For many years, the puffa jacket has had several less than fashionable – or flattering – connotations: the Michelin man; small-fry football managers who can't afford a nice sheepskin; the "Brilliant!" man from The Fast Show. And during one brief, wintry phase in 1998, Scary Spice Mel B – accessorised with a bikini top and some combat trousers.
But forget what you thought you knew. Because the puffa is a big trend this winter – and what better news as you sit at your desk almost too frightened to set off home because it's so darn cold and your smart tailored number feels a bit thin? What you need, my friend, is a duvet coat.
On the catwalk at Burberry, they came in radiant colours, nipped in and trench-ified for a slick and surprisingly svelte take on the classic.
Christopher Kane's longer-length version avoids all dubious Nineties-isms by being printed with the recurring red moiré print that characterised his acclaimed autumn collection.
And at hip London duo Peter Pilotto too, puffa jackets were printed with the pair's signature digitised prints, given exaggerated collars and cuffs – they were treated, in fact, like any other item of clothing upon which a designer can make their mark or interpret in a new way.
All too often messing with a puffa feels like sacrilege – like the creation of one of those horrible high-end, leisurewear hybrids – but in fact this winter's new crop of padded jackets benefit from having been styled a little, rather than just taken straight from the football pitch.
Colours are infinite and only to be encouraged – the rash of slate grey and navy versions should be reason enough to look beyond black.
Puffas this season are surprisingly pretty. It may sound crazy, but just try it. Similarly, modern wadding is less cumbersome and restrictive, and the puffa is now padded with an eye on a more feminine silhouette. Take Zara's winsome belted version or Uniqlo's jacket – now a modern classic – puffed in thin rows rather than spare tyres that will sit around your waist like an excess of Christmas dinner.
The same goes for detailing that will help convince others that you're not simply some trainspotter or arctic adventurer – fake-fur trim, sporty toggles or drawstrings, even bows (although beware too many of these) will help make your puffa more palatable. Certainly, there's plenty to take on board when plumping for a puffa – it's quite the undertaking, given their propensity to go wrong, their long stint in the style doldrums and the fact that a good one can be really quite expensive.
There are versions to suit all budgets, but bear in mind that the central heating, cool and longevity factors tend to rise proportionately with the price. But once you've decided to take the plunge, be serene: it'll be the warmest winter you've had in years.