Winter is, on most counts, rubbish. But everything rubbish about it – the cold, the dark, the wet – presents one big bonus: you get to wear big coats again. The right coat is an outfit in itself, a piece that combines practicality and style like nothing else in your wardrobe.
They’re also fairly impervious to trends. Which means even an infrequent shopper can stealthily build a high-quality collection – from parkas to heritage shearling jackets – over a few years. If, that is, you buy right.
“Look for something that’s good quality, stylish and versatile,” says Nick Eley, head of design at ASOS. “You want something that’s going to last as well as look good. Because you’re going to be wearing it a lot, you need it to work with the other clothes in your wardrobe.”
Style is, of course, a consideration. But not at the expense of comfort. No man ever looked good shivering. “The most important thing to look for in a winter coat is something that will keep you warm and dry,” says Freddie Kemp, stylist at Thread. “In an ideal world you’d have a collection of all the styles here, as each serves a different practical and style purpose.”
This Inuit original became globally renowned in the 1950s as a US Army staple, adopting its famed green colour and fur lining. During the Korean War, the lighter fishtail parka evolved for tropical climates, then became a favourite for mods, who would sling one over their suits to stay protected on their scooters. As with anything military, it’s now become a modern wardrobe staple.
Menswear labels are increasingly taking lessons from outdoor brands that specialise in technical fabrics, so this season’s parkas are as big on functionality as they are on style.
“A high level of water resistance is good,” says Kemp. “Don’t shy away from man-made technical fabrics as they tend to be better than natural fabrics for guarding against the elements. If you want added warmth, look for one that has a down filling.
“Go for a loose fit, though try to avoid going too oversized, as you don’t want it to look slouchy. For length, choose a style that hits mid-thigh to knee-length.”
Another style to benefit from the outdoors trend is the one favoured by ramblers and ravers from the nineties. Down jackets offer near unbeatable warmth, especially for the weight of the coat itself, and if the weather is changeable, they’re ideal for taking on and off quickly.
The most common styles are cropped to the waist, cut slimmer than the Michelin Man and styled in block colours that pair as easily with tailoring as they do waterproof trousers. The most modern examples, however, add some extras. Look out for parka-style hoods and longer hems for extra protection, while hiker-style details like big patch pockets or panels in a contrast colour or fabric update the look.
The warmth, of course, comes from down feathers – nature’s best insulators, trapping your body heat inside. But this is a controversial point for animal rights activists, who argue it’s a cruel way to get through the winter. If you share those concerns, look to eco-minded outdoor brands like Patagonia and The North Face, which make their coats to last and offer some animal-free alternatives.
Can you touch your toes? Because your coat might this season. This year, designers are going long with trench coats that recall early military styles, puffers that look like sleeping bags, and wraparound wool coats like the one Richard Gere wore in American Gigolo.
Now, unless you live beyond the Arctic Circle there’s a question over whether you need such a formidable layer, but practicality is only half the point here. It’s more about the flair. Such long coats create dramatic silhouettes and often feature epic lapels. It’s a coat to strut – not shiver – in.
Even though they’ll obscure most of what you’re wearing with them, you’ll need to style with caution. Plainer styles of tops and trousers will let the coat do the talking, but don’t feel like you have to go formal. Try one with a simple tee and light-wash jeans for some less expected swagger.
It’s the coat worn by sailors and schoolchildren, generals and preppy students. It has a long history of military service while at the same time conjuring images of Enid Blyton characters. What to make of the duffle coat?
Well, it’s very warm, waterproof (assuming you pay for boiled wool) and hits a cosy smart-casual note when you need to wrap up for a chilly date night. It’s also trending hard this season with designers high and low refastening the signature toggles and pulling up the giant hood.
For styling, stick with a staple winter colour (black, grey, navy, camel) and pair with other winter wardrobe heroes like heavy denim, chunky knitwear and Hogwarts-appropriate scarfs.
As winters become increasingly mild in the UK and elsewhere, the overcoat has become more of a fashion piece than a functional one. So designers have got more creative with the fabrics, colours and shapes. Rich tones, lightweight wools, tweeds and check are the common themes this winter and will provide the perfect anchor point for your winter wardrobe.
Anything that wouldn’t look out of place in the Peaky Blinders wardrobe department will work. And you can wear it in a number of ways. It pairs with with your wool trousers and grandad-collar shirt, without looking like a Shelby pastiche. But clashing with less formal styles will get even more wear out of such an investment piece.
Wear a double-breasted or oversized coat open with a simple T-shirt and mid-wash denim. Even some drawstring trousers will work. “A good overcoat should be able to be dressed up as easily as it can be dressed down,” says Lee Goldup, senior menswear buyer at London boutique, Browns.
Winter Bomber Jacket
Bomber jackets have been in fashion for decades but they take on different personalities at different times. There’s a place for slimline Scandi versions and snazzy varsity jackets, but this season the one to be seen in looks more like an old-school flight jacket (an A1 or G2 for the menswear buffs).
The calling cards are a zipped front, sheepskin trim and big patch pockets on the front. Add a heritage check and you’re golden.
This is a blanket of a coat but because it’s cropped, it’s not as formal as some of the other styles on this list. You can wear it with jeans or use it to bring dressier trousers down a peg or two.
Underneath, you can fit multiple layers but we’d recommend keeping them reasonably a light: shirts, thin-gauge knitwear and so on. For a modern way of wearing it, create a tonal outfit that picks out colours from the check on the jacket.