Unless you reside in Darwin or Broome, chances are you’ve found it hard getting out of bed on these freezing winter mornings.
I say freezing advisedly, as we Australians turn into right whingers the moment the thermometer plunges anywhere below 20C. When it hovers around 15C, we start logging on to travel websites to find the cheapest flights north.
On these wintry mornings, it’s tempting to drag your doona out the door with you. Which, in a manner of speaking, some people do. The wearable doona, also known as the puffer jacket, in all its down-filled, nylon-coated glory, has long been a scourge on style. They make even the youngest and slimmest among us look like mini Michelin men, so what hope does anyone else have of looking good in this puffed-up marshmallow doppelganger?
”But that is not the point!” I hear you protest. ”They keep us warm in these frosty times and climes!”
Well, to that end, I would say there is a place for them. Outer Mongolia in January, for one. Walking on the Yorkshire Moors in December. Ski slopes at Thredbo about now. The Arctic Circle, anytime. (Anyone addicted to the recent television dramaFortitude may have started having positive feelings about said item about episode four, when their on-screen ubiquity made them seem less ludicrous than usual.)
Inner-city Sydney, suburban Perth? Not so much. Yet there they are.
Since Uniqlo opened its doors in Melbourne and Sydney, puffers have been popping up with alarming regularity, like those little puffball mushroom things just begging to be stomped on for the powdery after-effect.
The Japanese fast-fashion retailer has been doing a roaring trade in its ULDs (Ultra Light Down) this winter for men and women (this item has no gender boundaries).
According to Uniqlo marketing director Tracey Lang, the ULD is one of the brand’s most popular items, and this winter waterproof versions have been added to its enormous selection.
Given the rise of normcore during the past couple of years, perhaps the puffer is even more acceptable now, so banal is it in its ubiquity. And yet, even high fashion is getting its dirty mitts on the item. Head to matchesfashion.com and you’ll find many offerings, from S Max Mara, in bold hues with detachable fur collars and in cute prints; a half-puffer/half-opera coat hybrid from Herno; and leopard-print ones from Moncler Gamme Rouge.
Sydney’s Dion Lee sent out some — dare I say it — covetably stylish offerings for his autumn-winter show at New York Fashion Week in February. In deep navy blue and winter white satin, the cropped puffers were especially marshmallow-like and sat atop slashed skirts and trousers.
”I was trying to recontextualise them, turn them into elegant puffer jackets,” Lee says. ”That was definitely part of the appeal. They’re borderline bad taste, depending on who you’re talking to.”
Of course, while I pooh-pooh the puffer, some in fashion circles welcome its warm embrace.
Alarmingly, Lee has gone from anti to pro in his puffer stance.
”I bought my first Sacai puffer in New York late last year and I love them now. It’s the best thing to fly with because it’s like sleeping in a sleeping bag or you can roll it up into the perfect in-flight pillow.”
Ken Thompson, fashion director of The Australian’s monthly Wish magazine, is another who praises the puffer. ”I adore the puffer jacket,” he says. ”I don’t like it taken to Michelin extremes but it’s got a great utilitarian place in fashion.”
For Thompson, if you’re going to go there, you should really go there. ”Go all out and go colour. I love them in orange, lime — quite summery colours so when you put them on you feel even warmer than the puffer allows. And that goes for men, too — embrace brights.”
Further to that utilitarian notion, Thompson is averse to the over-fashioning of this item, preferring the standard hip-length variety with a hood. ”I don’t love the full-length puffer unless you’re in Arctic conditions. I think the puffer has to look like an essential item that you’ve just thrown on for warmth. And I like them with quite fine padding, you don’t want them too voluminous.”
For Thompson there are some rules to follow when wearing the puffer, and this goes as much for commuter etiquette as style tips.
”You should accessorise it properly — with a scarf and a flat boot, like a riding boot. And it all then depends on having a slimline pant to go with your puffer — for men and women. For men, wear one with a great RM Williams boot and jeans.
”You’ve got to be keenly aware on the commute to work that you’re not taking up too much space. I would take it off during the commute and then put it back on once you’re outside. So the lighter the better for your puffer because you’ll be nursing it along with your tech gear and briefcase.”
My only concern is that there was a time — my entire 20s and 30s — when I consistently bagged the humble Ugg boot. Now (having passed 40), my feet are constantly confined in cocooning sheepskin all winter (just indoors, mind). If I happen to pass the threshold of Uniqlo next winter and start loitering around the ULD display instead of its deliciously colourful cashmere — any one of you has the right to turn me around and send me out the door.