I made the grave error of waffling to my editor that the North Face Nuptse jacket is the best puffer of all time. As I thought about backing up my big claim, I realised I was right; it is truly the holy grail of outerwear. The North Face, founded in 1968, came into itself from the early 1990s in the New York streetwear and hip-hop scene.
The introduction of the 1992 Nuptse jacket, named after Everest’s neighbour, followed by the 1996 iteration, cemented the brand as simultaneously a pinnacle of streetwear and of gorpcore. Ever since, The North Face has achieved a dedicated and widely diverse fan base of trendsetters, mountaineers, hikers, dads and everyone in between.
Simple styling, with hyped-collaborations, bright and subtle colourways and the perfect equilibrium between heat and breathability has made the Nuptse an essential of any wardrobe and any style subset. Carhartt workwear, Levi’s denim and the heavy-duty Timberland boots of the NYC street culture of the 90s has now transitioned to the New Balance dad-shoes, influencer culture and branding of the contemporary scene.
The Nuptse has offered stature and comfort throughout these transitions, and collaborations with Gucci, Supreme, Kaws, Brain Dead and others have ensured its enduring clout. As the most fashionable puffer, according to trendsetters such as Alessandro Michele, me, Emily Ratajkowski, Notorious B.I.G, Kanye West and Virgil Abloh, the jacket has seen a recent resurgence in demand and desire attributed to the pandemic. The puffer secured the number one spot for both men’s and women’s jackets in Lyst’s rankings of its 2020 sales, due to socialising being limited to outdoors areas and walking.
The Nuptse has a 700-fill down that is packed into baffles, individual puffy sections that ensure even distribution of warmth. The 700-fill-power is a measurement of the down’s ability to insulate, trap air and retain warmth. The North Face’s Responsible Down Standard ensures ethical practices within the supply chain. As the most popular TNF puffer, it has a relaxed fit and the ability to cinch the jacket, altering its fit to sit tighter or shorter, making it a unisex and versatile jacket.
It’s made from the highest quality materials, a lightweight ripstop shell with a durable water-repellent coating, Velcro cuffs and a bungee cinch cord. It even has the ability to fold into a pocket, packing itself away into a pouch for easy transportation; completely eradicating the nightmare of transporting a huge jacket from a warm environment to an environment where its presence is essential.
The North Face’s controversies endorse the lasting relevance of the Nuptse at the pinnacle of jackets. Dubbed by parents as “spine-breakers” due to their high price breaking financial backbones, the jackets have led to widespread instances of schoolyard bullying and violent crime. Youngsters have regularly shoplifted the jackets from the 1990s, and there was widespread North-Face-nicking in Maryland and Seoul as TNF wearers found themselves targets of mugging for their clothes.
The Nuptse 1992 and 1996 are the “peak of gorpcore” — the trend of urban creatives wearing outdoors/hiking items — though the 1996 iteration is significantly cooler — a topic for another day. The Nuptse is pricey, but it’s a strong challenger to other “icons” of outerwear such as Moncler, Stone Island and Canada Goose; jackets that run into the tens of thousands of rand. On the peaks of Everest, of fashion weeks and mugging statistics, The North Face Nuptse is truly the best jacket of all time.