If you only buy one jacket this winter, make it a shearling one; the biggest trend on the autumn/winter 2015 runways, one of these will keep you feeling warm and looking cool IRL.

It’s by no means a sure thing though. With so many designers and styles to choose from, go in cold to your prospective purchase and you’ll be like a lamb to the slaughter – not least because shearling can be seriously expensive.

But no need to fear the 1970s overtones: allow us to be your style shepherd and you’ll be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, instead of mutton dressed as ram.

On The Runway

“Shearling is everywhere for autumn/winter 2015, as part of the 1970s aesthetic that’s reemerging,” confirms Damien Paul, head of menswear at MatchesFashion.com. The sheer number of designers on board is too many to count. But one label really driving the shearling bandwagon is American brand Coach, the department store stalwart previously known for accessories, and now with Brit designer Stuart Vevers at the helm as creative director.

The label’s first-ever ready-to-wear men’s collection, unveiled at London Collections: Men in January, was a soft, woolly touchpoint. Shearling really was everywhere, from full-length retro coats to shorter pilot and biker jackets. Vevers even added it to the hoods of parkas and a varsity jacket, not to mention the matching shearling and leather trainers. One step at a time though…

Shearling In The Coach AW15 Menswear Collection

Coach AW15Coach AW15Coach AW15Coach AW15

Key Style: Seventies

Full-length shearling was present at all the major men’s fashion weeks, from Neil Barrett to Topman Design via John Varvatos. But be warned: it’s full-on. “The classic double-breasted tan shearling coat is slightly try-hard for my liking,” says Phillip Green, personal client executive at Farfetch.com.

Only those with serious, Johnny Depp-inflected swagger and a heightened tolerance for John Motson jokes need apply.

Long Shearling Coats On Topman Design And Neil Barrett AW15 Runways

Neil Barrett AW15Topman Design AW15

Key Style: Pilot/Biker

While long 1970s-inspired versions are risky, pilot styles will make any guy look like a badass – especially if they’re a bit beaten up.

Coach’s cracked black leather has secured more editorial square footage this season than Cara Delevingne’s eyebrows, while Polo Ralph Lauren has an awesomely distressed panelled option.

“Personally I prefer if a shearling has been ‘worn in’ a bit,” says Green. “It adds character.”

Distressed Shearling Coats On Ralph Lauren And Coach AW15 Runways

Ralph Lauren AW15Coach AW15

Key Style: Contrast

In fashion, it’s what’s on the outside that counts, so it should come as no surprise that shearling was frequently used for external piping and panelling, from takes on traditional styles at Burberry to the more avant-garde at Acne Studios and J.W.Anderson.

“I’m drawn to the less literal styles, like Valentino’s contrast-sleeve shearling and wool jacket,” says Paul. Obviously you’re sacrificing some practicality, but hey, that’s fashion.

Distressed Shearling Coats On Ralph Lauren And Coach AW15 Runways

Burberry Prorsum AW15J.W.Anderson AW15

Key Style: Sporty

Proper shearling is expensive: it takes a conscience-panging number of sheep to produce just one coat. Which is perhaps why some designers played on it as part of the sports luxe trend.

As mentioned previously, Coach used shearling to graduate the varsity, while Joseph and James Long added it to high-end hoodies you might find Kanye wearing for a winter workout.

Sporty Shearling Jackets and Hoodies On James Long And Coach AW15 Runways

Coach AW15James Long AW15

Key Style: Colour

Instead of the usual black, tan and dark brown colour palette, Burberry and Richard James mixed it up, taking shearling away from the seventies and bringing it right up to date.

But a colour like electric blue, while eye-catching, is also less versatile: something to bear in mind if you’re dropping serious green on a coat that you want to get as much wear out of as possible.

A happy medium might be Coach’s olive or Jil Sander’s navy version (another favourite of Paul’s, coincidentally), which feel fresh but won’t compromise your cost-per-wear. Or resemble Ron Burgundy in Anchorman 2.

Coloured Shearling Jackets On Men's AW15 Runways

Jil Sander AW15Richard James AW15

Key Style: Collar

You don’t have to go the whole hog (sheep?): A.P.C., Ami and Wooyoungmi were among those brands using shearling as the icing on an often bomber-style cake.

“If you’re not sure about a full coat, a shearling collar can be a subtler way into the look,” says Paul.

Shearling Collared Jackets On Men's AW15 Runways

A.P.C. AW15Ami AW15

How To Wear It

“The trick is to avoid wearing anything else retro with them,” says Paul. “I’d steer clear of heritage fabrics or particularly 1970s colours.”

Especially if it’s a full-length style. And you’re doing Movember.

Men's Long Shearling Jackets Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

AllSaints AW15Reiss AW15

Off-Duty

The beauty of a shearling jacket is that it’s a statement in its own right, so you don’t need to wear the kitchen sink with it. Instead, you can use it to add visual interest to a basic ensemble, which is both easier and more modern, plus prevents you looking like a washed-up porn star.

“Shearling jackets look great as part of your off-duty wardrobe with rolled up jeans and monochrome sneakers,” adds Paul.

Men's Casual Shearling Jackets Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

Hilfiger Denim AW15Topman Wardrobe Essentials AW15

The Great Outdoors

The absence of sheep on most city streets should tip you off that shearling is an inherently outdoorsy fabric. Therefore, it sits particularly well with equally rugged textures like denim, corduroy and coarse wool.

Men's Rugged Shearling Jackets Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

Hackett AW15Mango Man AW14

Roll Up

Shearling jackets often have exaggerated lapels and collars to show off their, well, shearling-ness, which has the twin benefit of creating an instant V-shape torso (at least optically) while keeping out the elements.

That heightened silhouette – not dissimilar to a pea coat’s – just begs to be teamed with a chunky roll neck. If that’s the case though, it might be best to balance out that extra weight with your footwear, whether you opt for a thick-soled boot or even just a meatier trainer.

Men's Roll Necks With Shearling Jackets Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

New Look AW15River Island AW15

Military Grade

There’s more than one way to skin a sheep. “The shearling jacket is very versatile and isn’t restricted to any particular style,” says Green.

Indeed, structured designs, especially darker ones in high-shine leather, carry echoes of army (or air force) uniform. So they can be slick enough to pass inspection over a shirt and tie or a fine gauge roll neck, giving your tailoring game a decidedly Maverick air.

Just be on alert when teaming with other military items, lest you look like you’re actually reporting for duty. Follow the one-piece-per-outfit order (unless you really are a Maverick).

Men's Military Shearling Jackets Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

Gieves & Hawkes AW14AllSaints AW15Michael Kors AW15J.Crew AW15

How To Care For It

Although they’re big for this season, you’ll likely want your (probably bank balance-denting) shearling jacket to last beyond autumn/winter 2015. And cream, as we all know, is just asking for stains.

Natalia Varga, the ever-resourceful executive head housekeeper at Marriott Hotel on London’s Park Lane, suggests hand-blotting with a mild detergent. If the exterior is suede, waterproof it with a non-silicone spray and remove rain spots with suede cleaner. The crucial thing is to let your jacket dry naturally: putting it on the radiator or giving it the hair dryer treatment will evaporate the natural oils, reducing its longevity.

Perhaps wary of potential refunds, the UK retail team at Coach are more cautious still: they don’t advise cleaning shearling at home and recommend seeking out a specialist to keep it looking new, not just any old dry cleaner. They also stress the importance of storing your jacket at a cool temperature, which will help hold onto those all-important oils. That means no airing cupboards, gents.

Current Styles

  • Asos Faux Suede Harrington With Faux Shearling In TanAsos Faux Suede Harrington With Faux Shearling In Tan
  • Alpha Industries Black Shearling Ma1 Bomber JacketAlpha Industries Black Shearling Ma1 Bomber Jacket
  • Ami Navy Wool Shearling Collar JacketAmi Navy Wool Shearling Collar Jacket
  • Stone Island Shearling-trimmed Coated Cotton-muslin Bomber JacketStone Island Shearling-trimmed Coated Cotton-muslin Bomber Jacket
  • Private White V.c. Manchester Shearling Collar Wool PeacoatPrivate White V.c. Manchester Shearling Collar Wool Peacoat
  • Private White V.c. Shearling-trimmed Cotton-canvas Car CoatPrivate White V.c. Shearling-trimmed Cotton-canvas Car Coat
  • Reiss 1971 Vice Contrast Collar JacketReiss 1971 Vice Contrast Collar Jacket
  • Penfield Rockwool Down JacketPenfield Rockwool Down Jacket
  • River Island Brown Wool-blend Harrington JacketRiver Island Brown Wool-blend Harrington Jacket
  • Maison Margiela Blouson JacketMaison Margiela Blouson Jacket
  • Saint Laurent Zip-up Shearling JacketSaint Laurent Zip-up Shearling Jacket
  • Levis Sherpa Trucker Long Sleeve JacketLevis Sherpa Trucker Long Sleeve Jacket

Final Word

Will you be flocking to buy a shearling jacket for autumn/winter 2015? And will you be channelling Bane or Bryan Fantana?

Let us know in the comments below.