The rise and rise of The North Face puffer: Why is it the coat that just keeps growing?
Brown North Face puffers are fetching as much as £600 on Depop right now
The North Face Nuptse puffer is no stranger to university students. It has become deeply embedded within uni culture – bonus points if styled with a vintage jumper, worn out Air Force 1 trainers and a naked MacBook as an accessory. If North Face puffer spotting was an Olympic sport, Edinburgh, Leeds and Newcastle students would definitely take home gold medals.
A new data-driven report based on the shopping habits of over 100 million people published by Lyst, a fashion search engine, officially names the North Face Nuptse puffer the hottest female and male fashion item of the year.
But it was on-trend in 2017, four years ago, and graduates reading this would be rightly scratching their heads asking: how has it not gone out of fashion yet? How has the North Face puffer outlasted presidents, prime ministers, and pandemics?
Here’s one explanation: The Kardashians. After Kendall Jenner was photographed wearing a brown North Face puffer last November, search results for “North Face puffer” have increased dramatically with Google Trends showing a 3,000 per cent increase in the UK alone, having doubled between the months of November and January. The top two related searches were for the brown puffer jacket, as seen on Kendall.
The jackets have also been spotted on the shoulders of big-name celebs including A$AP Rocky, Hailey Bieber, Emily Ratajkowski and Bella Hadid, illustrating their return in pop culture and the fashion industry. The North Face puffers mark the height of street style, exhibiting a symbol of prestige as they do not come readily available to purchase at a low cost.
The “1996 Retro Nuptse Jacket” currently sold by The North Face starts at a hefty price tag of £250, with many of the current available colours having been sold out on the official website for months. However, the vintage brown model as seen on Kendall Jenner is no longer sold by the brand itself, causing an extreme demand on websites that sell pre-loved items. According to Glamour, eBay saw “one search every three seconds for North Face on average over the past six months”, and “North face puffer” has become Depop’s most searched-for item, with second-hand puffers currently being sold from prices upwards of £500.
Peter Semple, chief marketing officer at Depop, told British Vogue: “There are so many great nostalgic and cultural references sourcing The North Face puffer jacket – particularly the legendary Nuptse – and our community loves finding original vintage items with a story behind them,
“The North Face puffer has been iconic for decades, and it’s great to see the Depop community embracing it and creating new iconic moments in its story.”
Revell’s Vintage started out as an Instagram store in 2017. The store has now developed to specialise in the exclusively sourcing and re-selling of North Face puffers, many of which can no longer be purchased first-hand including the famous brown puffer among other pastel colours such as baby blue and forest green, which were discontinued years ago.
Dan, the founder of Revell’s Vintage, told The Tab: “The brown North Face puffer was probably one of the least desirable colours in previous years, I avoided buying them in the past as they would usually sit for longer.
“A combination of Kendall Jenner being photographed, other social media influencers wearing them, as well as the increase in users screen time on social media as a result of lockdowns have all had a huge impact on the surge.
“In November I had 4,000 followers and predominantly sold through Instagram. Now I have approximately 15,000 followers and over 80 per cent of my items sell out on my website in the first 15 minutes of listing them, so the majority don’t even get posted on Depop.”
Dan added that 12 months ago, the average price for a second-hand brown North Face puffer would have been around £100-120. Compared to the staggering £500+ the puffer is going for now, it’s safe to say that it has become one of this year’s most sought after fashion items.
Depop stores are following this trend, using the huge momentum the desire for this puffer has gained in order to boost their following through giveaways.
Eleanor, a second year student at Newcastle University told The Tab: “I feel like the interest in the brown North Face puffer literally went from zero – 100. I saw it on my TikTok feed and thought ‘wow that is so cute’ and within days it was selling for a ridiculous amount of money online. I wasn’t even aware that Kendall Jenner wore it until I scoured through Depop and eBay to try find the coat and saw that the photo of her was everywhere.”
Eleanor feels the puffer has become a sign of wealth, describing that if someone posted a picture of them wearing it, you know they’ve either had it in the back of their wardrobe for years or very recently paid “mad money” to get one.
She further added: “The coat is adorable but paying over £500 is actually a joke to me. I have a black North Face puffer and don’t really see how it would make a difference next winter when brown isn’t ‘in’ anymore. By then, it will probably look embarrassing that you spent so much money on a coat.”
In response to why Eleanor actively joined giveaway competitions, she said: “When the trend initially hit I did enter a few competitions to try and win one – but the more time goes on, I’m starting to get fairly bored over everyone going mad over a coat that everyone already owns, just in a different colour.”
The North Face also recently announced a highly-anticipated collaboration with Gucci. The 70s inspired collection was released on January 22nd and merged Gucci’s maximalist designs with The North Face’s outdoor performance gear.
The North Face x Gucci puffer jacket, as seen on A$AP Rocky, costs £1,950. Having sold out everywhere online, the jacket’s current re-sell value has increased to up to £9,000 on Depop, displaying the same phenomenon of desire as seen with the discontinued brown 1996 Nuptse puffer.
Love Island’s Molly-Mae also recently uploaded a story of her wearing the jacket to her Instagram story, captioning it “Chav chic and I’m here for it”. She received extensive backlash for being classist as a result to her description of the high-priced puffer, with a user tweeting: “She’s minted and she’s describing a coat that probably costs over 2K as ‘chav chic’ just seems a bit out of touch really”.
The Nuptse jacket was first released in 1992 and became an iconic staple piece that took over underground hip-hop subcultures. Complex writes: “Wearing The North Face was the closest some teenagers could get to social mobility.
“Whether boosters nabbing it from shelves or graffiti writers who worked two summer jobs to get the funds, a TNF jacket implied style and status.”