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Worn by everyone from Kanye West to Daniel Craig, down jackets can trace their origins all the way back to the 1930s when American outdoorsman Eddie Bauer almost died of hypothermia on a fishing trip. His once-trusty wool jacket had become waterlogged, meaning his sweat was freezing on his back. As luck would have it, Bauer was rescued by a friend but that near-miss made Bauer determined to develop a jacket that wouldn’t freeze him to death. The solution? Birds. Or rather, he took inspiration from them and came up with a garment that encased down feathers within a quilted fabric.

“If you’re purchasing a down jacket online, it will arrive compressed into a box and so you need to give it time to fluff up,” says Thread stylist Alexander McCalla. “Allow it a few hours or a day to regain its proper shape and loftiness.”

Aside from aesthetics, it’s important to know whether your down jacket fits as it won’t insulate as effectively if it’s too big. The same goes if it’s too small, because the down may become compressed and you lose the air pockets that create warmth.


Not sure if your jacket is too tight or just the right amount of snug? Try the hug test. With your new purchase zipped up, give yourself a hug while reaching for the shoulder blades of your opposite arms. If you feel like you’re about to ‘Hulk out’ then it would be a good idea to try the next size up. It should feel comfortable, but not so loose that there’s bunching of material.

As with all winter coats, Alexander suggests trying it on with a jumper or whatever you’d normally wear underneath.


Perhaps more than most other articles of clothing in your wardrobe, the sleeve length of your coat could be the difference between you wearing it every day of winter…or not. Too short and you’ll be investing in extra-long gloves to ward off chilliness. Too long and it quickly becomes impractical.

To test this, reach your arms out in front of you, waggle your fingers (not essential, but it makes it more fun) and see if your sleeves ride up above your wrist.


Stretch your hands above your head and see where the hem of your jacket rests. If the jacket has ridden up to the extent that it exposes your stomach, then it’s probably not the right length. You also don’t want it so short in the body that your jumper pokes out at the bottom.


One more thing to check before snipping off the price tag and committing to your new outerwear purchase is the shoulders. Unless you’ve opted for a deliberately oversized version, then a well-fitting coat will have shoulder seams that line up with your shoulders.


Shop the best down jackets for you

Words: Theresa Harold
Photography: Jon Cardwell
Styling: Freddie Kemp