By Morwenna Ferrier
Some trends can feel alienating, but the padded coat can be worn by anyone – from new dads to students and Theresa May to Alan Partridge
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 Céline Dion. And, for better or worse, it has happened to puffer jackets – you know, the catch-all term for those water-resistant, ultrapractical “technical” coats you might tackle Everest in.
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 £750 padded jacket, and last weekend wore a more generic black version to church).
It was a trickle at first. In 2016, Demna Gvsalia’s first collection 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 engine that tracks what people are buying according to clicks, reported a 59% year-on-year rise in searches. In February 2019, the rubicon was crossed: 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 most desired item was a pair of Nike trainers.
“A puffer’s shape and look are powerful, but also plain and almost spartan – and there’s power in riding 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.