Fond as we are of this season’s trending pieces (the FashionBeans editorial team has rarely been seen out of a hiking boot since September), if you haven’t purchased any of them by now, it’s a little day late and a dollar short. Especially when you consider that the menswear world will likely have found another noble pastime to siphon from by the time next winter rolls around.
But what if we told you there are a handful of buy-now, wear-forever pieces that clinch the cost-per-wear ratio and provide a future-proof foundation for just about any look, no matter when you buy them? That’s what we’re about to do, with a guide to the classic pieces no foolproof wardrobe is complete without.
A Wool Overcoat
When the mercury dips, the savvy dresser’s first thought should be whether he is equipped with a winter coat in which he can look good, even when the weather’s not.
An overcoat is the most versatile option, striking a balance between form and function whether on- or off-duty. Manmade fabrics don’t fare well in the rain so plump for 100 percent wool, which can absorb 35 percent of its own weight in moisture without feeling wet. If monsoon season pushes it past that point, leave the coat to dry naturally overnight. And consider investing in an umbrella.
Winter is often a dark affair, so your jeans should match. White styles had their time in the sun (quite literally), but deep indigo and black shades pair best with bruised skies.
Selvedge denim is hard-wearing and (so long as your jeans are cut slim, and you’ve ignored the trend for torn knees) works just as well with a double-breasted blazer as a crew neck sweatshirt.
Feet need layers, too, and even the best boots sometimes aren’t enough to keep them warm. Your everyday socks just aren’t going to cut it in winter because when lightweight materials like cotton get wet, whether through sweat or an unspotted puddle, they lose their ability to insulate.
Invest instead in a selection of thick-gauge socks in an assortment of neutral colors and finished with ribbing for added texture and robustness that allows them to keep the heat in and the elements out.
A Leather Jacket
There’s a reason skin is ‘in’ every winter, mainly because of its ability to keep its wearers dry, warm and looking unashamedly masculine. With the seventies trend going strong in club menswear, the most handsome styles also come packing shearling linings for added ballast.
However, don’t rely on hand-me-downs to get the look; vintage leather jackets are cut boxy, rather than in the sleek fits that allow them to pair just as well with a shirt and trousers as they do jeans and wet-weather boots.
A Wool Blazer
When it comes to suiting up for the season of slush, one fabric reigns supreme: wool. Capable of keeping you warm while looking cool, unlined examples at the lighter end of the weight scale are also breathable enough for year-round wear.
In addition, much like flannel and tweed, wool is known for possessing a much duller sheen when compared to other materials, making it ideal for dressing down while still being suitable for a spectrum of smart occasions.
Lightweight knits are an excellent way to layer up during the transitional months, but when days get colder than a brass toilet in the Arctic, upgrade your knitwear arsenal to heavier gauge pieces.
A waffle or cable knit jumper will provide added ballast against the elements and inject some seasonally-appropriate texture into your looks, while a thick shawl collar cardigan can make for a stylish alternative to a blazer over a shirt and tie.
Some men have an aversion to scarves, considering them a less-than-manly accessory. That’s not an opinion shared by WWI fighter pilots, who used the simple but effective strip of fabric to fight frostbite in the cockpit.
Those smart enough to appreciate the warming properties of wool or cashmere will also know that a scarf can be tied in multiple ways depending on the desired effect, and versions in brighter shades such as camel, mustard or khaki, or those that sport a pattern, can be used to elevate the most pared-back of winter outfits.
Harsh conditions can strike sporadically any time from around September, so a pair of smart, sturdy winter boots should always be on hand. But it’s when winter hits in full force that a step up is needed.
Vitali Bramani invented Vibram soles after six of his companions died on a mountain climb in 1935 due to inadequate footwear. While it’s unlikely you’re readying for an expedition to anywhere other than the office or the pub, a durable boot with a dense rubber Vibram, danite or commando sole can ensure that neither you nor your winter style takes a tumble.
A Roll Neck
Given the choice, few guys would pick knotting themselves into a suit over a cosy piece of knitwear, making the return of the roll neck as a viable alternative to a shirt and tie welcome news.
Your rotation should include slim-fit versions in fine fabrics like merino and modal (the latter prized for its resistance to piling), as well as chunky takes that can be worn with a peacoat or rain slicker, to trawl the fisherman aesthetic.
No one wants to shake cracked hands. Put a (warm) middle finger up to the elements and keep your mitts happy with a pair of leather gloves.
Black is a touch Gestapo officer so opt for a more versatile choice in a dark brown leather or suede. Look for a pair lined with either cashmere or fleece for an added touch of luxury and comfort.
After a few seasons of misuse at the hands (and heads) of baggy-hatted heathens, the beanie is back. And it’s all grown up.
To stop this handy dome-toaster from slipping back into the hinterland, opt for classic ribbed versions in easy to wear colors like black, grey or burgundy before attempting more adventurous shades. Materials like cashmere and wool will offer the greatest insulation and above all else, wear it fully on your head. It’s not a Jewish yarmulke.