Winter is unkind to your wallet. To beat the deluge you need robust materials and quality construction. Which translates as money. But also, longevity.
As your summer wardrobe frays, those boots and heavy coats see off the years as easily as they do the weather. At least, they do if you spend wisely. And winter’s biggest budget buster comes with more pitfalls than most.
“A winter jacket has to look good, suit your style, and be versatile,” says Allie Williams, buyer at END Clothing. Alaskan dog sledders should rethink that lightweight trench. On the flipside, if you travel from central heated house to central heated office on a central heated train, you don’t need fur.
For wet and mild British winters, midweight wool is plenty warm and lets air circulate when you get clammy. If you’re often outside, coated cottons are the classic way to fight showers, while you could take an actual shower in polyamide and still stay dry.
Make It Rain(coat)
Your winter coat could feasibly get an outing every day for five months. For a decade. At which point, even a four-figure outlay becomes pence per wear. Of course, you’ve got to find the money for that Tom Ford overcoat in the first place, but assuage your buyer’s remorse knowing that, in a way, it’s cheaper than a T-shirt. In a way.
But how to make the most of your maths? Wool costs significantly more to craft than cotton, so spend accordingly. But that doesn’t mean a cotton coat is less well made than a wool one. “Many cheaper styles look good but aren’t built to suit their function,” says Williams. “Keep an eye out for taped seams, quilted linings, waterproof or treated fabrics and the quality of the manufacture.”
Robust buttons and lining stitching are hints attention has been paid elsewhere. And that you won’t be reinvesting next year.
That sleeveless lab coat off the Raf Simons runway might tempt your credit card, but unleash your inner Nostradamus before investing to ensure it’s a style that’s going to stick around.
The smart money steers classic. The outerwear quartet below has stood strong for more than a century, so is unlikely to have drifted out of style by next winter. Meaning guaranteed returns.
The Pea Coat
Should you fancy emulating Steve McQueen and Ryan Gosling (and why wouldn’t you?) reach for the sailor’s favourite. ‘Pea’ refers not to veg, but the pilot cloth the coat was originally crafted from, then contracted to P-jacket by naval quartermasters. You may never wear one on deck, but the best are still storm-ready, built from heavy duty wool and feature an oversized collar to turn up against sea spray.
“It’s not one you want to mess around with too much,” says Williams. “It looks its best combined with simple, classic pieces.” Because the hem sits below your suit jacket, the pea coat works with tailoring, but for weekends (or casual offices) stay nautical with a cable knit roll neck and heavy boots.
Urban navigators are well-served too. “A pea coat always looks killer over a worn out denim jacket,” says Kyle Parry, online sales manager at Goodhood. More shore leave than in the navy.
Lauded French designer Yves Saint Laurent elevated the pea coat to high fashion in the 1960s, and the label continues to stay true to its founder’s legacy: “Saint Laurent make the best example of a pea coat I’ve ever seen,” says Williams. However, if you want something slightly more authentic, heritage labels Saint James and Armor-Lux should be your first ports of call – both produce some superb takes on the French Navy original.
- J. Crew Regent Italian Cashmere Peacoat
- Selected Wool Pea Coat
- Uniqlo Men Wool Blended Pea Coat
- Saint Laurent Wool Peacoat
- Armour-lux 3706 Reefer Jacket
- Saint James Pavois Coat
- Reiss Sonnie Wool-rich Peacoat Grey
- Club Monaco Double-breasted Wool-blend Peacoat
- Schott Classic Melton Wool Peacoat
- M&s Collection Lightly Padded Peacoat With Wool
- River Island Brown Smart Wool-blend Peacoat
- Aquascutum Rowan Pea Coat
The Trench Coat
The trench coat also served its time in the ranks, designed as a water-resistant alternative to the heavy wool greatcoat, which soaked up mud and rain in the trenches. It fulfils the same brief a century on, since its pressed wool or cotton poplin keeps you dry without weighing you down.
“A trench coat is often the best option for versatility in winter,” says Williams. “One with taped seams will keep you dry and last you for years.” Because most are unlined, you’ll need to layer up when it’s frosty, so make sure you pick one big enough to accommodate your heaviest knitwear. But that lack of warmth means more time out of storage; because it’s lightweight, you can still rock a trench over a T-shirt when the daffodils break through.
“The go-to for a trench coat should be Mackintosh,” says Williams. “Incredible quality materials and manufacture make it one of the best jackets you’ll ever own.” Although we’d argue the original creators of the style – Burberry or Aquascutum, depending on who you believe – would give them a run for their money.
Keep an eye out for styles made from water-repellent gabardine if you desire full protection from the elements, and stick to neutrals to ensure it looks just as good worn over your suit as your weekend wardrobe. “In my eyes, it’s great layered over a chambray shirt, crew neck, navy trousers and white sneakers,” says Williams. More fashionable than fatigues.
- Asos Trench Coat With Belt In Stone
- River Island Double Breasted Trench Coat
- He By Mango Classic Cotton Trench Coat
- Mackintosh Storm System Wool Trench Coat
- Burberry London Mid-length Cotton-gabardine Trench Coat
- Sandro Double-breasted Cotton Trench Coat
- Aquascutum Corby Double Breasted Raincoat
- Reiss Globe Belted Jacket Airforce Blue
- Best Of British For M&s Collection Pure Cotton Trench Mac With Stormwear
- Mackintosh Full-length Jacket
- Uniqlo Men Lemaire Trench Coat
- John Lewis & Co. Belted Trench Coat
The Down Coat
Once the preserve of men in environments where style was less of a concern than losing toes to frostbite, modern quilted outerwear is suited to both work and wilderness. This is due to an overall slimming of the silhouette, in part thanks to advancements in down – the fine feathers that keep juvenile poultry toasty and offer you warmth without bulk.
Even if you don’t wear yours for trekking across the Arctic tundra, look for explorer-approved elements; you’ll appreciate a weatherproof hood, taped seams and heavy duty zips when the clouds open at the bus stop.
This jacket’s natural home is with workwear. “Try a full down parka with a grey sweatshirt, selvedge denim and hiking boots,” says Williams. But pick muted colours and minimal detailing and they can still dress up, with a bit of sprezzatura. “Mix it up with tailoring like the Italians do in Florence and Milan.” A down coat will sit over your suit so long as it’s cut slim, and your tailoring is in a seasonal fabric like flannel.
And where should you start your buying expedition? “Moncler, Stone Island, Canada Goose and Patagonia guarantee both warmth and quality,” says Williams.
- Penfield Apex Tan Down Parka
- The North Face La Paz Down Jacket With Hood
- The North Face Gotham Down Jacket
- Uniqlo Men Ultra Warm Down Coat
- J. Crew Timothy Everest Down Parka
- Topman Ltd Black Premium Duck Down Parka Jacket
- Canada Goose Chateau Jacket
- He By Mango Feather Down Hooded Coat
- Blue Harbour Warm Winter Parka Filled With Down & Feather & Stormwear
- Stone Island Garment Dyed Down Hooded Jacket
- Moncler Montgenevre Degrade Prince Of Wales Checked Quilted Wool Down Coat
- Patagonia Down Sweater
Once super-formal, the overcoat now works with a hoodie and joggers as much as a suit. It’s also barely changed in three centuries, so this season’s purchase will look just as good the next. “The overcoat is seeing a bit of a surge in popularity at the moment, partially due to the exposure of the minimalist European style,” says Williams. “The best ones will be made of 100 per cent wool or cashmere, with silk linings and natural buttons.”
AW15’s anti-fit trend is precisely that – a trend. Long-term, something that ends mid-thigh, in a slim-fit that can still accommodate a couple of bulky layers, is a better choice. As with tailoring, getting the shoulders right is key. The seams should sit slightly outside your arm so it won’t look boxy with just a tee, or too tight when you layer up. Your tailor can fix anything else.
Pick a neutral colour and it can be slung over almost anything in your wardrobe. Worn with a suit is timeless, but a white button-down, jeans and minimal sneakers combination works equally well, says Williams. Or go the full Kanye with tapered joggers and an oversized hoodie. Oversized ego optional.
Almost every label and designer now produces their own take on this menswear classic, so be prepared to shop around. Reiss and Uniqlo offer some excellent value options on the high street, while British brand Crombie crafts such high quality designs that its name has basically become a synonym for ‘overcoat’ in the UK.
- Crombie Wool Grey Coat
- Reiss Cormier Double-breasted Overcoat Camel
- River Island Brown Wool-blend Winter Overcoat
- Uniqlo Men Lemaire Wool Cashmere Coat
- A.p.c. Herringbone Wool-tweed Coat
- He By Mango Inner Gilet Wool Overcoat
- M&s Collection Luxury Cashmere & Camel Hair Coat
- Jaeger Wool Cashmere Coat
- Theory Whyte Slim-fit Brushed-cashmere Coat
- Valentino City Coat
- Ami 3 Button Classic Coat
- J. Crew Ludlow Topcoat In Italian Tweed
When looking for a good winter coat, quality is key. Skimp now and you’ll suffer the elements and another hit to your wallet next year.
The most formal environment you’ll ever wear your coat should dictate its style, and steering towards neutrals like navy, black and grey means it will work with everything from a coloured crew neck to a cobalt suit. Equally, block-colours mean you can sling it over patterns without becoming a walking migraine.
What do you think is the most versatile winter coat? And would you rather invest in quality, or pick up something new every year?
Share your thoughts and tips below.