Every season, there seems to be one piece that’s having a moment — it’s stocked in all of our favorite stores, posted all over our feeds, and even showing up IRL worn by those with most enviable style. Welcome to Micro-Zeitgeist, a recurring deep dive on that one item that’s invading our collective shopping consciousness.
We don’t quite remember the moment that we realized this specific coat had reached ubiquitous cool-person status. Was it hanging on the coat rack at our friend’s intimate Christmas party, or the sight of two skateboarders twinning in red and yellow versions of the colorblocked puffers as they rolled down Bedford Avenue? Was it when we spotted it in the outerwear sections of retailers as diverse as Saks Fifth Avenue, SSENSE, and Urban Outfitters, all with dwindling inventory levels? All we know is that The North Face’s “Nuptse” puffer is everywhere this winter, and we want to know more.
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Instantly recognizable thanks to its boxy shape, vertical baffles, and high-contrast colorways, the jacket originally launched in 1992, engineered for actual Himalayan expeditions. It was immediately embraced by the hip-hop community, giving it an added dose of cred, and appeared on the backs of a multitude of rappers throughout the ’90s. The North Face decided to revisit the style in 2017. “In recent years, we’ve seen our biggest fans returning to our most iconic products,” explained Tim Bantle, The North Face’s GM of Lifestyle. So much so that The North Face now has a whole section on its site devoted to classic styles they dub as “Icons.” Clearly, they made the right call: “As a 90’s reissue, this puffer is just as relevant now as then — we’ve had continuously sold-out sales through holiday season and into the new year,” says Urban Outfitters Chief Merchandising Officer Gabrielle Conforti.
Armed with this knowledge, we knew it was time to go a-stalkin’ in real time. We stopped Brooklyn resident Charlotte Paffe — who coincidentally turned out to be the e-commerce director at Innisfree, one of our go-to spots for K-beauty goods — on her way to Pilates after we spotted her in the less-seen olive drab colorway. “My brother actually bought this for me at the Urban Outfitters in LA — was totally sold out in my size in all North Face stores in New York,” she told us. We had to know: why is this particular puffer a must-have? “It has a ’90s feel that makes it relaxed but still cool, plus it's super warm and functional.”
We also sent out an inter-office bat signal that caught the attention of Serena Brown, creative assistant at R29’s UK office, who told us that “growing up in London, this jacket was literally a staple for everyone I know — I've always thought it was jokes that anyone from an explorer to a roadman wears it.” Brown remembers the puffer’s ’90s heyday — “It’s never left my little bubble,” she says — and she’s actually been through two iterations: “a cream-colored one from eBay, and a white one that I actually got at North Face.” With winter winding now and the coat starting to go on sale, now’s the time to nab one — whether you track down a men’s or women’s style, the puffer’s rugged retro appearance is only getting better with age.
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