As the evenings get colder and wetter with the approach of Autumn and Winter, we are all obliged to turn to our wardrobes and scour the contents for our trusty and faithful winter coats – to keep the elements out, and the warmth in. I find the issue with hardy outerwear is that as it tends to be more expensive and long-lasting, we all fall into the trap of not updating it quite as often as we could and pulling on the same overcoat year after year. But the latest trends in jackets and coats represent a great opportunity to update your look and opt for something more contemporary and stylish which doesn’t compromise on warmth and functionality. Pea coats, trenches and structured blazers are all widely popular in the current fashion climates, but the focus of this article is the more distinctive aviation jacket which is currently increasing in popularity in both men’s and women’s fashion.
Inspiration for this article comes from the beautiful aviation jackets from Burberry Prorsum which adorned the catwalks of Milan earlier this year and have really set the current trend for flight jackets. Burberry Prorsum Creative Director, Christopher Bailey recently said: ‘Aviation is a huge part of our heritage, and these flying coats have innovative shearling detail make them functional and authentic.’ Burberry Prorsum’s coats really look like works of art on the catwalk in creamy, distressed leathers with voluptuously oversized funnel collars and exposed shearling lining at the neck and cuffs. They come in both a mid-thigh length, and a more contemporary cropped waist-length, and feature fantastic attention to detail with buckles and straps adorning the sleeves and waist. Burberry Prorsum have even innovatively turned the design on its head by also designing a version where the winter-beige shearling appears as the outside fabric in the place of traditional leather, creating a very striking effect as it is paraded down the catwalk. Personally, I think it is fantastic that a British brand is embracing and popularising a stand-out trend and injecting an element of distinctive personality into a garment such as the winter coat which often has a tendency to be more muted and non-descript.
The only downside to the Burberry Prorsum aviation jackets (for a poorly paid Project Manager such as myself at least!) is the price tag. This range of coats ranges from between £2500 and £3500 per garment – so literally ‘air miles’ away from my budget! But the good news is that the aviation trend in jackets has really taken off (excuse the pun), and other designers and also high street brands are supporting the trend and offering more affordable options. Other high end designers such as Ralph Lauren, Acne and Marc Jacobs are all producing their take on the trend with differing versions on the flight jacket. At the higher end of the high street, Reiss are offering a black asymmetric cut jacket with shearling collar and lapels, priced at a more affordable £395. Even more affordable at £160, is the impressive Topman aviation jacket which currently appears as the key feature on the Topman website homepage. The jacket is described as ‘the Winter essential’ and also features on the GQ website as a recommended highlight of the current Topman outerwear range.
I think aviation jackets are really becoming more and more popular at the moment because they successfully marry two of the biggest trends of the moment – military, and shearling. Regular readers of FashionBeans may recall our editor, Ben Herbert’s, recent article on shearling which promoted the trend – so to sum up, shearling not only looks great, it also means the wearer retains a lot of warmth – perfect for the miserably chilly British Winter. Inspiration for these jackets comes from the style of jacket worn by air force pilots in the 1940s and obviously back then, functionality rather than fashion was the main concern, with keeping warm at high altitudes a priority – hence the preference for the toasty combination of shearling and leather. Traditional aviation jackets tend to be made of leather – and although normally I am not a huge fan of leather jackets – I think the aviation style represents one of the most theatrical forms of leather jackets, and these distinctive characteristics make them more appealing. Leather is an effortlessly stylish fabric and it is the type of fabric which is very durable and only improves with age.
I think generally when men choose winter outerwear there is often a tendency to opt for longer-style coats as we want to cover as much of our bodies as possible to protect ourselves from the elements and keep as much warmth in. However, I find that the cut and shape of the cropped waist-length styles are much more striking and modern. Aviator jackets in particular look great when cropped to waist-length – particularly when shearling is used to emphasise the lapels and oversized collar – almost as if the shearling is ‘spilling out’ of the interior of the jacket. I, myself, have been sporting a cropped pea coat with an oversized collar for the past couple of winters, and have lost count of the number of people who have literally stopped me in the street to ask me where it is from (even though it was a bargain at £60 from H&M!) I say, be a ‘Maverick’, go against the normal expectations and go for a cropped winter coat to stand out from the crowd.
Aviation jackets are real statement pieces, especially in the world of outerwear which traditionally tends to be quite featureless and indistinct. They have sharp, sleek shapes, and the use of exposed shearling is a real attention-grabber. For this reason, I think it is best to keep the outfit underneath the jacket quite simple. For example, teaming the aviation jacket with a simple pair of chinos or jeans and a thin tee or light-weight knitwear will only help to emphasise the jacket as the unique and key feature of the ensemble. Less is more, so don’t overdo it or you may risk looking like you are trying too hard and may come off more comedy Biggles than the refined Howard Hughes.