How the North Face puffer jacket was made into street style: Social climber

woman in black knit cap and black framed eyeglasses

The ‘pandemic effect,’ and Celebrity TikTok are driving a 400% increase in sales among young urbanites

Forget the trench or camel coat. Investment outerwear for winter is all-weather friendly. It’s puffy and brightly coloured, with a semi-circle logo that pays homage to a Californian formation. The North Face puffer jackets, such as the Nupste in two-tone from 1996, have been a popular fashion item and are a common sight on the streets of America. These jackets are worn by everyone from Kendall Jenner to Emily Ratajkowski, and even teens in parks all over the country.

These jackets, which retail for around PS250 each new, are very popular as secondhand purchases among younger customers. These jackets are the most popular item searched on Depop’s Gen Z resale app, and have seen a 500% increase in searches over the last four months. From July 2020 to December 2020, someone searched eBay for The North Face three times per second. Vintage store Beyond Retro also reported a 315 percent increase in The North Face sales. Asos reported a 400% increase in sales year-on-year of exclusive styles under the brand.

The pandemic effect is one reason for the popularity. When you have limited time to go outside, a jacket that can withstand the elements is more appealing. A jacket that doubles as a duvet can be reassuring and it will also fit into your yearning for comfort.

The North Face is also known for its fashion credentials. In 2018, the Nupste was relaunched with stars like Kanye West sporting it. This week, the brand revealed its much-anticipated collaboration with Gucci: The North Face x Gucci monogrammed puffer, with a video featuring climbers, graffiti artists and the brand’s eccentric designer, Alessando Michele.

woman in black leather jacket holding black short coat dog during daytime

This could be called “peak gorpcore”, a trend that encourages young urban creatives to wear outdoory items. Jeff Carvalho is the co-founder and chief designer of Highsnobiety’s streetwear site. He calls the Nupste “the icon of the category”. According to him, style fans love nothing more than to wear high-engineered gear… It was made for the mountains but it looks great on the streets.” This North Face Gucci-monogrammed puffer, is just one example. A$AP Rocky and Vogue staffers have endorsed it.

Fans of The North Face are familiar with collaboration – it’s part and parcel of their crossover appeal. Since 2007, Supreme has collaborated with the brand, which was established in San Francisco in 1966. Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber wore a gilet in a recent partnership with MM6, a Martin Margiela company.

Models like Jenner, Bieber, and Hadid – who have huge Instagram followings – are more likely to endorse The North Face than any designer collaboration.

Peter Semple is the chief marketing officer of Depop. He says that social media has contributed to this trend. Jenner wore a brown The North Face puffer during winter 2019. These puffers are so rare that they can be purchased on the app for more than PS400

The North Face jackets are a popular choice for teenagers, and could become controversial items for grown-ups. This is what happened in the USA in the 90s. These jackets were so prized and so expensive that they became a cause of crime. According to Joey Ones, a North Face collector, young people shoplifted jackets from the brand in the 1990s. Similar crimes have been reported in South Korea. High-end items from The North Face were hugely popular among high school students in the noughties. Parents called them “spinebreakers” because of their high cost. In 2012, the story was made international headlines when a blog post revealed that different styles could determine a student’s position in high school. This included being a loser in the cheapest Nupste or “the boss” wearing a Himalayan Down parka. The LA Times reported that bullies forced pupils to purchase their jackets in order to pay for more expensive jackets. Students were also caught stealing jackets from North Face. It was seductive to be able to wear one. Jeon Seohyun, 14, boasts that his was worth around $400. “Yeah, I know it’s quite expensive.”

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