Puffer jacket is the essential winter coat that looks good on Rihanna and the Pope

“Hello, I’m a style editor and a fashion snob.” I’m not alone. The late Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld described sweatpants as “a sign of defeat”; logos leave US Vogue editor Anna Wintour unsmiling; other style gurus baulk at seeing navy and green without a colour in-between.

Looking both cool and hot: Rihanna performs at this year’s Super Bowl.Credit: Getty Images

Until this winter, nothing sent my nose higher in the air than the sight of a puffer jacket. The involuntary cringe would begin moments before the quilted monstrosity, inevitably black, came into view. The sound of swishing nylon set my nerves on edge like fingernails on a blackboard.

This photo of Pope Francis may 
be fake but it gave the puffer a push.

This photo of Pope Francis may
be fake but it gave the puffer a push.

Popularised by sportswear brand Eddie Bauer and couturier Charles James in the 1930s, the puffer has a long history, but it was only 10 years ago that people started talking about the style with an off-putting enthusiasm usually reserved for cross-training and craft beer. My puffer-phobia was born in the normcore trend of 2014, which celebrated the dad-dressing energy of Jerry Seinfeld: “Fashion for those who realise they’re one in seven billion,” said New York Magazine. A one-man resistance movement, I clung to camel overcoats that tested the strength of wardrobe rods and which, in the lightest of drizzle, acquired the smell of a cabbage-loving schnauzer. I protested in a Burberry trench that demonstrated my fashion credentials but looked odd on top of workout clothes.

It took a pregnant Rihanna singing Rude Boy at the Super Bowl in February, while wearing a crimson puffer jacket from luxury label Alaïa, to change my mind. She looked warm but also cool. Of course, Rihanna is a billionaire pop star who managed to look cool wearing a yellow dress that resembled pizza to the Met Gala in 2015. But then an image of Pope Francis, looking surprisingly stylish in a puffer jacket in March, sealed the item’s everyman appeal. The photographs were AI-generated, but the 86-year-old pontiff was still giving the much-younger men featured in this year’s “hot priest” calendar a run for their collection money.


And now I’m a convert. Apart from weighing a fraction of their woollen counterparts, puffer jackets can endure any kind of precipitation without emitting eau de dog. They can be worn on top of workout gear or dinner pants and accessorised with a coffee cup on power walks or pearls on dinners out. No sandals and socks, though. One battle at a time, please.


Anna-Lisa Buckland

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