Fashion built its empire on diktats. Wear X, or fear ridicule. Don’t wear Y, unless you want to instantly be marked apart as the one who didn’t get the memo. It’s a bit like an algorithm, a series of if statements based on etiquette, weather and what some editor somewhere hurriedly scribbled down in an effort to leave the office on time.
But in a world where fashion’s in flux – split apart by forces like the internet, social media and fast fashion – the rulebook’s been ripped up.
These are some of the most common cold-weather style myths we’ve heard, and why you need to take them all with a generous pinch of salt.
1. You Need An Entirely New Wardrobe For Autumn/Winter
Climate change alone is reason enough to draw a line under this one. There might’ve been a time the shift in seasons meant a wardrobe 180, but in 2016 – when weather patterns are changing fast and trends ebb and flow more than ever – your style needs to be mutable.
“When the cold weather arrives, it’s only natural to start thinking you need an entirely new wardrobe,” says Dean Alexander, menswear stylist at Harvey Nichols’ Style Concierge. “However, I would argue that you should choose a few key investment pieces [and try] layering, which means you can rework pieces that exist in your wardrobe already so there’s no need to start from scratch.” An overshirt, denim jacket, shawl neck cardigan and thermal pieces are all good places to start.
2. Prints Are For Spring/Summer Only
Got a floral tee you’re not ready to retire for the season? An all-over zig-zag shirt you want to squeeze a little more wear out of?
Good news, because according to Giles Farnham, head of River Island’s Style Studio, punchy prints still have a place in your cold-weather wardrobe.
“For a straight-from-the-catwalk look, try a jewel-coloured crew neck jumper or cardigan with a print shirt that has a subtle flash of the same colour,” he says. “Print is working its way into tailoring for autumn/winter too, especially in eveningwear. Try teaming a geometric suit or blazer with white kicks for a contemporary take on traditional partywear.”
3. Sunglasses Are For Summer Only
Unless you’re unlucky enough to live somewhere where the sun literally doesn’t rear its head in the colder months, you need sunglasses.
“Sunglasses are a year-round staple,” says David Schulte, CEO of luxury eyewear brand Oliver Peoples. “Winter sun can be just as strong as in the summer and it’s critical to protect yourself.” Look for shades that protect you from 100 per cent of both UVA and UVB light, which – despite popular opinion – can come as cheap as the price of your lunch.
Sunglasses don’t just shield your eyes either, they can also be the accessory that elevates your cold-weather looks. “The right pair can be a perfect style-enhancer to a winter wardrobe,” says Schulte. “[Try] a honey-brown tortoiseshell with tweed, or a black-on-black pair with an overcoat and suit.”
4. Layering Is As Easy As Piling One Piece On Top Of The Other
Sure, if your idea of style is a sumo suit; not so much if you’re looking to ape your street style heroes’ multi-layered flair.
“This isn’t a case of just slinging on fifteen jumpers and hoping for the best,” says Farnham. “Think about the structure of each piece, and how they all fit together – like a jigsaw.” The trick, he says, is in understanding fabric structure and weight. “Start with your thinnest layer and then work your way outwards.” So lightweight pieces like tees or shirts go on first, followed by thicker items such as overshirts, knitwear and mid-weight jackets, with heavier outerwear and accessories added last.
“Consider silhouette, too,” says Farnham. “A bomber jacket – which is cropped – lends itself well to longer line pieces worn underneath. Try your longest piece as the first layer (either a shirt or T-shirt), then a hoodie over the top and a jacket over that.”
Think of these more as guidelines than rules, though. Says Farnham: “There can be exceptions – a fitted, lightweight roll neck under a shirt is a great look that oozes 1970s swagger!”
5. You Shouldn’t Wear White In Winter
White fabrics reflect light rather than absorb it, which means they look their best on sun-drenched summer days. But that’s not, according to Harvey Nichols’ Alexander, reason to give your white pieces the cold shoulder come winter.
“This is one myth I strongly disagree with,” he says. “Yes, perhaps our skin isn’t as tanned and glowing as it is in the summer months, but there are ways to wear white stylishly come the winter months. It’s a versatile colour you can mix into your outfit easily, without feeling too bold.”
Head-to-toe white might be too ambitious a look for what winter’s about to throw at you, but a classic white shirt or trainer are workable year-round. “Pair bright whites with contrasting, more muted colours for a fresh take on whites this season,” advises Alexander.
6. Gilets Are For Farmers Only
A year ago, a gilet meant country fairs, Crufts and ads for West Country yoghurt. But thanks to the tireless work of Italian street style dons (and the odd Uniqlo campaign), the gilet has been rebranded a cold-weather wardrobe staple.
“The gilet shouldn’t be reserved for just trekking the Lake District,” says River Island’s Farnham. “It’s one of the most versatile pieces a man can own, giving you warmth in the body but free movement of your arms.”
The key is in how you style it. “Embrace athleisure with a lightweight gilet worn under a deconstructed blazer and teamed with tailored sweatpants and white sneakers,” he says. “Or [go] Americana with a check shirt, distressed denim and chunky boots.”