How To Wear A Puffer Vest: 21 Ways To Style This Layering Must Have
Forget all thoughts of finance bros, here's how to style a puffer vest in 2023 that's cool and contemporary.
It’s maybe the ultimate town-and-country piece of clothing, a seasonal layer that works in practically any setting as long as it’s cold. The puffer vest (or gilet if we’re being European) has been everywhere in recent years. As menswear has embraced practical clothing and comfort, this sleeveless wonder has strong-armed itself into many a winter wardrobe.
The appreciation society for the puffer vest is vast and surprisingly diverse. There’s the Carhartt crew in your city’s creative quarter. Sports fans in wind-swept stadiums. Venture capitalists with padded Patagonia vests tucked under their custom-made overcoats. Trendy Europeans seeing out the winter in style. And of course, the hikers, farmers and fishermen who knew about the benefits of a padded vest long before the rest of us cottoned on.
How to wear a puffer vest depends on which of those groups your own style hews closest to. They’re most commonly casual items, built for the outdoors. These days that could just as easily mean a chilly taproom in a former industrial estate as it does a wind-beaten mountainside. But they could also work as an office layer or something snug for a fall date night.
Below, you’ll find all the best ways to wear a puffer vest, proving you don’t have to be a finance bro to pull one off.
21 cool puffer vest outfits for men
Light wash jeans with green puffer vest
This is wintering in style, the Brunello Cucinelli way. Worn with a statement knit, a puffer vest can be cozy, cultured and upmarket. This one is quite slim-fitting, proving that modern gilets don’t have to look like body armor.
The outfit is also a great lesson in putting colors together. The lighter tones in this look all work together for an unexpected winter palette, while still feeling cool and coordinated.
Grey chinos with olive green padded vest
Ten or 15 years ago, this kind of gilet – slim-cut, earthy colors, diamond pattern – would have been worn with tweed jackets and brogues. It’s a testament to the versatility of the design that you can still wear it today with minimalist smart-casual menswear.
If you’re not sure about wearing a puffer vest in a statement color, then a tonal look like this one is a clever way to layer your outfit, wearing a palette of complementary natural shades.
Wide-leg cream pants with green puffer vest
Wearing a puffer vest with pleated trousers might not seem the most obvious pairing, but the clash works when the styling is on point.
The wide-leg pants offset the utilitarian nature of the gilet, while a simple and stylish knit brings it all together. Again, a combination of earthy hues makes it easy on the eye.
All-black outfit with light blue puffer vest
For something more sporty and streetwear, wear your puffer vest with sweats. Joggers and a sweatshirt can look a bit plain by themselves. Throwing a padded vest over the top gives your look more shape, texture, color and contrast.
In this case, the vest is a statement item, the bright blue popping against an otherwise all-black outfit.
Grey pants with navy puffer vest
Wearing a puffer vest over a knitted sweater is perfect for those mild winter days when it’s okay to give your chunkier outerwear a rest. The sleeveless design works by adding insulation around the torso, where you’ll feel the benefit the most.
This look is another clever way to do smart-casual dress. The vest is a natural companion to the smart-ish trousers, knitwear and minimalist sneakers, while the navy color works seamlessly with the neutral palette.
Khaki pants with green puffer vest
A puffer vest worn over a quarter-zip top has become synonymous with business types who may or may not be cosplaying the Roy family from Succession. But there are ways to play with that stereotype.
Navy pants with black puffer vest
Another preppy way to wear a puffer vest is over a rugby jersey – like knitted sweaters, the long-sleeve top is a good option for fall layering.
With smart pants and smart shoes, the look can be a little bit off-duty banker, but you could also make it more casual with jeans or cords and some sneakers.
Off-white chinos with light green padded vest
Off-white tonal looks have become a summer menswear staple, but they can also look good when the temperature drops. Working a puffer vest into this kind of outfit always works, because it adds some depth and texture to your layers.
The rules of tonal dressing are simple: subtly mix up your color palette and make sure there are different materials at play. In this case, the gilet gives a different finish to the softer fabrics on the chinos and sweatshirt, while the wave pattern adds some visual interest to what might otherwise be a flat look.
Grey jeans and green oversized puffer vest outfit
Here’s a good example of a more substantial puffer vest. The padding is chunkier, the shoulders are wider and the collar is high and proud. In other words, it’s cut like a streetwear-style puffer jacket, with the sleeves cut off. That kind of style works perfectly with simple city-friendly staples like denim and sweats.
Military green is one of the most versatile colors to invest in. It works here with grey and black, but would also pair with creams or blues.
Navy chinos with a navy puffer vest
Navy on navy will always look good, so wearing a dark blue puffer vest with your favorite pair of chinos is a no-brainer for fall and winter weekends.
Again, the sporty finish on the vest plays off the softer fabrics in the knitwear and even the suede Chelsea boots. And that off-white jumper brings out the depth of color in the gilet, proving that navy isn’t as flat as we sometimes think it is.
Athleisure outfit with green puffer vest
When you’re wearing a puffer vest with a hoodie, there is one main rule. The vest has to be chunkier than the hoodie, otherwise it’ll look like your layers are all mixed up.
This outfit leans into those hefty proportions up top with tapered sweatpants that exaggerate the dimensions. It’s a great athleisure take on the puffer vest, as good for lazy dog-walk Sundays as an afternoon watching your team from the stands.
White pants with blue puffer jacket
The same rule applies to chunky knitwear as it does to hoodies: you need a puffer vest that feels more substantial than the knit. In this case, we’re talking about a chunky fisherman-style roll neck, so the vest is wide.
The nautical theme continues in the palette of white and blues while tucking the jumper into your pants lets you create more interesting angles and proportions than if both layers were the same length.
Brown pants with cream puffer vest
We used to think of color combinations as just two colors, classic duets between black and white or navy and grey. Adding a third shade into your go-to palette is a good way to level up your looks – and this combo of brown, green and cream complements each other perfectly.
The lighter-toned puffer vest stands out above the darker base hues, while generous fits from top to bottom make it a cozy and considered winter look.
Navy tailored pants with grey puffer vest
As we were just saying, grey and navy is a menswear no-brainer and it’s deployed effortlessly in this smart-casual outfit. It’s a lesson in how tailored and functional clothing can be worn together.
The all-navy base layer of smart trousers and sophisticated roll neck could be worn with a blazer and Chelsea boots, but this is a more modern take. The vest is chunky but minimalist in style and it matches the cooler tone of the retro running sneakers down below.
Brown pants with outdoor puffer vest
Western-style puffer vests bring some good ol’ outdoor charm to an outfit with a two-tone design that mirrors the stitching pattern on traditional cowboy shirts. This one is extra loud thanks to the bright green color, used effectively over quieter browns and greys underneath.
If you’re going for an outdoor-style puffer, but wearing it in the city, it’s a good idea to bring another element of utility wear into your look, such as the old-fashioned hiking boots in this fit.
Baggy brown cargo pants with beige puffer vest
If you like the oversized look, a puffer vest is a good addition to your presumably bursting wardrobe. The padded design naturally adds weight and bulk to an outfit and if you buy one in the right dimensions, it’ll stand up to other oversized pieces like the sweatshirt and pants in this look.
In this case, it’s the dimensions that steal the show, so the color palette is muted. Brown, grey and beige sounds boring, but it’s really not.
Men’s baggy black pants with oversized camel puffer vest
More proof that oversized puffer vests look the business with sweats. The camel colour stands out against the black base layers and the XL proportions look all the bigger for it.
And apologies if this sounds obvious, but never wear a vest this big with skinny jeans (unless you’re a model on a Balenciaga runway).
Navy pants with navy textured puffer vest
Not all puffer vests are shiny to the finish. Suede, cord and brushed fabrics are some of the more textured styles you can find, and they work well with smart-casual outfits like this one.
The two-tone palette of navy and sand is also a winner, working for casual offices or well-earned downtime alike.
Like all monochrome outfits, an all-black look needs a few different shapes, shades or textures to keep them interesting.
Borrowing a few notes from 80s and early-90s street culture, this look does it all, with the padded leather vest looking great against the washed-out hoodie.
Black pants with black puffer vest
Another black-on-black option here, this time broken up with a cream-coloured long-sleeve knitted polo.
Once again there are lots of textures in the mix: the performance-finish vest, knitted base layer, denim jeans and shiny leather Derbies. That combo of fabrics creates depth while also landing the look firmly in the smart-casual category.
Navy pants with off-white luxury puffer vest
Part apres-ski, part urban explorer, this look confirms that a puffer vest can be about form and function at the same time. It’s a completely practical winter item, but one you can also dress up with luxe knitwear, as well as more traditional and hardy outerwear.
To walk a line somewhere between the two, throw on a sturdy pair of boots and whether you’re going for dinner or a five-mile hike, you’ll look the part.
How to wear a puffer vest: the guidelines
Not to be crude, but girth is a factor with puffer vests. Some are built chunky, designed not just for insulation but a bit of masculine drama, too. These are best suited for rugged outdoorsy outfits, or urban, streetwear-inspired style.
You’ll also find slimmer, more discreet gilets and puffer vests. These are designed as a mid-layer to be worn under a blazer, an overcoat or a windproof shell jacket.
There are only so many things you can do with a sleeveless jacket, but there are different styles of puffer vest out there to consider. In the outdoor category, you’ll find some that lean hiker and some that lean cowboy.
At the minimalist end of the spectrum, you’ll find some simple styles that slot into business-casual attire, while others are chunkier and broader to better suit casual or sportswear outfits.
Somewhere in the middle, there are gilets designed for the country gent, cut almost like a waistcoat but with padding, and crying out for cord trousers or a tweed coat.
Color is the final consideration when deciding how to wear a puffer vest. There was a time when they only came in neutral hues like black, navy and olive green. Now, because they’re worn by hikers, streetwear scenesters and preppy fans alike, they come in every shade imaginable.
The rules are pretty straightforward. If you’re thinking of something smart-casual or suitable for a traditional office setting, neutral is obviously the way to go. For any other style, a puffer vest is a good way to introduce louder colors to your look.