Tommy Hilfiger’s device-charging jacket: Sustainable solution or solar-powered silliness?

solar panel jacket
© Tommy Hilfiger

Tommy Hilfiger has launched a jacket with solar panels, and we’re not sure how we feel about it. The $599.00 jacket is available in men’s and women’s styles and weighs four pounds. The removable solar panels charge a battery that connects to a cord in the pocket, which you can use to charge your portable devices.

I really can’t decide how I feel about this jacket. On one hand, it’s always exciting to see new applications for renewable energy sources—and this isn’t vapourware either, you can order it right now for holiday delivery. Plus, half of the proceeds go to support The Fresh Air Fund, a program that helps send needy New York City boys to summer camps.

On the other hand, the jacket doesn’t really have any of the qualities that I look for when considering if a garment is sustainably made, such as local production, organic fabrics, recycled materials or end-of-life recyclability. Tommy Hilfiger’s corporate statement is vague about the company's environmental practices, except for stating that they require their suppliers don’t break the law. The product description doesn’t mention where the jacket is made, instead only states “imported.”

solar jacket© Tommy Hilfiger

 solar panel jacket© Tommy Hilfiger

Then, there’s the question of style. Personally, I’m not that big a fan. The top half is a rain jacket and the bottom half is a plaid wool peacoat, with the solar panels making an in-your-face statement about their presence. PV panels are bound to look unusual on a garment, but putting them against a darker background would have made them the slightest bit more discrete. Of course, my personal style preferences shouldn’t dictate whether or not anyone buys this coat, but one has to wonder if the solar panels are a big enough selling point to cause consumers to overlook other style considerations.

This garment might be useful in camping situations, and the mobility of the jacket might be an advantage over other portable charging devices that could be more difficult to carry and charge at the same time.

I’m not sure how much a jacket like this could reduce the wearer’s carbon footprint—it strikes me that solar panels on your roof will have a much bigger impact than panels on your back. But when it comes to finding new sources of renewable energy, we need all the innovations imaginable, however silly they may seem.

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