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STYLE AND CULTURE

CULT ITEM: PUFFER JACKET

By Lakeisha Goedluck, October 29, 2018

Fashion’s long-running obsession with the '90s has seen the puffer jacket enjoying a renaissance for a while now. Oversized and extra cosy, the outer layer that started life as a practical means of protection from the outside elements has since become a streetwear staple. From rapper Biggie to the Balenciaga FW18 catwalk, we trace its history below.

An Eddie Bauer down jacket | ASOS Style Feed

Picture: Getty

The story of the puffer jacket begins with a bout of misfortune. Intrepid outdoorsman Eddie Bauer found himself in a spot of trouble during an excursion when the wool coat he was wearing became waterlogged and began to freeze. Wrapped in what was effectively a shroud of ice, he managed to cheat death but was inspired to go on to design a coat that trapped in warmth while keeping its wearer dry. And thus, the puffer jacket was born.
A Milanese youth from the Paninaro movement in a puffer jacket | ASOS Style Feed

Picture: Getty

Since Bauer patented his invention in 1939, a number of designers have experimented with similar technology. In the late '30s, the first women’s evening puffer marked a breakaway from the jacket’s practical beginnings. Fast-forward to the '80s and designer Norma Kamali unveiled her sleeping bag coat — inspired by a camping trip which ended with Kamali traipsing the great outdoors wrapped in her sleeping bag for warmth — the iconic piece is still in production to this day. That same decade, a Milanese subculture scene brought Moncler’s range of puffer jackets to the forefront. The activewear brand had been supplying skiers and mountaineers since the '50s, but it was the Italian youths of the Paninaro movement that revealed the stylish side to its designs. From Timberland to Fila, the affluent collective repurposed sports and workwear garments and gave brands such as Moncler a luxurious edge.

Rapper Biggie Smalls wearing a puffer jacket | ASOS Style Feed

Picture: Getty

Ten years later, New York’s hip-hop heavyweights once again propelled the puffer into the limelight. Legends of the '90s rap scene such as Puff Daddy, Biggie Smalls and the Wu-Tang Clan sported iterations of the coat, with a penchant for Tommy Hilfiger’s designs in particular.

A model wearing a puffer jacket at the Balenciaga AW18 show | ASOS Style Feed

Picture: IMAXtree

On the catwalk, the puffer jacket has repeatedly been reimagined. From Raf Simon’s super-shiny longline styles for his FW16 collection to Rick Owens’ voluminous structures for FW17, the padded style has endured the seasons. Most recently, Donatella Versace sent emergency-orange versions down her FW18 runway and Demna Gvasalia offered up a puffer-meets-denim jacket hybrid that same season for Balenciaga. 

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