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The Best Sherpa Jackets for Men Are Warmer Than Ever

Rugged Western style, but softer. Here's why the sherpa jacket is still our go-to cold-weather staple.

collage of three sherpa jackets

Few garments beat the rugged warmth of a sherpa jacket. These jewels don’t carry the hefty price tag of shearling, and they are closely associated with Western style — the budding darling of men’s fashion.

History of Sherpa Jackets

The style, as you see it below, dates back to at least 1967, when Levi's introduced a lined Type III Jacket. Style historians trace the textile's emergence further back and even to a particular people — "Tibetan people living on the high southern slopes of the Himalayas in eastern Nepal" — but the sherpa collar peaked in the '70s, most agree.

It remained a part of the working class wardrobe for both its warmth and its wearability — something soft yet plenty sturdy. The sherpa jacket is a durable, classic piece of American outerwear and, if it’s not already draped over your shoulders, should be a strong contender for your cold-weather jacket roster.

How to Wear a Sherpa Jacket

Sherpa jackets are inherently warmer than traditional versions of the same jacket. As such, it's smarter not to layer as intensely. Whereas a thermal might work under a standard denim jacket, it will not under a sherpa one — there just simply isn't as much room.

Try wearing a sherpa jacket overtop a long-sleeve T-shirt or a fine gauge sweater. A thinner crewneck sweatshirt works, too, and will help keep your chest cold if you don't button the jacket all the way up.

Why We Might Not Use 'Sherpa' in the Future

It's important we highlight an ongoing dialogue brands are having about the way they use the word "sherpa." The North Face, for example, just announced it would stop using the word. It encouraged other brands, like Levi's and Gap, to do the same. A reference to a woolen material used by the Sherpa people, sherpa is simply another word for "pile fleece," The North Face argues, and it will use "pile" going forward.

"The Sherpa people traditionally wore the fur on the inside because it created an air pocket that insulates," Henry Navarro, a designer and professor in fashion from Toronto, told NBC News. "They shared that knowledge with all these explorers, and that has never been fully recognized," he said.

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