The puffer jacket has quickly become such an essential piece of winter gear that it’s now a format applicable to any kind of clothing. These days, with a little inspiration and a lot of insulation, it seems that anything can be puffed.
The path to global puffification started almost immediately after Eddie Bauer created his seminal 1936 down jacket, which was sold as the Skyliner. Almost immediately the puffer coat ceased to be strictly about warmth, says Hannah Kane, a lecturer in marketing at the London College of Fashion, and author of The Style Thesaurus.
By 1937, “early designers like Charles James started experimenting with making these beautiful silk puffers,” which he called the pneumatic jacket. “Puffers are also about taking up space, literally. There’s a quite maximalist side to them. Designers love to play with scale and proportion, as well as new techniques and construction.” This preference manifested itself in pieces such as Norma Kamali’s Sleeping Bag coats, introduced in 1973, and Alexander McQueen’s experiments with the form in the ’90s.
Over time, the questions became bigger—and weirder. What else can you stuff a jacket with? Does it have to be a jacket? Does it even have to be for people?
Water- and windproof puffers offer unbeatable protection from the elements, but there’s a pervasive sameness to them. Moncler’s subtly baffled men’s Gelt Down Shacket forgoes the standard synthetics with wide wale corduroy, available for $1,445 in black, white and olive green.
More casual (and puffier!) is the $895 women’s Nova denim puffer, a collaboration between London-based Shoreditch Ski Club and Los Angeles denim label Agolde. A built-in backpack-style harness means you don’t even have to wear the jacket to … wear the jacket.
The filling on the $345 Flwrdwn reversible jacket, from London eco-fashion brand Pangaia, is an insulation made from a blend of wildflowers, corn-based polymers and aerogel. On the outside, the recycled nylon shell is available in black, navy with cobalt blue, foliage green with copper brown, and plum purple with foxglove pink.
If a zip-up puffer is too casual, venerable Italian fashion house Herno offers an ultra-lightweight three-button blazer in nuage with monogram detailing in navy blue, white and light gray. For added warmth (and chest coverage), the $815 jacket includes a zip-in bib. Upstart label Entire Studios, which quickly earned wide attention with followers from the Kardashian clan, offers the belly-baring A7L puffer in five colors, from $429.
Don’t call them leg warmers, even though the 800-fill, responsibly sourced down in Cotopaxi’s Fuego down pants, from $225, will keep your knees from freezing in even the coldest conditions. The 20D ripstop nylon shell comes in three colors (differing for men and women), each with a trio of colorful tube sock-like stripes on the calves. If your knees need to breathe, try the $295 Decker performance quilted shorts from Canadian outfitter Nobis, available in shiny black or green windproof technical taffeta fabric.
Even the biggest, baddest of pooches can turn into a scaredy-cat when it comes time for a walk in the cold or rain. The $75 Sub Zero waterproof jacket from haute pet provisioner Maxbone offers puffy protection from the elements in three pastel shades: mint fog, lavender haze and sand dune. Practical considerations such as a belly cinch and removable hood make this a good fit for all situations and sizes.