In 1936, Eddie Bauer invented the puffer jacket after a brief brush with hypothermia on a fishing trip. Essentially, he got really cold and decided he didn’t want to be. In 1940, the skyliner, his signature garment, was patented and intended to prioritize comfort over style with down feathers encased in quilted fabric.
Almost simultaneously, Charles James designed his iconic pneumatic jacket, an artistic and imaginative rendition of the puffer. The design demonstrated such extraordinary technical ability that James predicted the garment would be too difficult to reconstruct and would fall out of relevance. Naturally, then, it gained cult status in the ’70s and remains a pillar of sophistication in design today.
When the ’70s remembered Charles James, it also welcomed Norma Kamali and her infamous “sleeping bag coat.” Inspired by a camping trip, Kamali heroically utilized actual sleeping bags in her initial designs. The garment secured her position as a pioneer in the blending of fashion and functionality, a feat that deserves an international holiday.
Puffers reappeared in the ’80s, this time in the form of streetwear worn by trendy Milanese teenagers. Known as Paninari, this youth scene and subculture distinguished themselves by donning global brands including Levi’s, Timberlands, and vibrant Moncler jackets. They repurposed utilitarian articles into uniforms of relevance. In other words, Supreme didn’t do it first – Italian teenagers did.
Today, the puffer jacket continues to celebrate the visions of all its makers and shakers. It’s a source of warmth for all, a blending of fashion and functionality for many, and a statement of high fashion for a few. Its relevance in today’s market shows a lasting transition where comfort doesn’t supersede style – it’s now synonymous with it. For this, we are thankful.
Moncler puffer gowns designed by Pierpaolo Piccioli & Liya Kebede