Essential Cold-Weather Fabrics

In the latest instalment of our essential autumn/winter fabrics series, we’ll be covering the most commonly known material of them all: wool.

Regardless of your age or location, you will have come across this fabric at some point in your life. Whether it was that scratchy, woolly cardigan your mum made you wear to keep warm in the snow; the sense of luxury you felt after you touched your first cashmere jumper; or when you realised that tropical wool is possibly the greatest material you can wear during summer to keep cool – wool is far more versatile and accessible than most of us think.

There really isn’t a lot that this fabric can’t be used for. It can be worn in both warm and cold weather, used to create nearly every type of clothing and will add a sense of depth and texture to any outfit you put together. There’s a reason it’s so popular amongst designers.

But, if you’ve been living under a rock these last few decades, where should you start when looking to incorporate wool into your wardrobe? Well, luckily, that’s where FashionBeans comes in…

Types Of Wool

Firstly, it’s important to know what different types of wool are available to you. Because variety is the spice of life, and there are loads of different types of sheep. Or so I’m told.

Most of you should already be familiar with merino wool, which is derived from the sheep of the same name. Prized for its refined texture, merino is the softest type of sheep’s wool available and has the added benefit of being non-irritating when worn against the skin. Often used to constructed smarter knitwear such as fitted v-neck jumpers and cardigans, merino wool styles are ideal for wearing with tailoring and suiting as they will not add unnecessary bulk or restrict movement.

Cashmere is supremely soft to the touch, yet strong and light in texture. Among the most coveted yarns in the world, this sophisticated and luxurious fabric is predominately used to create knitwear, but will still pop up in everything from suits and coats to scarves and ties. A traditionally costly commodity due to its labour-intensive production process, brands like UNIQLO have started to make cashmere available to the masses, producing high quality knitwear at truly affordable price points.

Both flannel and worsted wool are versatile, durable, and made from a soft woven fabric that can be treated a multitude of ways. These materials typically work best for tailored items like suits, jackets and waistcoats due to their ability to maintain structure and hold the lines of the clothing. Soft and fine, they will keep you comfortable and warm throughout the colder months.

Finally, lambswool is a personal favourite and great for casual weekend looks. Thicker than the other types of wool mentioned, its rugged and textured appearance looks great when combined with heavy duty boots and raw denim.

Now you know a little about the types of wool available, what sort of items should you be looking to invest in this season?

The Worsted Wool Suit

Perhaps the ideal fabric for tailoring. If you pick up a worsted wool suit in a neutral colour like grey or navy, there’s nothing it can’t do.

Pair it with a white dress shirt and black tie for the perfect formal ensemble, or break it up into separates and dress down the trousers/blazer with unexpected items like slim-cut chinos, denim jackets and roll neck jumpers in earthy tones of brown, olive and mustard.

J.Crew, Charles Tyrwhitt, Richard James and Hugo Boss produce some superb worsted wool suits.

  • J. Crew Crosby Suit Jacket In Italian Worsted WoolJ. Crew Crosby Suit Jacket In Italian Worsted Wool
  • J. Crew Ludlow Peak-lapel Suit Jacket In Italian Worsted WoolJ. Crew Ludlow Peak-lapel Suit Jacket In Italian Worsted Wool
  • J. Crew Ludlow Suit Jacket With Double Vent In Italian Worsted WoolJ. Crew Ludlow Suit Jacket With Double Vent In Italian Worsted Wool
  • Navy Yorkshire Worsted Luxury SuitNavy Yorkshire Worsted Luxury Suit
  • Taupe Check Yorkshire Worsted Slim Fit SuitTaupe Check Yorkshire Worsted Slim Fit Suit
  • Richard James Prince Of Wales Check Worsted-wool SuitRichard James Prince Of Wales Check Worsted-wool Suit
The Checked Flannel Shirt

The check flannel shirt is a timeless classic and casual wardrobe essential. Now available in every colour and size of check you can imagine, there is something for everyone on the current market.

Soft, warm and versatile, you’ll live in this shirt at the weekend come winter. Pair them with rugged worker wear pieces like selvedge jeans, chambray shirts, shearling/leather bombers and moleskin trousers and you won’t go wrong.

For those that like to experiment with their layering, why not try the shirt-over-shirt technique this season? This piece is ideal to use as the top layer due to its heavier construction, so opt for a thinner cotton shirt underneath that picks out one of the secondary colours in the check pattern. Simple.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Checked Flannel Shirts Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

ami aw13Calliope aw12drykorn aw14tesco f&f clothing aw14allsaints august 2014edwin aw14selected denim aw13river island aw12minimum autumn 2012
Key Pieces
  • Nudie Shirt Gunnar Indigo Twill Flannel CheckNudie Shirt Gunnar Indigo Twill Flannel Check
  • Selected Homme One Flannel Check Shirt In NavySelected Homme One Flannel Check Shirt In Navy
  • Paul Smith Jeans Shirt In Flannel Check Tailored FitPaul Smith Jeans Shirt In Flannel Check Tailored Fit
  • Uniqlo Men Flannel Check Long Sleeve ShirtUniqlo Men Flannel Check Long Sleeve Shirt
  • Allsaints Dwight ShirtAllsaints Dwight Shirt
  • Uniqlo Men Flannel Check Long Sleeve ShirtUniqlo Men Flannel Check Long Sleeve Shirt
  • A.p.c. Cotton And Silk-blend Flannel ShirtA.p.c. Cotton And Silk-blend Flannel Shirt
  • Band Of Outsiders Plaid Button-down Collar Cotton-flannel ShirtBand Of Outsiders Plaid Button-down Collar Cotton-flannel Shirt
  • Gitman Vintage Button-down Collar Checked Cotton-flannel ShirtGitman Vintage Button-down Collar Checked Cotton-flannel Shirt
The Lambswool Jumper

The perfect jumper for winter, although in the UK it will likely get year-round use.

Whether you opt for a crew or v-neck, the advice is the same: choose one in navy or grey and wear it over your Oxford cloth button-downs and chambray shirts for smart-casual occasions.

Those who already own a solid collection of neutral jumpers should consider adding a textured or flecked version to their wardrobe this year. Cable, Aran, waffle and marled knits will bring warmth and character to any look, while printed Fair Isle or block-coloured versions will inject a shot of personality into even the most stripped-back ensemble.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Lambswool Crew Neck Jumpers Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

new look ss14m&s best of british aw14network aw13john lewis aw14zara man editions aw13burton aw14hartford aw14gant rugger aw13tesco f&f clothing aw14
Key Pieces
  • Asos Lambswool Rich Cable JumperAsos Lambswool Rich Cable Jumper
  • Barbour Jumper In Lambswool Crew NeckBarbour Jumper In Lambswool Crew Neck
  • Gap Lambswool Cable Knit SweaterGap Lambswool Cable Knit Sweater
  • Allsaints Anjou Crew JumperAllsaints Anjou Crew Jumper
  • Crew Neck Lambswool JumperCrew Neck Lambswool Jumper
  • Acne Studios Mayer O Fine-knit Lambswool SweaterAcne Studios Mayer O Fine-knit Lambswool Sweater
  • F&f Signature Lambswool Rich Cable Knit JumperF&f Signature Lambswool Rich Cable Knit Jumper
  • Gant Norway Fairisle Lambswool JumperGant Norway Fairisle Lambswool Jumper
  • Aquascutum Oliver Lambswool Crew Neck JumperAquascutum Oliver Lambswool Crew Neck Jumper
The Merino Wool Cardigan

Refined, soft, breathable and versatile, merino wool knitwear was made for the office.

Our key pick this year would be a cardigan in a rich autumnal hue such as bottle green, burgundy or mustard, which will slot seamlessly between your shirt and suit jacket – creating a modern three-piece – on those cold winter mornings.

Yet don’t neglect this item at the weekends. It combines just as well with slimline chinos, Oxford shirts and polos, helping create smart-casual ensembles that are able to transition from day to night effortlessly.

Running the cardigan close this year is the roll neck, which is not only on-trend but also makes the ideal shirt and tie replacement on dress-down Fridays.

Key brands to consider would be John Smedley (the pinnacle), along with UNIQLO, AllSaints, Marks & Spencer, Burberry, Paul Smith and Reiss.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Merino Wool Cardigans Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

ovadia & sons aw14suitsupply 2014allsaints aw12he by mango aw12he by mango aw13he by mango aw13drykorn aw14simons aw14he by mango september 2012
Key Pieces
  • Allsaints Mode Merino CardiganAllsaints Mode Merino Cardigan
  • Asos Merino CardiganAsos Merino Cardigan
  • Hugo Boss Baltimore Merino Wool CardiganHugo Boss Baltimore Merino Wool Cardigan
  • Reiss Walter Merino Wool Cardigan GreyReiss Walter Merino Wool Cardigan Grey
  • John Smedley Bryn Fine-knit Merino Wool CardiganJohn Smedley Bryn Fine-knit Merino Wool Cardigan
  • J. Crew Slim Merino Wool CardiganJ. Crew Slim Merino Wool Cardigan
  • Uniqlo Men Extra Fine Merino V-neck CardiganUniqlo Men Extra Fine Merino V-neck Cardigan
  • Uniqlo Men Extra Fine Merino V-neck CardiganUniqlo Men Extra Fine Merino V-neck Cardigan
  • Gap Merino CardiganGap Merino Cardigan
Grey Flannel Trousers

The grey flannel suit has returned to the style consciousness and is set to become a major trend for AW14. But if you don’t have the need for a full suit, why not invest in a pair of flannel trousers?

Rich and luxurious, they’re nearly as soft and comfortable as pyjamas but it’s OK to be seen outside in them! Pick some up in a mid-grey hue and wear them with everything you own, especially more casual pieces like neutral t-shirts, white trainers and shawl neck cardigans – the contrast looks superb.

Although this fabric is typically expensive to produce and buy, Jigsaw, Marks & Spencer, J.Crew and Primark have made flannel pieces much more accessible to the everyday male this season.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Grey Flannel Trousers Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

ti for men aw14reiss 2012Baldessarini 2014paul weller aw14burton aw14primark aw14reiss aw14drykorn aw14florentino aw14
Key Pieces
  • United Colors Of Benetton Slim Fit Suit Trousers In Puppytooth FlannelUnited Colors Of Benetton Slim Fit Suit Trousers In Puppytooth Flannel
  • J. Crew Crosby Suit Pant In Heathered Italian Wool FlannelJ. Crew Crosby Suit Pant In Heathered Italian Wool Flannel
  • Reiss Conrad Flannel Tailored Trousers GreyReiss Conrad Flannel Tailored Trousers Grey
  • Jigsaw Flannel Bloomsbury Fit Tailored TrousersJigsaw Flannel Bloomsbury Fit Tailored Trousers
  • Ted Baker Foretro Flannel TrousersTed Baker Foretro Flannel Trousers
  • J. Crew Ludlow Suit Pant In Heathered Italian Wool FlannelJ. Crew Ludlow Suit Pant In Heathered Italian Wool Flannel
  • Gucci Slim-fit Wool-blend Flannel TrousersGucci Slim-fit Wool-blend Flannel Trousers
  • Ami Grey Wool-flannel Suit TrousersAmi Grey Wool-flannel Suit Trousers
  • Best Of British Pure Wool Tailored Fit Flat Front Flannel TrousersBest Of British Pure Wool Tailored Fit Flat Front Flannel Trousers
The Finer Details

If you’re looking to add a little something extra to your outfits this season, consider adding a couple of wool accessories to your collection.

It could be something as simple as a grey textured wool tie or as dandy as a polka dot cashmere scarf. Even a pair of thick wool socks will give that sense of depth to a look, especially when they are peeking out the top of your boots.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Wool Accessories (Ties, Scarves, Gloves) Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

Peter Scott aw14reserved aw14massimo dutti october 2014ramsey aw13Gieves & Hawkes aw13j crew august 2014 style guidearmani collezioni aw14florentino aw14massimo dutti october 2013
Key Pieces
  • Obey Bangor Wool Snapback Cap In NavyObey Bangor Wool Snapback Cap In Navy
  • Topman Brown Herringbone FlatcapTopman Brown Herringbone Flatcap
  • Allsaints Fort GlovesAllsaints Fort Gloves
  • Reiss Sharkies Contrast Panel Backpack GreyReiss Sharkies Contrast Panel Backpack Grey
  • Allsaints Coxon SnoodAllsaints Coxon Snood
  • Selected Theo ScarfSelected Theo Scarf
  • J. Crew Italian Wool Pocket SquareJ. Crew Italian Wool Pocket Square
  • A.p.c. Knitted Wool Beanie HatA.p.c. Knitted Wool Beanie Hat
  • Ami Wool Baseball CapAmi Wool Baseball Cap
  • Pure Wool Harris Tweed HoldallPure Wool Harris Tweed Holdall
  • Burgundy Wool Knitted Handmade Slim TieBurgundy Wool Knitted Handmade Slim Tie
  • Hackett Pinstriped Wool-flannel TieHackett Pinstriped Wool-flannel Tie
Final Word

So there you have it, just a few reasons why we should all love wool a little more than we already do.

Obviously, the material does have its drawbacks: it can pill easily and most pieces are hand wash only, which means when they get dirty or start to smell it can be a bit of a pain. For the latter, try airing them for a couple of hours by a window – this is nearly as good as a hand wash for the majority of items.

But now we want to hear what you think – is wool as great as it’s made out to be? What pieces will you be investing in this year? And what type of wool will they be made from?

Let us know in the comments section below…