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Thursday 21st November 2019

We need to talk about puffer jackets

Puffer Jacket
But she looks so cosy, Helen?!

Puffer jackets are popping up everywhere from catwalks to high-street retailers, but the very thought of them is giving me chills. Why? – I was born in a puffer-jacket country, a place so cold you have no choice but to wear one, making everyone look like the Michelin Man trudging through the snow.

Firstly, I have to say it is important to keep warm in cold weather. In my teens, I had my fair share of attempts at giving the cold the middle finger. And guess what? The cold always won.

My determination not to wear a hat, because I thought hats looked silly on me, culminated in frostbite. With my earlobes going from purple to yellow, I was lucky to hold on to them. They are alright-looking these days, although they do get extremely red in cold weather.

My determination not to wear a hat, because I thought hats looked silly on me, culminated in frostbite.

Then there was the winter when I refused to wear boots, opting for moccasins instead. It wasn’t too bad though, as I had already experimented with heels on ice with hilarious consequences – if you think it’s hilarious to be accidentally (?) groped by a stranger who is trying to help you up.

In the past 10 years I have learned a thing or two, including the fact that I am better-adjusted to warmer, albeit rainier climates. But suddenly I see puffer jackets popping up in +5 Celsius weather in cities. Seriously?

Who thought they were a good idea anyway? The puffer jacket has quite practical origins, invented by Eddie Bauer, the founder of the eponymous US outdoorsy clothing brand, in 1936. The design was patented in 1940 as ‘Skyliner’, the first quilted goose down jacket that quickly became a classic American sportswear piece.

It was subsequently appropriated by the fashion world, as an evening jacket reminiscent of an eiderdown quilt, by Charles James in 1937, and as Norma Kamali’s ‘sleeping bag’ coats in the 1970s.

There was the winter when I refused to wear boots, opting for moccasins instead. It wasn’t too bad though, as I had already experimented with heels on ice with hilarious consequences.

The last time I wore a puffer jacket was probably around 2000. Although I later had padded jackets and coats for obvious reasons (THAT COLD!), they were never quilted.

One of the issues with the catwalk trend is that those loose jackets on skinny models, who at the same time fail to wear tights for some reason, kind of undoing the benefits of wearing a practical, warm jacket, would look different on me or you in the middle of the winter. The reality is most people end up looking like ribbed condoms. Most puffer jackets are also bulky when you take them off and try to carry them over your arm.

If you are going on a skiing holiday or a wintry fishing trip – the latter supposedly inspired Bauer – a puffer jacket may not be out of place. However, in the city, why not just wrap yourself in layers that you can gradually remove on stuffy public transport? A scarf, a jumper, a cardigan and a large, but thin coat can help you adapt to the temperature easily. Just an idea…

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Helen Harjak

Helen Harjak

Mouthy Blogger

Would you like to know how to dress like a catwalk model for one millionth of the price? Talk to Helen.

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