The #1 Winter Fashion Trend New Yorkers Have Been Rocking for Years (& How You Can, Too)
You can’t talk about fashion in New York City without listing off Timberland boots, New Era fitted caps and Uptowns. But as brick season—when temps drop to the 40s and 50s—approaches, there’s one item you’re guaranteed to see on countless New Yorkers: the puffer jacket.
See, winter in the city can be brutal. But aside from keeping you warm, the puffer has become much more than just outerwear. Complex writer (and native New Yorker) Lei Takanashi says it best: “The type of jacket a New Yorker rocks on any given day can identify who you are and what you are into.”
Sure, you’ll see some parkas or leather bomber jackets cruising around the five boroughs, but no matter what, the puffer jacket is New Yorkers’ pick time and time again.
What makes the puffer jacket so special?
Hi, native New Yorker here. I’m biased, but New York always starts trends. Case in point: The puffer jacket. We’re all about staying warm and being the most stylish person in our neighborhood. While I can wear this any time, I like combining my outerwear with flared jeans (preferably ripped on warmer days), a crewneck sweater (bonus points if it's from a NY university) and sneakers. Overall, I enjoy the versatility of the puffer jacket. It can take a casual style into a fashion statement while keeping you from shivering on the streets of NY.
If we’re talking about the history of the puffer, we have to give thanks to designer Eddie Bauer, who invented the waist-length puffer coat in the 1930s after almost freezing to death on a fishing trip. Fast-forward to the ‘80s, when Norma Kamali launched what is known as the “Sleeping Bag Jacket.” Next, the biggest fashion houses started adding them to their collections, and by the ‘90s, the most popular rappers (like Biggie, Salt N Pepa and LL Cool J) were featuring them in their music videos.
Almost 100 years later, “cropped puffer jackets,” “nude puffer jackets” and “The North Face puffer jacket” continue to pop up on Google Trends. Even a viral sound on TikTok has been paying homage to the winter staple. So it begs the question, are you even from New York if you don’t have a big black puffer jacket?
In a technical sense, it truly is cozy to wear. It was actually designed for hikers and campers in mind. It was—and kind of still is—all about functionality over fashion. The quilted padding is all about keeping you snug for even the biggest of NY blizzards.
OK, but what’s the *best* puffer jacket brand?
Ask any New Yorker what’s their go-to puffer jacket and the brand The North Face comes to mind. It was the brand in NYC in the ‘90s and continues to be worn every season. Every kid that grew up in the five boroughs can attest to adding a nice black puffer jacket (preferably The North Face) on their school checklist right next to their uniforms and Staples supplies.
You can spot the signature logo from a mile away and feel a sense of community whenever you catch someone else wearing one. Right next to bagels and yellow taxi cabs, The North Face puffer jacket is a symbol of the Big Apple.
As native New Yorker and big time North Face collector told The Cut, “One minute it’s raining, then it’s hot, then it’s cold. Everybody knows that once it gets cold, concrete absorbs coldness. Every time we go outside, we explore. We look at the train tracks, the walls and gates of this city. We represent The North Face.”
If you don’t have a puffer jacket already (or you’re looking to add to your collection), here are five picks to wear for the season.
1. The North Face 1996 Retro Nuptse Jacket
As mentioned before, the ‘90s was the start of a long relationship with The North Face. This retro coat gives us major nostalgia. The first thing you’ll notice is the oversize logo, shiny fabric and relaxed fit straight from the original 1996 design. Plus, the 700-fill is enough to keep you warm all winter long.
Available in sizes XS to 3XL
2. Blank NYC Temptations Jacket
While the black puffer coat look is a classic, we also love the idea of spicing things up with a bold color. This puffer is reversible (one side is a multi-color pattern and the other is solid pink) to give passersby a double take when you walk by.
Available in sizes XS to L
3. H&M Short Puffer Jacket
The cropped puffer jacket is in this season. This H&M pick includes a drawstring hem to cinch at the waist and put a twist on the overstuffed staple. It comes in three colors to match your entire winter wardrobe.
Available in sizes XXS to XL
4. Topshop Sheen Puffer Jacket
This Topshop find is a two-in-one that’s great for those weird times of year when the weather can’t decide what it wants to be. This style has detachable sleeves so you can wear it as a vest and rock it with your signature hoodie.
Available in sizes 2 to 14
5. Sam Edelman Hooded Funnel Puffer Coat
There’s no need to sacrifice style, especially when low temperatures are coming your way. This soft cord jacket keeps you cozy and stylish thanks to its quilted fabric.
Available in sizes XS to XL