(Bloomberg) -- According to one useful definition, technical fabrics are textiles “manufactured for nonaesthetic purposes.” And indeed, to stroll among pedestrians whose winter coats give them marshmallow silhouettes is to witness exactly how very nonaesthetic technical garments can be. As Fran Lebowitz once said to Elle, “Are you skiing, or are you walking across the street? If you're not an arctic explorer, dress like a human being.”
Today’s technical coats—all those gaggles of Canada Goose, for example—descend from military gear, most notably the Russian Army jackets that inspired Eddie Bauer’s classic Skyliner and the N-3B snorkel parka introduced by the U.S. in the 1950s. Those coats had the volume of layers of blubber, appropriately, as their mission was to ward off hypothermia on a battlefield or flight deck swept by polar winds. For the purposes of this article, we’re talking about the technical coats used for everyday wear during the winter.
Another key influence on these contemporary jackets is the sportswear favored by skiers, and snow-shoeists, and such. But while warm-weather athleisure has led to a celebration of the human form, with “yoga pants” deserving more credit for “yoga butts” than any number of Bikram memberships, the wintry version does quite the opposite. Many parkas smother the body like duvet covers.
The challenge, then, is to find a coat sufficiently slimming to discourage your nephews from mistaking you for the Michelin Man. We’ve got you covered. Each of the coats and jackets combine science and design to help you avoid technical difficulties. Bundle up without the bulk in these seven easy pieces.
NAU Intersect Utility Down Sweater
They call this streamlined baby a “sweater” because of its welcome lightness. We call it a relief for putting a badly needed spin on the quilted-jacket trend. ($265, nau.com)
Mackage Osmar Light Down Biker Jacket
The leather trim at the zipper and the cuffs seals out the wind—and seals the deal on the ruggedly sleek styling. ($650, mackage.com)
TOD’s Pash Down Jacket
Its lambskin suede shell has been treated to present a subtle stone-washed effect to the world. Its lining—98 percent virgin wool—treats you to inner calm. ($2,825, tods.com)
L.L. Bean Ultralight 850 Down Hooded Jacket
Instead of goose down, this Pertex-shell jacket uses a polyester fill that repels water. It’s the first choice of TV weathermen called up to do outdoor live spots in disaster conditions. ($229, llbean.com)
Fjällräven Greenland No. 1 Down Jacket
The Swedish provisioner’s G-1000 fabric is windproof, water-resistant, and treated with an environmentally kind mix of beeswax and paraffin. ($500, fjallraven.us)
Arc’teryx Arenite Cobblecomb Jacket
Cut for an athletic fit, this is a fleece jacket with a twill face and (as befits its Canadian origins) a genial attitude. ($179, arcteryx.com)
North Face Far Northern Jacket
The insulation is 550-fill goose down. The stand collar is quite dashing. The embroidered logo is relatively subtle, which should save you from being mistaken for a Trustafarian ski bum. ($249, thenorthface.com)