Congress president Rahul Gandhi (pictured) has trended on social media for multiple reasons. One of the recent ones has got to do with his sartorial choices. Earlier this year, Gandhi was trolled for wearing a Burberry puffer jacket valued at approximately Rs 70,000. Seemingly unfazed by the coat controversy, Gandhi continues to favour the clothing item. This winter, too, he has been spotted multiple times, pairing pristine white kurta pajamas with olive green, navy blue, black and beige variants of the sleeveless puffer jacket.
A garment that was reportedly invented in 1936 by American entrepreneur Eddie Bauer, and was called the Skyliner, today, the puffer jacket is being sported by trendsetters like Rihanna, Madonna and the Duchess of Essex, Meghan Markle. The jacket, if nothing else, is a throwback to the youthful outdoorsy persona, that its inventor, Bauer, personified. A unisex garment, favoured by both men and women, it has been retailed by high street and high-fashion brands alike — from Zara, Gap and Topshop to Alexander Mcqueen, Fendi and Pucci.
It’s rare to see Indian politicians endorsing high street fashion and brands, it’s even rarer for that endorsement to start a trend. For over 60 years, the Nehru jacket and topi have been dominating the sartorial choices of those in the hallowed halls of the Parliament. But Gandhi seems to have made the puffer jacket the go-to ensemble for many politicians this winter. Gandhi’s close friend and confidante Jyotiraditya Scindia has been seen wearing a checkered navy blue one. Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan Sachin Pilot has also been spotted wearing a zippered pintucked navy blue offering. Congress MP Deepender Singh Hooda wore a black Aston Martin, with horizontal stitching. “We have had the Nehru jacket as the go-to thing for politicians. Here, we have something hip, cool and very high street. It’s highly functional. The sleeveless versions, which Rahul wears, keep your hands free and the torso warm. It’s perfect for layering,” says Delhi-based menswear designer Sahil Aneja.
The clothing item gets its name from the ‘puffed up, or puffy’ space between the stitches. The puffiness is attributed to the quilting technique applied in making them. They are known for their signature light-weight feel. “It’s filled with down material, or down feathers, and is perfect to provide warmth, without the bulky feel of winter jackets,” shares Pranav Mishra of the label HUEMN. “It’s a versatile piece of clothing. Rahul Gandhi and company wearing it is a reflection of a larger trend, of athleisure wear being worn everywhere. We see people wearing it to work and to parties, at least in the urban space,” he adds. “What makes this even more appealing is that it compliments every body type — be it curvy, skinny, tall or short,” says Mishra. “We have had our own variants of the jacket — the bundi. We can use quilted material to give the same ‘puffy’ look. Scindia is working the look, and, in my opinion, he is one of the best-dressed politicians,” says Aneja. The jacket has a liberal dose of youthfulness attached to it. Gandhi and Scindia have, been spotted twining recently, in matching puffer jackets in different shades of green. “I don’t know how much political thought has gone into Rahul Gandhi wearing the puffer jacket, but it does make him more relatable to the younger lot,” attests Mishra. But even as the jacket, in all its variants, seems to be trending, it’s still difficult to make this a winter staple in India, as the down feathers, traditionally used as stuffing, are banned in India. It’s the quality of the said substance, that determines the price. “From what I know, we can’t make them here, as the material is banned. The only alternative is to produce them overseas and then retail them here,” says Mishra. “But irrespective of the issues that affect its production, the jacket is here to stay. We will see more of it in the future,” he adds.