Outdoor World

How the puffer jacket took over the world

Some trends can feel alienating, but the padded coat can be worn by anyone from new fathers to students and Theresa May to Alan Partridge

Andrew Luecke

It has become a truism that, if you wait long enough, something unfashionable will end up being in fashion.

It has happened to tracksuits, socialism and Celine Dion. And, for better or worse, it has happened to puffer coats – you know, the catch-all term for those working water-resistant, ultrapractical “technical” coats you might tackle Everest in. Or at the least Storm Erik.

Winter has turned into spring, but it still seems we are never more than 6ft from a puffer. They are on your dad, but also in Whitehall( Theresa May regularly emerges from Downing Street- looking broken- in one of two versions of the same PS7 50 padded jacket, and last weekend wore a more generic black version to church ). They are on Tv, too: in the US, Russian Doll’s Alan wears a Uniqlo one under his coating; in the UK, antihero Alan Partridge’s extraordinary- or “ludicrous”, if you are the Daily Telegraph- yellow padded coating is uncannily similar to something Balenciaga presented last season.

It was a trickle at first. In 2016, Demna Gvsalia’s first collecting for Balenciaga featured a red padded jacket worn off the shoulder, in the style of Brigitte Bardot. Eyebrows were raised, but puffers appeared on the Balenciaga catwalk a year later and again the year after that. They were also in Topshop and Urban Outfitters. Late last year, Lyst, a search enginethat tracks what people are buying according to clicks, reported a 59% year-on-year rise in searches. In February 2019, the rubicon was traversed: two puffers- one by the US outdoors brand The North Face and the other by the Italian company Moncler- were decreed second and sixth most desirable products in the world, respectively. For context, “the worlds largest” desired item was a pair of Nike trainers.

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Chanel
, Versace and Sportmax( for women) as well as at Fendi, Iceberg, Off-White and Cottweiler( for men ). A spokesman for Patagonia recently told Business Insider that sales have quadrupled in the past 10 times.That this winter’s surprise-hit garment was a rather banal, oversized, padded coat by Orolay, a brand that sells through Amazon, and that the bestselling item at Uniqlo for the past season has been an” ultra-light down” packable coat, could be about the climate. But it could also be about something less tangible.

” A puffer’s shape and seem are powerful, but also plain and nearly spartan- and there’s power in journeying that line ,” says Andrew Luecke, a fashion historian and the co-author of Cool: Style, Sound and Subversion, a history of youth subcultures. Frankly, it is less about who is wearing a puffer and more about who isn’t.

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The padded coat is relatively new, but has a varied history. In 1936, Eddie Bauer fabricated a quilted jacket insulated by goose down after contracting hypothermia on a wintertime fishing trip in Washington, defining the template for technicalwear. Two years later, the couturier Charles James designed an evening jacket that resembled a cropped quilt. He called it the” pneumatic jacket “~ ATAGEND and, according to manner lore, predicted it would be a one-off. These were not the same coating and spoke to two different grades- indeed, the puffer/ padded/ quilted nomenclature is a little muddy- but they have the same DNA.

Michael Horsch, the product administrator at The North Face, calls the trend “outleisure”. He says:” It’s different to athleisure. This is stuff designed for survival in high mountains or difficult terrains, so with function in brain rather than manner .” He zeroes in on the Nuptse jacket, which constitutes one of the best-known coatings in fashion, on an equal footing with Max Mara’s camel coat. Large and cropped, this jacket has transcended trends, Horsch claims, to become” a cultural part”, like Levi’s 501 s or Timberland boots.

Horsch says the Nuptse jacket- which was designed in 1992 for mountaineering- began moonlighting as” urban kit” in New York. When lower-income households moved to housing projects in Queens, he explains, they found themselves crammed into small-scale spaces accommodating several generations.” Imagine being a teenager in that context ,” says Horsch. The only spaces in which to socialise were the communal areas outside, he says, which necessitated- as anyone who has experienced a New York wintertime knows- a proper coating. The Nuptse jacket became the uniform of a particular New York esthetic, the origin of what we now call streetwear; it was its consideration of this agenda item of garment that subsequently aligned this Queens subculture with the mainstream. By the end of the 90 s, it was being worn by many US rappers, popping up in videos for Method Man and LL Cool J.

The puffer’s reprisal now seemed obvious. After all, it is a coating supported by winter-sport fanatics, who tend to be affluent.” The role attracts the wealthy, who imbue the puffer with lifestyle status, then other subcultures pick up on that ,” says Luecke. Padded jackets have their roots in the 90 s, streetwear, rap and New York, but they are also unplaceable. You could see one on a woman in a Chelsea tractor, a new papa or a fashion student.

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The North Face’s bestselling Nuptse coat. Photograph: Edward Berthelot/ Getty Images

 

Where they fit now comes down to how we interpret style.( It is unlikely the padded jacket has anything to do with Brexit- although a pal recently bought one because he was moving to Berlin for the above reasons ). But there is something in flagging your devotion to clothes traditionally worn outdoors. It is not simply that hiking and camping have a virtuous reputation – you hike, hence you care about the environment. Brandssuch as Patagonia and The North Face are” genuinely ahead of the game on environmental issues “~ ATAGEND, says Luecke.

Of course, this intends parking the irony that an industry regularly accused of being one of the most polluting in the nations of the world- one that burns unused clothes- is behind a trend that send the opposite message. Patagonia went so far as to make a ” Don’tbuythisjacket”advert, to encourage its customers to think before they buy.

If this all sounds spurious, fair enough. Possibilities are you wear a puffer because it is practical. Besides, much of it boils down to what psychologists refer to as “exposure”: the more you see something, the more acceptable it becomes. My own puffer is red and immense- too hot for the UK, even in wintertime- but I have worn it non-stop since November. When I put it on, I feel swaddled. Puffers can be seen as anti-fashion or inadvertently fashionable, but if some trends can feel alienating then this is the opposite.

 

Read more: https :// www.theguardian.com/ way/ 2019/ apr/ 02/ how-the-puffer-jacket-took-over-the-world

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