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The Best Puffer Vests for Men on the Move
When temperatures permit, vests are a lightweight, versatile alternative to more overbearing outerwear.
The archetypal outfit for a standard fare finance worker comprises of crisp performance khakis, a similarly stretchy dress shirt and a fleece vest, ideally from Patagonia (but with the bank's logo brazenly sewn onto the other side). It took over, was steadfastly copied and then quickly memeified. As such, many moved on, while ruining fleece vests for the rest of us.
Little did they know, though, that fleece vests are actually the worst type of vest (and not just because they were co-opted by cubicle workers). Vests are versatile — a good option when the weather is stuck between seasons — but fleece ones don't offer much protection from the elements or the wind. At best, fleece vests are a nice mid-level layer designed to provide insulation with little excess weight.
The best vests, however, are puffer vests, whether they're ultra-wide and super-warm or sleek and slim. Here's why.
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What Is a Puffer Vest?
The first puffer jackets appeared on the market all the way back in 1936 after Eddie Bauer nearly froze to death on a fishing trip. He applied design concepts popularized through sleeping bags to outerwear, creating a quilted jacket that was capable of insulating the wearer with their own body heat. His design, the Skyliner, prioritized function over form. It wasn't until Norma Kamali (with her aptly titled Sleeping Bag Coat) and Moncler (with the Alpine Coat) that the general public caught on.
Now, puffers are a core part of most wardrobes, whether they work in finance or fly fish. And the puffer vest is a natural evolution, albeit one without sleeves. They're equally adept at keeping you warm, though, just on a breezy spring day, not in the dead of winter.
Why Wear a Puffer Vest
Puffer vests are an obvious upgrade over form-fitting fleece ones in terms of sheer width, but they're also warmer. With this width, though, many of them can take on more of your EDC without looking droopy or lumpy — simply put, you can actually use the pockets. Plus, while fleece vests can feel a little flat, puffers promise outward energy, enhancing your silhouette. They're the little extra on top of a hoodie and joggers, or a crewneck with wide-leg nylon pants.
How to Pick the Right One
In order to find the right puffer vest for your personal style, you need to consider two things: width and construction. A wider puffer skews more streetwear, while a form-fitting one with a suede yoke works well with cowboy boots and wide-cut jeans. In the end, pick the puffer that suits you.
Follow our fit guide to find the right width:
- Slim: wraps snugly around the torso and is tight at the armholes
- Standard: straight-fitting, like your favorite jacket
- Wide: not oversized inside but noticeably puffy outside
- Ultra-Wide: a statement piece
How to Style a Puffer Vest
As implied above, don't mix and match widths, meaning you shouldn't pair a tight top piece with wide pants (or vice versa). If you go wide on top, which most puffer vests are, stay straight-fitting or wide beneath the belt line, too: try wide-leg trousers, flared sweatpants, or giant chinos.