I would like to first apologise for the seemingly persistent winter theme running throughout my recent articles, we are technically still experiencing our ever dependable British summer, although you would be forgiven for thinking that summer had actually ended many weeks ago. It is actually the 23rd September – to be exact – until Autumn does officially arrive and we really can give up any tiny morsel of hope we had left for a dribbling of sun.
Following on from our recent round up of 5 things you really should own for the coming season, I thought that I would expand a little further on one particular item – the shearling jacket. Without wishing to appear overbearing or forcing the issue, a coat is in all seriousness, an investment piece. It requires an awful lot of thought and consideration as it will arguably be THE defining feature of your entire winter look; it covers over half of the rest of your clothes and will get a great deal of use – whether you want to wear it or not.
This means that, in a similar way to shoes (in my opinion anyway), it has to be exactly the right one for you. A coat says quite a lot about the man wearing it and with the current trends in men’s fashion there really isn’t any room for us to be . . . . . sheepish (really sorry).
Shearling is a style we saw come charging full bore into the mainstream last season on the back of the ever dependable military trend and with a lot of backing from the major design houses; Burberry Prorsum, Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci to name but a few. The situation is no different this year as we see an even greater development in the use of both shearling and fur detailing:
Shearling and fur detailing is a style that we covered with a couple of articles last autumn/winter, so you might well be wondering why I am dragging out it out for yet another showing. However, fashion is constantly changing, never does this world stand still; styles change, new shapes emerge, colours and cuts are always shifting and more and more designs are introduced; this is no less the case with shearling.
Of course, the above look book is by no means an exhaustive list of examples showing how the shearling design has developed over the past year, but it does provide us with a good representation of the general changes. Perhaps the most obvious change is the move away from the overwhelming majority of aviator style jackets that proved so popular last season; playing off the military trend and the fact that these styles of jacket are arguably the best known representation of shearling.
This move away from aviator-esque examples has prompted a push towards the mixing of shearling with Trenchcoat and overcoat styles; something nearly all the major houses have been keen to adopt. The pieces from Gucci (top row) show how traditional and iconic styles can be mixed in tasteful yet subtle colours to create a very elegant but still practical winter coat.
Burberry Prorsum (centre row) have been pushing their current focus on colour even further with shearling and fur detailing mixed into their brightly coloured and patterned trenches. They are also reworking the classic aviator inspired styles with checks and bigger collars and bringing the shearling overcoat bang up to date with a high shine finish.
One problem with certain styles of shearling coat is the risk that you could end up looking like Del Boy. Thankfully the focus on modern cuts and slimmer silhouettes alleviates some of this problem but it can be avoided completely by choosing something a little bit different. The offering from Ermenegildo Zegna (bottom left) shows off a hooded duffle coat reminiscent style, a great way to mix practicality with luxury, while the pale trench coat from Hermes (bottom right) utilises shearling and rarely used colours to create a great re-work of the iconic style.
It is clear then that shearling has become much more than the traditional aviator jackets we are used to, and although they may not be breaking any fashion boundaries, a shearling collar or some subtle detailing is a very easy way to mark yourself out from the crowd without looking like Jeremy Clarkson.
Now, it’s no use shouting the praises of shearling and how it has developed if we don’t offer our loyal readers a little inspiration. Below are 3 different looks, built around the coats they include – hopefully they show how the new developments in shearling can be incorporated with relative ease into your current wardrobe.
With this look we tap into the ever so sartorial preppy trend to create a modern throw back to the clean cut style of the 50s and 60s, mixing current styles with the more traditional shapes and designs of a time gone by. We start with the most important aspect of this outfit; the coat. The shawl collar and mustard colour put it straight back into the preppy heyday but our current obsession with camel and browns, especially this season, brings it straight back up to date along with a more slim line shape and practical detailing.
Being an outfit designed to ooze heritage the choice of a polo neck was obvious – very practical, bang on trend – keep it a muted tone to offset the colour of the jacket and layer under a structured jacket for a little bit of extra class and of course warmth. Stick to traditional fabrics to maintain the preppy look; wool mixes, tweed or chinos; try a pair of cropped chinos (such as the ones shown here) or one of the newer cuts (carrot, drop crotch) to introduce some more modern influences but keep the tones muted to avoid clashes with the colour of the coat. This is understated preppyness at its best.
No outfit like this would be finished without some colourful socks. I have gone for a more subtle purple but feel free to go all out with yellows, pinks, greens and oranges because the choice of footwear will always anchor them. A classic Penny style loafer is a must for any preppy wardrobe – brown OR black is acceptable – I have chosen black to add a bit of contrast. Finish it off with a classic leather document wallet or briefcase and perhaps some wayfarers, clubmasters or ray ban 3447s.
Remember, this look will work perfectly well with nearly all other trench coats, shearling detail or not.
The go to style for this look is the rugged man about town, playing off the current heritage trend and our seemingly insatiable desire for everything knitwear and chunky. A coat such as the one displayed above is a lot harder to pull off than perhaps many of the other styles available, partly because it has some rather negative connotations (Del Boy) and partly because it doesn’t necessarily conform to our more modern leanings.
The best thing to do is keep it simple, avoiding an example that is overtly flashy or busy, keep the colour a more neutral tone and don’t wear a flat cap. Whatever you do, DO NOT wear a flat cap. Thankfully the majority of examples currently on sale have been slimmed down and aren’t overly chunky or busy. However, they do only seem to be available from the high end designers, so if your heart is set on a coat of this style you might find it easier on the budget to trawl through the vintage shops and consider getting it altered.
As mentioned previously this look is all about knitwear and thick, rugged fabrics. A checked shirt and a pair of dark wash slim jeans form a good base (a lighter wash of jeans would suit a lighter coat) from which you can work outwards – try and pick up a flannel or cotton mix checked shirt for a more authentic worker style look. Tucking in is optional.
The other major feature of this outfit is the footwear. Hiking boots have become very popular over recent seasons, half as a result of the horrendous weather we usually have to suffer and half as an off shoot of the ever improving worker style boots. A classic brown pair with some red lace detailing worn with a pair of thick ribbed socks (jeans tucked in) provides a very plain style with a little sartorial edge and is an easy way to make your outfit stand out from the crowd. To finish off and in line with our recent feature on man bags, give a canvas backpack a go – the perfect accompaniment to any country man look.
Sticking with a strong military theme up top, moving to a more casual and relaxed look down below; with a mix of classic, timeless items we can create a very easy but still very sartorially appropriate look. It would be perfectly acceptable to argue that the military theme has been done to death, but like it or not the iconic pea coat is here to stay – the advantage of shearling is that it adds additional detailing that clearly separates it from the masses of standard coats in circulation. A simple Breton striped top finishes of the simple upper half without too much hassle; simplicity is the key to most outfits in my opinion.
The chinos are a fashion staple and can easily be switched out for more formal trousers or jeans, the Vibram soled Grenson brogues give the look a bit of a quirky edge that suggests individuality and an erring on the side of the modern. Should you choose to roll your chinos, be brave with some block colour socks. Finish off with some classic sunglasses and a good quality messenger bag.
Shearling has undeniably developed a great deal over the past year and is now, even more so than before, worthy of our consideration. Subtle changes to our much loved staples affords us the ability to be different without being pushy or blatant, all the while helping to keep us toasty warm in anything winter has to throw at us. If you happen to be looking for a new coat this season, shearling is certainly worthy of your attention.
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