Geese don’t get cold. It is likely that this basic statement is the exact observation that lead to the discovery of down as a material. Down feathers are actually not the visible feathers on geese or ducks, they are the undercoating beneath this exterior layer that insulate the birds to keep them warm. This coating is specific to waterfowl and was likely discovered by a curious 14th century farmer who realized that down feathers were the key to keeping these birds warm. Down is such an effective material because the feathers interlock and come together to create a protective layer that traps heat and blocks out the cold. Initially down was only available to the upper class who used it for their pillows and bedding, but slowly down became more commonplace and was embraced by the masses.
It was only a matter of time before the merits of down were adapted to outerwear and the down jacket was born. For centuries down filled outerwear was an option, but a flawed one at that. Early down jackets were absurdly puffy and required continuous fluffing as the feathers had a tendency to clump up and sink to the bottom of the jacket. It wasn’t until the mid 1930’s when Mr. Eddie Bauer was inspired by a bout of hypothermia during a fly fishing trip in Washington state that down was perfected. During this excursion Bauer was facing hellaciously low temperatures and his wool jacket was simply not cutting it, so Bauer decided to improve upon down to find a way to prevent clumping and create a jacket that could shield the entire body. With these ideals in mind Bauer created the Skyliner, the world’s first quilted down jacket. The revolutionary quilting pattern kept the feathers in place, thus insulating the coat evenly throughout. Subsequently the Skyliner was adopted by the U.S. military thanks to it’s unprecedented warmth and the quilted down jacket was immortalized. While the patterns may change from jacket to jacket, the principles remain the same and the quilted down jacket still prevails as the epitome of outerwear.