When trends hit Korea, they hit hard. Even beyond the realm of fashion, something as simple as a hot new restaurant or accessory can go from a niche object of wonder to the zeitgeist’s most coveted asset in a matter of days. As quickly as trends emerge, they can cycle out of favor. It’s honey butter chips and North Face puffers one day; mint chocolate chicken and Pokemon bread the next. Much of this is a result of the Korean collectivist sense of identity which “find[s] comfort in conformity.” As a result, consumers continually drop old trends for newer ones. Within this context, one inconspicuous piece of outerwear has remained relevant through the years: the “long padding” coat. 

A Fashion Trend on the World Stage

Long padding coats are long puffer coats not too unlike Margiela’s duvet number from his seminal F/W 1999 collection. They’re also known as “bench coats,” as they’ve kept reserve soccer players warm while they wait on the bench. In Korea, these pieces — in all their oblong and bulky glory — are on everyone, from K-pop stars to college students. How did this piece of athleisure attain universal appeal and dominate Korean winter fashion? For that, we have the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics to thank. 

When Korea hosted the Winter Olympics in 2018, the committee launched a line of branded coats ahead of the ceremony. Through word-of-mouth recommendations and positive online reviews, the coats became immensely popular for their warmth and relatively light weight. They sold out just two weeks after their initial release. To meet the high demand, coats were restocked at department stores and hundreds queued for hours to get one. Reports revealed the coats were actually selling better than the games themselves. People also dubbed them “kimbap coats” for their striking resemblance to the Korean dish and viral pictures illustrated their immense spread. It looked like the country had become overrun by walking rolls of seaweed. 

Mainstream Fame

While the Olympics came to a close in February 2018, the games left a legacy that would persist for years to come. Following the success of the Pyeongchang coats, fashion brands were quick to seize on the trend and sold their own versions. The coats, now made more accessible, experienced a second, more explosive wave in popularity in early 2018. Their neutral color made them easy to wear and their warmth made them impossible not to. Koreans from all walks of life — from serious businessmen to studious middle schoolers — became united under one puffer coat. 

The next winter, shoppers and tastemakers were eager to see what might become of the long padding. Would people dare to dust off last season’s it coat or would a rival challenge its spot? Articles from 2019 proclaimed the death of the long padding, but few were actually willing to leave them behind. Despite the alternatives backed by brands, influencers, and anyone else with a vested interest in getting consumers to buy more, the long padding proved its unfading popularity. Shearling moto jackets or wool-lined pea coats might have been more shapely or flattering, but nothing could compare to the all-encompassing warmth uniquely provided by long padding coats. Pictures from that winter and subsequent years reveal their enduring presence, standing as a unique outlier for the trend-sensitive Korean market. 

Yet year after year, the same anxieties — demonstrated through online threads and magazine covers — arise, “are long padding coats over?” And early winter days always seem to indicate so. The warmer weather allows people to experiment with other styles and trends. The rise of fleece zip-ups and “short padding” coats seemed like viable challengers in 2020 and 2021 respectively. However, once temperatures drop low enough, Koreans are quick to welcome the embrace of a long padding coat. One Reddit comment puts it best: “Long paddings aren’t fashion, they’re a necessity.” 

As Korean As Kimchi 

In just a few short years, the ‘long padding’ has become a symbol of Korea, imbuing itself into the very fabric of the culture. School departments initiate incoming students with a branded one; friend groups like the celebrity collective, “Parka Squad” commemorate their friendship by getting matching ones. Some even claim they can spot a Korean abroad by looking at the length of their puffers. 

Different variations of the coat have cropped up since the first padding boom in 2018, each year bringing new colors and fabrics. But the idiosyncrasies of the ‘padding,’ its familiar shape and length, remain the same. As the old saying goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 

Joining the Craze

Want to bring a subtle touch of Korean style to your own wardrobe? From funky prints to statement colors, there’s a long padding coat out there for everyone, proving that it’s possible to stay fashionable and warm. Not sure where to start? We picked out a few of our favorites to get you inspired. 

The North Face
Women’s Triple C Parka
Glamorous Curve Caterpillar Quilted Coat
Amazon Essentials
Cocoon Puffer Coat
Fitouch Nicole
Down Coat Jacket with Belt
& Other Stories
Diamond Padded Puffer Coat
The Duvet Puffer
Hooded quilted padded shell coat
Omega Puffer
Tiger Force
Thickened Padded Outerwear Snowjacket
Hooded Down Jacket Long Winter Coat

Craving more winter inspo? Check out everything EnVi editors are eyeing for the holidays here

All products featured on EnVi are independently selected by our editors. However, we may earn a commission from qualifiying purchases.