BEEN DOWN SO LONG...
This fall, the down jacket (please don’t call it a “puffer”) reasserts its rugged roots. Finally.
Chalk it up to one more ’80s icon gone to seed. Like James spader, so provocative in Sex, Lies, and Videotape, the once-bold down jacket has lost its edge. is there now any piece of outerwear more sexless and soulless?
Hard to believe, but there was a time when the down jacket was the winter version of a leather biker jacket: it was born of utility and quickly acquired a rebellious status. over the past decade, though, something went wrong, and it lost its swagger, morphing into the uniform of soccer moms and helicopter dads everywhere, perfect for braving the heavy merges and left-hand-turn lanes in safely shuttling the team from practice to pizza to cul-de-sac. You know the look—a snug-fitting, prim little number, churned out in as sober and inoffensive a colour as possible, quilted and ribbed to within an inch of its life. it’s even taken on a cute new name: the puffer coat. awwww.
But again, it wasn’t always this way. Born in dangerous weather—seattle sportsman eddie Bauer made the first ones just before the war after he nearly froze to death on a winter fishing trip— down coats, jackets and vests, with their signature embroidered pockets of insulation, were developed by Bauer and other innovative outfitters like Moncler as a lightweight option for skiers, mountain climbers and outdoorsmen of all kinds to guard against the bitterest temperatures. The style migrated from the slopes to the streets in the early ’80s. american kids looking for an alternative to their fathers’ tweedy topcoats took their ski-club jackets backpacking across europe. and in italy, a fashionforward scooter-riding street scene grew up around the sandwich shops of Milan—a sort of Milanese version of england’s young Mods: the Paninari, whose attitude-heavy look was inevitably topped off with a big, bright, bold down vest or jacket.
Thankfully, a few manufacturers this season have been inspired to take the down jacket back to its rebel roots, and you can now channel some of that ’80s swagger. An unabashed array of vivid colors—rich yellows, strong blues, pulsing reds—are out from designers in fuller, immodest silhouettes, with the old-school big-pocket quilting. Abercrombie & Fitch is offering a version (the red one, opposite page) that’s priced for an affordability the young Paninari would’ve appreciated—just a shade over two bills. So put aside the “puffer coat” and its staid associations in favour of one of these. And don’t worry—you can still pull it off, just like you did in the ’80s. All of which is to say there may be hope for James Spader yet. Have you seen The Blacklist?
Jacket by Abercrombie & Fitch. Jacket by Herno.
Over armour Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbing Everest, 1953. Above An American Werewolf in London, 1981. Jacket by Tommy Hilfiger. Jacket by Paul & Shark. Jacket by Kenzo.