“Put down the stash! you bright minds of the future” – Kathryn Austen

Arts editor Leo controversially insists that college puffers are not uglyLeo Kang

Walking, or perhaps cycling if you’re that way inclined, around the streets of Cambridge – one may glance about and notice many different aspects of the outfits they spot. “How much one can learn about a peer!” you might muse to yourself, Fitzbillies coffee in hand. An oversized leather jacket might tell you that a person spends all their time in the ADC, a long coat identifies a Sidgwick girly, and oh look that person goes to Jesus College. Wait a second. How do I know such a personal detail about a complete stranger?! Ah yes. It is emblazoned across their chest in an obnoxious-somewhat-more-adult recreation of school uniform. Thank God everyone who is anyone now knows you go to John’s. Or perhaps that you (probably) got pooled to Medwards or Girton (this can actually be really useful – it’s important for us to find each other!).

“As for those who wear Blues shirts on a night out… I have no words for you”

The most infamous of all college stash is surely the college puffer. I must be transparent with the avid readers of Varsity, that despite the self-loathing I feel, I myself possess a Murray Edwards college puffer jacket in all its fish-crest glory. Initially I resisted their perplexing allure and popularity, yet over time a strange envy overcame me as my friends acquired them, and eventually I was beaten down. A moment of apologia for the college puffer: it is extremely practical. So if you’re the sort of person who finds this an acceptable defence of an eye-sore, knock yourself out. Warm and inoffensively black and… puffed (puffy?), it goes with everything. Arguably because it also goes with nothing.

All it adds to an outfit is a signifier that you are just too cool and breezy to have any qualms about wearing a shapeless jacket. Well done you for being far too busy to worry about such trivial things as outer-wear. My puffer jacket-wearing has deservedly been reduced to the two minute walk from my house to the gym. These days I look upon it with a mixture of despair and fondness. What a thing, to be in possession of a Cambridge University branded coat, and yet I will unabashedly continue to judge anyone who pushes the narrative that they are in any way stylish. Put down the stash! you bright minds of the future. And as for those who wear Blues shirts on a night out… I have no words for you.

“It’s the Ringo Starr of student fashion” – Leo Kang

Most stash is mostly innocent. A college scarf or bobble hat may not be the pinnacle of fashion, but NatScis can pull them off effortlessly, and they form an adorable bobbing sea of friendly colours at any intercollege sports game. Sports stash, for that matter, may be cringe if you don’t actually play the sport, but if you do, those rugby shirts and cricket sweaters would look fantastic with a long coat and Chelsea boots.

The focus of my defence, however, is none other than the dark knight of college stash – the omnipresent puffer – which I would argue is not only a NatSci quirk, a Freshers’ Week souvenir, and a bland convenience, but a true staple of any student’s winter wardrobe.

“Plain they may be, but ugly they are not”

The practical benefits of the puffer are well known. It’s warm, it’s comfy, it’s got pockets for days, and it allows us a small slice of school uniform nostalgia. But these benefits can just as easily become fashionable. I use my puffer as the fashion equivalent of an industrial freezer, preserving items that should have long gone out of season. No one, no matter how ‘dark academia’ they aspire to be, is braving the bitter Lent winds in a white linen shirt and brown sweater vest. Even with a trench coat, you’d be chilly. But throw on a puffer, along with some black jeans and brown dress shoes, and the sweater vest rides again.


Mountain View

Is stash just trash?

I’d also like to dispel the cruel rumour that college puffers are impossible to style. Plain they may be, but ugly they are not – a puffer acts as a blank canvas for precisely measured splashes of personality. When worn zipped up, it highlights the lower half of a fit – a particularly nice pair of Docs, for example, or those flares you feel aren’t getting enough love. When worn open, I like to balance the black puffer with cable knit sweaters in brown or white and big woolly scarves in bright colours. With a leather jacket, these sweaters and scarves might be too Sidge for a simple Mainsbury’s run. But with a puffer, they’re pleasantly casual. I can walk around town without raising any eyebrows, but any friends I bump into might still bestow me a nod and an “ooooo, nice scarf”.

The beauty of the college puffer, then, is allowing the outfit as the whole to shine. It’s the Ringo Starr of student fashion. Just … don’t wear it in your hometown. That’s one look I can never defend.