This is the last in the series of my essential autumn/winter fabrics; and what better place to end it, than with everybody’s favourite – wool. Just because it’s one of the most popular fabrics used by designers and high streets alike, it doesn’t make it any less important.
As I have previously mentioned in my articles on tweed and corduroy, seasonal pieces not only provide you with extra durability but also comfort and versatility. And with the wide variety of autumn/winter appropriate fabrics out there, this rings truest with wool.
Just as there are different types of sheep and fibre lengths, there multiple versions of wool that can be used in clothing.
I would imagine that most of you are already familiar with merino wool, from the sheep of the same name, which is favoured for its fineness and softness and used predominately in more formal knitwear such as v-neck jumpers or lightweight cardigans.
We also have cashmere, which is fine in texture but also strong, light and soft. Definitely considered the most luxurious of the wools and prized by plenty of Italian designers (shout out Bruno Cucinelli), it is mostly utilised in knitwear but often pops up in other items such as ties, scarves, pocket squares and even suit jackets.
Lambswool is another great option you should consider for knitwear such as jumpers, cardigan or vests due to its softness and elasticity. It’s normally thicker than merino or cashmere, which lends itself to a more rugged and casual look worn over chambray shirts or under peacoats.
To show you just how versatile wool can be, take a look at the lookbook below that features a variety of different wool items, from tailoring and knitwear to trousers and outerwear:
Finally, out of the main types of wool being used right now in menswear, we have my personal favourite – flannel. Sure, you’ve got merino, cashmere, Shetlands, tweeds and all the rest but when it comes down to versatility and durability, you just can’t beat a good old piece of flannel. Here’s why:
It’s a soft woven fabric that can be made to varying levels of fineness. It can be brushed to create extra softness or left as is. It’s utilised for many different patterns – such as tartan, madras, check or argyle – and is often associated with sleepwear or pyjamas.
So, regardless of how thick or thin you want it, patterned or plain, soft or rugged, flannel will be there for you every time. Now tell me that isn’t versatility! But what flannel items can you incorporate into your wardrobe?
Plaid Flannel Shirt
The classic and unbeatable option. Make sure you buy one in a slim fit with an autumnal colour palette such as green, tan and orange. Pair it with other rugged workerwear pieces such as cargo trousers and denim jackets or maybe even an axe-worthy beard.
Either way, this is not a dress shirt! Wear it open-collared and as with any large checked item, keep the rest your look muted.
Accessories, Accessories, Accessories
Need I say more? When you’re looking to add that little extra something to an autumn/winter outfit, there is nothing better than using flannel wool.
Whether it’s a mid-grey tie paired with a blue striped dress shirt and charcoal suit or a green houndstooth check pocket square poking from the top of a navy striped suit, nothing says winter is coming better than your accessories. Even a pair of thick marl grey socks will do the trick.
Down vests, or gilets, have been around for a while. Only now you can find versions that come with an outer shell of flannel. Stick to something in a neutral colour that hugs your torso and you’ve got yourself the perfect layer for those rare not-too-cold winter days. You can wear it under or over just about anything, and that includes your suits!
Flannel Suit Up!
The best thing about a seasonal wardrobe? Until things get really cold, you can still create a look using minimal layering. A well cut flannel suit in just about any colour or pattern is a superb addition to any guy’s wardrobe.
I have two versions in navy and grey that I wear well into early January, with nothing more than an Oxford cloth shirt and merino wool jumper paired with it. It not only gives me more options in the morning but it also drapes cleaner and keeps its shape better than other wool suits.
Plus, it allows my winter coats to last longer, as they only need to be used when absolutely necessary
It should be pointed out that flannel, and most other wools for that matter, does have it drawbacks. Less quality versions can lose their shape quickly, while higher quality wools can shrink and be easily ruined if washed incorrectly. [Check out FashionBeans' guide to washing each type of knitwear here.]
As annoying as it is, I find hand washing all of my wools is the best option in this respect. However, even fabrics such as lambswool or cashmere, which can be notorious for holding lingering smells, can be aired as an alternative to washing. Just so long as you don’t sweat or bleed (read: spill booze on them) on them, simply hang them up outside for a good airing session.
But what do you think guys? Am I holding flannel in too high regard? Which type of wool is your personal favourite? Did I miss a fabric off the list entirely?
Let me know in the comments section…