It’s fair to say that menswear’s relationship with shearling is, well, woolly. The fabric’s air force origins and association with heroic aviators mean that shearling coats will always have an air of flyboy cool. But then you remember John Motson. And Del Boy. And the suspicion that somebody wearing one has a dozen knock-off watches hidden inside.
What Is Shearling?
Shearling jackets are crafted from costly stuff. Unlike a woolly jumper, shearling is the actual skin of a lamb or sheep with tanned suede on one side, and the treated coat left attached on the other.
The process of treating it can make both leather and animal hides comically expensive, and then there’s the legwork in actually fashioning a garment out of it. It takes much longer to produce a shearling coat than it does, say, a cotton bomber jacket, and even clothing manufacturers need to pay the bills.
“I find real shearling to be ethically dubious, so wearing faux is a personal preference,” she says. “However, you do need to spend time looking for something that doesn’t look cheap. Online shopping won’t give you a real picture of the garment, so invest some time going in-store to feel the actual product.”
Know that certain other touches will make for a more convincing shearling jacket, too. Seamons says that if you’re buying faux (also known as borg), you’re better off skipping the full shearling look in favor of jackets with faux shearling details, like collars or linings, which are usually better executed. “Also, just remember to keep it clean – there’s nothing worse than a ratty jacket,” she adds.
The Best Real Shearling Jackets for Men
If you’re on the hunt for an authentic shearling jacket, here are the best places you can find them.
Nordics know a thing or two about style. They’re also well-versed in cold weather. So, consider Acne’s shearling jacket the best of both worlds, with classic aviator versatility that’ll clinch the cost-per-wear ratio and battle the frost.
Schott is to leather jackets what Heinz is to ketchup: one of the first and still one of the best. So its shearling offering is second to very few, finished to sublime quality and styled with a healthy amount of war-time Americana. A coat that should last you decades.
De Bonne Facture
Full shearling coats are seriously pricey, so if you can only afford ‘regular’ pricey, you should try a jacket with just a shearling collar. This one from Paris-based De Bonne Facture, with a body made from brushed-wool, will keep you cosy as we descend into the darkness of winter, and due to its tan color will be a natural pairing for denim, making it an ideal weekend wear.
Made from panels of leather and suede, and with a beautifully soft shearling collar thrown in for good measure, this Mr Porter own brand jacket is a minimal take on the classic bomber. Its simple design will ensure it can be dressed up or down – if you’re looking for a shearling jacket to wear to a smart-casual office, this could be it.
The classic football pundit jacket come good. A top quality leather outer is matched by a sumptuous shearling inner – fully lined for maximum comfort – with this YMC creation. Large outer patch pockets act as the perfect hand-warmers, whether you’re cheering on your local side in the stands or not.
Turns out Del Boy is en vogue again. The south London geezer’s go-to shearling overcoat has been a regular reference point for Alexandre Mattiusi, founder of casual Parisian label Ami. Despite the nostalgic design, wearing it with a flat cap is strongly discouraged.
The Best Faux Shearling Jackets
You can always trust Topman for an affordable and directional take on a trending menswear piece. The high street stalwart recognizes that not everyone can afford two month’s rent on a jacket, so true to its ethos it’s offering the same look for (much) less.
Granted, they’re not nearly as warm as the real deal. But given they tick all the right boxes style-wise and allow you to leave the shop with your conscience intact, it’s hard not to be swayed by Uniqlo’s selection of sherpa jackets.
The Land Of The Free is also one of the best-dressed, and for that, we have Levi’s to thank. The godfather of midwestern workwear brings the same expert touch to its sherpa jacket, combining a foolproof denim shell with a comfortable faux shearling lining. The brand’s iconic trucker jacket has now been going strong for 50 years. A genuine (and affordable) classic.
A decent clobber needn’t make a dent in your bank balance. River Island – the British retailer famed for affordable takes on seasonal trends – takes all the hallmarks of a sound shearling jacket, and simply makes it cheaper. Which, granted, means no genuine leather or shearling, but nobody will notice the difference anyway.
What do the Spanish know about winter dressing? Well, as it turns out, quite a lot. Mango, founded in Barcelona over 30 years ago, proves an equal adversary to any northern European label, with a faux-shearling jackets that mix classic looks with trusty insulation.
The History of Shearling Jackets
Wearing sheepskin can be traced back as far as prehistoric times, and the Iron Age (365 – 116 BC) even displays evidence of history’s first style of shearling jacket: a cape displaying smooth skin on the outside and warm, wooly fur on the inside.
But let’s fast forward a few years…
Shearling jackets really made a splash with early aviators as a way to stay warm in open air cockpits as new heights were reached in the early 1900s. Not only did the shearling-lined bomber jackets keep aviators warm, but the sheepskin leather blocked frigid air from reaching the body at altitudes of 20,000 feet.
Because of these weather defying properties, the US military quickly adopted the use of shearling and soon enough, shearling-lined jackets, pants, mittens and boots were standard issue for pilots around the world, specifically during WWII.
However, one of the most iconic instance of shearling jackets in history is during the 1940 Battle of Britain, where young RAF pilots were photographed sporting the wide, furry collars in front of a plane with commanding officers.
In the years that followed, the shearling jacket was adopted by civilians seeking warm workwear for winter months, and increasingly for fashion purposes.
Today, the shearing jacket is a sleek cold weather staple that belongs in any modern man’s wardrobe.
How To Wear A Men’s Shearling Coat
Harder than finding the right jacket, however, is the outfit that sits with it. A shearling jacket is versatile, but you’d be hard pushed to call it a wardrobe staple.
“As a rule of thumb, shearling outerwear – borg jackets in particular – tend to work best with a casual look,” says Seamons. “Think a denim or flannel shirt with jeans or chinos.” That doesn’t mean it should be dismissed for the evenings, though. “Black shearling details to peacoats are perfect for smart events, and work well with tailoring.”
The most common shearling jackets are bomber and pilot’s styles, but you can also find truckers jackets, bikers and shearling overcoats. In almost all cases, the safest way to wear them is with a pair of black or indigo jeans, some rugged boots and a lightweight knit or T-shirt underneath. Monochrome is another safe approach. A men’s shearling jacket can complete an all-black look just as well as a symphony of neutrals. It’s a statement coat – let it do the talking.
FAQs About Shearling Jackets For Men
Why is shearling better than fur?
Shearling is more breathable and flexible than fur. Neither is necessarily better than the other, it just depends on your personal preference. Faux shearling is usually referred to as ‘sherpa’ or fleece.
Are shearling jackets in style?
Shearling coats are an ever-fashionable wardrobe item that are especially trending now. They especially made a comeback after the Fall/Winter 2021 runway season, where shearling was one of the hottest trends of the season.
Can you wear a shearling jacket in the snow?
Shearling coats are low maintenance, but just like genuine suede, you shouldn’t wear it out in the pouring rain or snow to avoid it getting water damaged. A mild drizzle of rain or a light shower of snow won’t cause damage, however. To be safe, avoid wearing your shearling jacket if the forecast is sketchy.