Winter’s coming – wind, hail, sleet, sheets of rain and all the other fun stuff that has us trawling Skyscanner on the daily.
To ensure you’re at least prepared, if not particularly excited, about the months to come, we’ve called on leading men’s style experts to let us know their favourite materials for tackling winter. Add these to your arsenal, and boss the cold with ease.
It’s Nature’s Performance Fabric
“Wool is a natural fibre that can create warmth without the need for padding or extra insulation,” says Dean Gomilsek-Cole, head of design and product development at Turnbull & Asser, which – in addition to its range of impeccable shirts – does a good line in knitwear, too. “It’s also naturally windproof and water-resistant.”
It’s Tough Stuff
“An overcoat made from good quality wool in a traditional weave will be extremely hardwearing and tear-resistant compared to technical fabrics like nylon,” he says. “[Simply look at] how many World War II wool overcoats and Navy-issue duffle coats are still around today, 70+ years since their first use.”
It’s Heavy (Especially When Wet)
“The warmest cloths are also the most tightly woven, which makes them amongst the heaviest,” says Gomilsek-Cole. “[What’s more, despite] wool’s natural water-resistance, after long exposure to heavy rain the wool will start to absorb moisture, making it even heavier and eventually allowing the water to penetrate through the lining.”
Some brands – Turnbull & Asser among them – have worked around wool’s tendency to soak up moisture by treating their cloths with a water-repellent finish so that rain rolls off the cloth instead of being absorbed into it.
It Takes Breaking In
“The downside of being hardwearing is that wool can be a little inflexible, even uncomfortable, and can take a while to break in,” says Gomilsek-Cole. You can, however, shorten the adjustment period slightly by opting for fine-gauge knits or wool-cotton blend knits which have a little more give.
Key Piece: Merino Wool Crew Neck Jumper
“The natural benefit of corduroy is that the fabric helps to keep you warm,” says Marks & Spencer menswear buyer Adele Willmore. “Our casual cord is made with luxury two ply yarns which gives it a super-soft handle,” she says.
It’s A Versatile Alternative To Denim
“Cords are the chino of winter – and a great alternative to denim,” says Willmore. “They look great in [many] colours and as it’s such a versatile fabric, lots of innovations can be applied to it.”
Take M&S Collection’s stretch cord, for example, “they have stretch running down the leg; it’s a unique way of weaving fabric to help prevent any baggy knees and keep the wearer looking sharp.”
Like Wool, It’s Heavy
“Corduroy can be heavy to travel with [or in],” she says. But if you’re prepared to sacrifice a little warmth, there are some lighter pure cotton options on the market which won’t weigh you down.
It’s A One-Season Wonder
Corduroy isn’t a year-round fabric. It’ll serve you well in autumn, and its warmth-trapping ridges are especially useful in winter, but it’s too bulky for warmer conditions.
Says Willmore: “Corduroy doesn’t really fit into a summer wardrobe, unlike the jean and chino which can both be worn throughout most seasons.”
Key Piece: Slim, Dark Corduroy Trousers
“Leather is the only natural material that protects you against nicks and damage,” says Belstaff collection creative director Delphine Ninous. “It’s a natural windbreaker and [it can be made water-resistant to a degree] – either naturally through a tumbled process or waxed like our heritage hand wax leather.”
“It also ages well and develops character through wear, becoming like a second skin,” she adds.
Leather’s tough in every sense of the word. “It gives a unique style and attitude that other fabrics simply won’t. It’s cool, edgy and its toughness works for colder weather.”
It Shrinks When Wet
Not one that fares well in a downpour, leather shrinks when wet because water bonds with and displaces its oils, leaving its fibre and protein exposed to the air as it dries. This can mean your jacket is suddenly a size smaller when you next go to try it on.
You can, however, minimise the threat heavy rainfall poses by drying the leather as soon as you can, remembering to apply a pH-balanced conditioner once you’ve got the excess water off.
It’s Not Vegan-friendly
The reason leather’s so tough is that it’s made from the skin of animals like cows, sheep, goats and pigs. While some manufacturers might take pains to ensure the animals they use for leather production are treated well while they’re alive, there’s no getting around the fact that animals are skinned in the leather production process.
If that’s a deal-breaker for you, advances in manufacturing mean the high-street is awash with quality faux leather options.
Key Piece: The Leather Biker Jacket
It Retains Heat
“Down feathers retain heat very well, keeping you toasty throughout autumn and winter,” says Cristina Paulon, sales and marketing director at Italian outerwear specialist Parajumpers. “The feathers create small pockets in the padding of your jacket, which trap the warm air inside.”
The varying levels of down fill power (which measures the amount of air pockets created between different types of feathers) in down jackets means there’s an option for every temperature, too.
“The fluffiness of the feathers inside a down jacket makes it super-light and comfortable to wear,” says Paulon. “This also makes layering incredibly easy, allowing you to add an extra level of warmth and protection under your coat or waterproof jacket.”
It Can Be Hard To Dry
“A down-filled jacket is not ideal for heavier rain and wet days,” she says. “Not all down-filled jackets are completely waterproof, [which means water causes] the feathers inside to stick together, compromising insulation and heat retention.
“Once wet, down filled jackets take a while to dry – especially the thinner, more lightweight models.”
A goose- or duck-filled down coat can be pricey, especially when compared to cheaper, synthetic options. “But not only can a synthetic insulation be heavier, it also has a shorter lifespan and loses heat a lot quicker than a traditional down filled jacket,” says Paulon.
“As with most things in life, it’s worth investing a bit more for much better results and a jacket you can enjoy for many winters to come!”
Key Piece: The Down Gilet