Also known as a down jacket – or if you’re Wyclef Jean, a bubblegoose – the puffer jacket is that rarest of things: a nineties fashion staple with real practical benefits. These padded wonders are capable of locking in heat in even the iciest of conditions, making them the first choice not just for hip-hop stars, but polar explorers and mountaineers too.
And there’s another benefit: the best men’s puffer jackets have good looks on their side as well, something which hasn’t gone unnoticed by designers. In recent seasons everyone from Balenciaga to Raf Simons has marched puffers down the runway. And as a result, there’s been a noticeable shift in their popularity.
Not everyone possesses the bank balance or the inclination to spend £1,915 on a Balenciaga puffer (as opposed to £70 at JD Sports), but everyone can get in on the action. Pulling off this trend doesn’t have to cost a bomb, but it does require some skill. That’s where we come in.
Styles To Consider
Keeping warm with down insulation doesn’t always have to mean going full Michelin Man. With a lightweight puffer jacket you get all the practical benefits without sacrificing a slim silhouette. The fitted cut also makes it a useful tool for layering – use it as outerwear, another barrier against the cold under your parka on seriously frigid days, or even wear it beneath a suit jacket for frosty morning commutes.
These low-profile puffers also have the added benefit of being packable. Big puffers are heavy and bulky, but quite often their lightweight counterparts can be scrunched up into their own pocket when not being used. Making them a popular choice for everyone from outdoors enthusiasts to seasoned travellers.
There’s a certain pleasure that comes with knowing your jacket could keep you toasty on an ascent of K2. Even if you’re only going to be using it to get to the office and back. This is the level of security a proper winter-ready puffer jacket can provide to you.
If versatility is important to you and you’re looking for something that can perform through several seasons as opposed to just winter, this style may not be the most suitable option. If, I’m the other hand, your primary concern is keeping warm and you need something that can simply be thrown on over a T-shirt, even in sub-zero conditions, this is the coat for you.
Winter is the best time of the year for experimenting with prints, bright colours or straight-up statement pieces. But we’re not talking about dusting off your Christmas jumper and draping yourself in tinsel, because with a statement puffer jacket you can cut through the grim winter weather and actually look good while doing it.
Puffers have always been a bit of a statement piece in themselves, but incorporating in some colour blocking or patterns can take things to the next level. Just remember to keep the rest of your outfit simple, pared-back and understated, unless you really are trying to outshine your Christmas tree.
Five Ways To Wear
Whether you’re planning a Himalayan expedition or just thinking about braving too cold at your local Christmas market, teaming a puffer with other mountain-ready garments is a good way to ensure you’re wrapped up properly. Wear a thick, heavy-duty puffer layered with a flannel shirt and a T-shirt or roll neck on top, with heavy denim or cargo trousers on the bottom. Shoe wise, go for a pair of premium hikers or work boots and then finish it off with a fisherman beanie to keep that head warm.
Just because puffers are so well adapted to extreme temperatures and alpine conditions that doesn’t mean you can’t rock one in the city. Getting around town in the winter can still be a pretty chilly experience if you hail from the upper reaches of the Northern Hemisphere, and a lightweight puffer can keep you warm and suitably stylish all at once.
Try a smarter, hoodless version in a neutral shade, like black, grey or even black. Choosing a simple colour and a lightweight style will ensure you get maximum cost per wear value, as you’ll be able to pair it with most of your wardrobe across multiple seasons. Next, layer a knitted roll neck underneath and finish things off with some wool trousers and a pair of premium leather sneakers.
That morning commute, going from freezing cold walk to boiling hot bus and then back again can present a dilemma when it comes to getting to the office without A) hypothermia, or B) heat exhaustion.
Thankfully, the solution is as simple as getting rid of your sleeves. Swapping your down jacket out for a gilet will ensure your core stays warm while your underarms remain ventilated. Styled right, it can look slick too. For best results, stick to dark, muted colours. Try a wool shirt and black trousers, complemented by a pair of black leather boots. And to tie it all together, throw on a smart leather backpack for your laptop and other odds and ends.
The relaxing of menswear in recent years has spelt good news for your wardrobe. A shifting of attitudes has meant things that would once have been utterly unthinkable from a sartorial standpoint are now viable and stylish options. The mixing of puffer jackets and tailoring is a prime example.
Wearing a down layer underneath your suit jacket while out and about through the week is a good way to keep warm without sacrificing looks. A sleeveless version will work best as it would restrict the movement of your arms. Alternatively, you can go all out and actually opt for a blazer-style puffer jacket that can be worn over the top and still look planned. Like a conscious style choice as opposed to something that’s simply been thrown on to keep the cold out.
Luigi Bianchi Mantova
On The Streets
Streetwear, aka the spiritual home of the puffer jacket. It was originally created in the 1930s, but the puffer jacket really blew up as a fashion item in the 1990s when it was adopted by rap royalty in colder US cities like New York and Chicago. It’s been nothing short of a streetwear essential ever since, with tastemaker Supreme regularly hitting up The North Face for fresh takes on the mountaineering brand’s iconic Nuptse jacket.
Go as loud as you want with this one. Try wearing a statement puffer in either a bold colour or pattern (or both) with some jersey joggers and sneakers. If the mercury has really hit rock bottom, you could layer up with a hoodie and finish with a beanie on top.