When it comes to the depths of winter, ask yourself: how is your outerwear game looking? Fine? Got it covered with a windbreaker and a bomber jacket or two? Suit yourself. Let us know how that goes when the mercury has nose-dived, the branches are bare, and you’re having to sharpen your elbows just to grab the last decent coat. In the wrong size. In pink. (Not that there’s anything wrong with going oversized, mind, or pink for that matter.) For those with a little more sartorial savvy, it’s good to get in early and have your pick of this season’s outerwear abundance. Which is exactly why we’ve drawn up an edit of the eight must-have styles. Offering a balanced mix of classic and contemporary, these versatile coats on show here will keep you safe from the elements (and the sale rail).
The Check Overcoat
Heritage designs – and more specifically, checks – have been popular for a number of seasons, squaring up on everything from trousers and shoes to tailoring and knits. However, it’s on outerwear that such motifs offer the most bang for their patterned buck. Capable of turning what is a simple, classic piece of outerwear into a hero piece, a check coat is the easiest way to ensure you won’t get bored of your buy. Whether you opt for Prince of Wales or windowpane, checks are also a great way of subtly incorporating colour into your wardrobe, or you can keep things monochromatic with a black and grey check which will wear well with basically anything. Alongside luxury brands and Savile Row houses, plenty of shops across the high street are embracing looser silhouettes, so don’t be afraid to wear this style a little bigger (though you should look for coats cut with a generous shape, not just buy two sizes up). And a simple rule of thumb for styling: if the pattern is big and colourful, keep it in check by teaming with a more neutral outfit.
Unless you’ve already given into your caveman instincts and are hibernating, you won’t have failed to notice that technical down jackets have well and truly marked their territory in menswear. Once a staple of mountaineering types, the puffer jacket is now a bona fide streetwear necessity. “Technical jackets no longer need to be hardy and durable; something which can be off-putting for wearers,” says Harrods general merchandise manager Simon Longland. “The innovation in technical jackets means a puffer can be worn like any other coat would be – equally perfect over a suit on a weekday, or with a knit and boots with jeans at the weekend.” One thing that has survived the trip down the cliff face is bright colours, which let you make a bold statement even on the greyest of days. To help a puffer fly in more formal settings, opt for one with a stand-up collar. The hooded variety is more casual and therefore better suited to a streetwear outfit. It goes without saying that you should leave the snood for days when you’re actually going up a mountain.
The Trench Coat
Most coats owe their life to the sartorial heritage of the military, but none more so than the trench coat. As timeless as they are stylish, the design has hardly changed since its invention during World War I. Waterproof, full-length and belted, this particular raincoat offers both form and function alongside a healthy dose of old-fashioned masculinity thanks to the upward-pointing lapels, which give the appearance of broader shoulders. “The classic camel colour is a great hue to introduce to your wardrobe as it can be easily worn with casualwear and even over streetwear for a bold clash of styles,” explains menswear stylist Tony Cook, who has dressed the likes of A$AP Rocky and Dominic Cooper. “If you intend to wear one predominantly over a suit during the week, then black or midnight blue will look more polished.”
The Winter Bomber
If you think knee-length overcoats belong only in spy movies, there are plenty of cropped styles around that offer a modern edge. “Bomber and varsity jackets have become the go-to short styles,” says Longland. “There is a huge variety of these across all the menswear collections; from clean, simple and refined to embellished, patterned and bold.” When it comes to the colder months, send authentic pilot-style versions on leave and in their place enlist premium fabrics like wool, moleskin or felt to keep the wind out and give your outfit a tactile point of interest. Although they’re extremely versatile, these styles are better placed in a smart-casual context. Layer them with heavy knitwear, overshirts and scarves if need be and avoid wearing with super formal tailoring as you’ll lose some of the much-welcomed comfort factor.
The Technical Parka
That the parka jacket was invented by Inuits (and originally made from materials like sealskin) is a testament to the coat’s inherent ability to perform in extreme weather. But modern variations have also got looking damn good down to a fine art, too. A mod favourite during the 1960s and later a beacon of Britpop, the parka has been revived in recent seasons, earning its place as one of the most versatile styles. “A fur-lined hood offers that bit of luxury that makes it compatible with a suit, but the parka is equally at home with a pair of jeans, hiking boots and a cable-knit sweatshirt,” says Cook. Aside from the sheer insulation you get with wool-trimmed options, brands are kitting the parka out with technical details such as flap pockets, bound seams and underarm vents that will help you see out a storm in style, especially when paired with cropped trousers and footed by some military boots for a rugged urban edge.
The double-breasted peacoat is nothing short of a smart-casual beast. Simply put, it’s one of those coats you can throw on and look instantly better, whether you wear it with distressed jeans and Chelsea boots, or tailored trousers and sneakers. “A navy peacoat is the ultimate go-to versatile style for the weekend that can be dressed up or down,” says Longland, and we can’t argue with that. It’s wise to avoid second-skin fits when buying a peacoat, not just because going slightly oversized adds a dashing Heathcliff-on-the-moors vibe to your look, but also because it allows room for slotting a chunky roll neck or cable knit jumper underneath.
The Textured Coat
When winter hits in earnest, even the hardiest folk wish they could brave the elements in a coat that more closely resembles a rug. Thankfully, designers have got the message and this year you can wrap up in textured designs crafted from cashmere and corduroy, as well as tried and tested wools and herringbone. If you don’t fancy shouting with bold patterns or colours, then choosing to express yourself with texture is an effective way of being stylishly cold. Why leave all the texture to the knitwear? Combine a rugged herringbone overcoat with a chunky Aran knit or fisherman’s jumper for added depth on your top half – and pair with selvedge denim and boots down below. As for creating a slick look that works overtime (even while you’re in the pub), it’s best to let the coat do the talking. Opt for simple pieces underneath – a black roll neck and deep navy chinos perhaps – and throw on a flecked grey wool overcoat for a look both bossy and effortlessly cool. Swap out those leather shoes for some smart leather trainers, and you’re left with an outfit that can take you practically anywhere.
The Shearling Jacket
Prized by generations of stylish men over the years, shearling is one of the warmest and most luxurious winter coat fabrics. As such, you’ll likely have to skip a few shepherd’s pie dinners to afford one, but there is no shortage of options available and in all styles imaginable. One way to swerve the cost is to opt for a coat with just a shearling collar (faux shearling will also come in at a fraction of the price). That way, you still get the warmth around your neck, but without herding your bank balance into the red. Trucker jacket styles work well here, particularly in denim or corduroy, two fabrics that offer a rugged workwear look for the winter. Pair them with plaid wool shirts and dark jeans for an ode to Americana, or look for more elevated styles that you could wear with tailored trousers and a pair of Derby shoes to make sure you dodge the football commentator connotations.