoubtedly, a puffer for you this winter and, hopefully, many other winters to come!

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