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Puffer Jackets: Timeless or Trendy?

In recent years, the use of puffer jackets and coats, also known as down jackets, has increased in the world of menswear. Puffer jackets are being worn beyond streetwear and now tailored clothing, so are they making their way into the classic menswear space, or is this just a “flash in the pan” moment?

While wearing a coat when it’s cold outside isn’t a new concept, we’ve seen an increase in people wearing puffer jackets as an alternative. Not only are puffer jackets seen as an extension of streetwear, but we’re also seeing them worn over tailored garments and even other elements of classic menswear. This piques our interest because this type of garment has traditionally been considered casual.

What exactly is a Puffer Jacket?

A down or puffer jacket is essentially a simple jacket made of waterproof fabric and filled with either goose or duck feathers. The names vary due to the fact that they are filled with down feathers or because they appear puffy when filled.


The puffer jacket was invented by George Finch, an Australian chemist and mountain climber who built a jacket out of balloon cloth and eiderdown feathers in 1922.

Eddie Bauer, an adventurer who nearly died from hypothermia during a particularly dangerous fishing trip, created another version of the puffer jacket fourteen years later, in 1936.

The following year, haute couture designer Charles James created a similar down-filled jacket. His design, dubbed the “Pneumatic Jacket,” proved to be intricate and difficult for manufacturers to replicate.

So, in 1939, Eddie Bauer’s Skyliner jacket hit the market, becoming the first patented puffer jacket. Puffer jackets remained popular in the following decades, becoming a reimagined garment in the 1970s.

The style of puffer jackets undertook a small change during the 80’s.Neon puffer jackets were popular in Italy during the 1980s. Meanwhile, in the United States, Marty McFly popularised the puffer vest (half-jacket) in his multi-layered, iconic “Back to the Future” costume.

During the 1990s, a younger generation of puffer coat wearers discovered a practical application for the jacket: keeping warm at chilly night-time raves. Hence, puffer jackets would remain associated with the music industry in the United States for the next decade, with hip-hop artists adopting a cropped puffer jacket as a style staple in the new millennium.

Indeed, the puffer jacket has seen a wide range of applications, from a practical piece of exploration equipment to a high-fashion garment that represents belonging to a specific group or subculture.

Today, the puffer jacket appears to fall into two distinct categories. You have either a descendant of the high-fashion puffer jacket – emphasised by the full-on athleisure-infused streetwear look – or a contemporary take on classic tailored menswear with a puffer jacket added on top.

Styling a Puffer Jacket

The puffer jacket is a readily available and an appealing option for many of us today, especially in climates where temperatures can drop well below freezing during the winter. However, making it work with a wardrobe full of classic pieces remains a challenge.

Unsurprisingly, casual clothing is the answer here. Consider a well-cut pair of denim jeans or two items of clothing that were born out of a practical need and complement each other well. Sweaters and other knitwear items are also appropriate to wear with a puffer jacket.

A turtleneck is a particularly elegant option, allowing you to skip the scarf in favour of greater ease of wear. If denim is too casual for you, consider corduroy trousers, another classic winter wardrobe staple. These sturdy pants will keep you warm during the colder months, and the subtle rubbing will complement the lines on a puffer jacket.

But what in your wardrobe stands out as odd or out of place with your puffer jacket? Tailoring, and by that we mean any item of tailored clothing designed to be worn in a formal style, should be the immediate answer for us.

That means – no suits, unusual jackets, or formal pants with a sharp crease in the front, and, as an alternative, formal fabrics should be avoided. Worsted, suiting wool, fine flannel, and even some of the sharper, dressier tweeds should be avoided when worn with a puffer jacket.

This is due to a number of factors. Puffer jackets lack the elegant lines needed to create a cohesive style language between formal clothing and suiting. The puffer jacket’s loud, technical fabrics betray the elegance of the look you’re attempting to achieve. And, unfortunately, utility is not designed to look good, despite the fact that looking good is the entire purpose of your suit.

However, there are a few alternatives to the puffer jacket that you should think about to achieve elegance:

  1. Waterproof waxed coats

  2. Duffel Coats

  3. Parka

Are they timeless or just a passing fad?

As much as we appreciate a well-made, classic overcoat, there are times when a good puffer jacket is the better option. After all, they’re designed for extreme weather, whereas an elegant top coat is designed for elegance. As a result, a simple puffer jacket of good quality could be considered a timeless piece.

That being said, the ability of puffer jackets to be used as a means of looking trendy is becoming increasingly popular. Not only do they remain primarily a casual item worn with sportier streetwear, but they are also used by modern menswear influencers to break the mould of what is and is not acceptable to wear with formal clothing.

Is it better to be timeless or trendy? The puffer jacket is a classic piece of clothing that also works well for trendy winter wear. These jackets come and go with fashion, but their functionality and style will never be out of date or replaced in the foreseeable future. So, don’t be concerned about getting the one you’ve been eyeing for this peak winter season.

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