The fashion world is built on rules. Wear X or fear ridicule. Don’t wear Y unless you want to instantly be marked apart as the bozo 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 order to leave the office on time.
But in a world where what’s cool (and consequently, what’s not) is in permanent flux – split apart by forces like social media and fast fashion – the rulebook is constantly being ripped up.
These are some of the most common cold-weather wardrobe myths, and the reasons why you need to take them all with a generous pinch of salt.
1. You Need A New Wardrobe For Autumn/Winter
Climate change alone is reason enough to draw a line under the thinking that men’s wardrobes exist in two extremes. There might’ve been a time when the shift in seasons meant a complete wardrobe 180, but in 2017 – 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, a stylist who has worked with Harvey Nichols, Vivienne Westwood and FarFetch. “However, I would argue that you should choose a few key investments 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 other year-round pieces that work together or on their own are good places to start.
2. Prints Are For Spring/Summer Only
Got a floral tee you’re not ready to retire? An all-over zig-zag shirt you want to squeeze a little more wear out of? We have good news: punchy prints still have a place in your cold-weather wardrobe, especially if they’re monochrome or feature a dark base.
“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,” says Giles Farnham, head of the River Island Style Studio. “Print can work in tailoring for autumn/winter too, especially in partywear. Try teaming a geometric suit or blazer with white sneakers for a contemporary take on traditional looks.”
3. Wearing All Black Is Boring
The only way wearing all black will ever get boring is if you get all goth about it and literally never wear anything else. When used in moderation, tonal outfits will never fail to look stylish.
Aside from making your frame appear longer and slimmer, building a solid rotation of dark neutrals that can be mixed-and-matched makes getting dressed in the dark (a real possibility in the depths of winter months) significantly easier.
Just be sure to mix up your materials to add visual interest and, most importantly, invest in a lint roller. Nothing kills a look quicker than a combination of dandruff and cat hair calling your shoulder home.
4. Sunglasses Are For Summer Only
Unless you’re unfortunate enough to live in the darkest depths of some country where the sun doesn’t rear its head for six months of the year, you need sunglasses.
“Despite being associated with summer, they are a year-round staple,” says David Schulte, chief executive of luxury eyewear brand Oliver Peoples. “Winter sun can be just as strong and it’s critical to protect yourself.” Look for shades that shield 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 protect your eyes either; they can also be the accessory that elevates your entire look. “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.”
5. Layering Is Just 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.
“It isn’t a case of slinging on 15 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 is in understanding fabric structure and weight. “Start with the thinnest layer and then work your way outwards.” So lightweight pieces like T-shirts or shirts go on first, followed by thicker items such as overshirts, knitwear and midweight jackets, with heavier outerwear and accessories added last.
Think of these more as guidelines than rules, though, adds Farnham. “There can be exceptions – a fitted, lightweight roll neck under a shirt is a great look that oozes 1970s swagger.”
6. You Shouldn’t Wear White In Winter
Brighter fabrics reflect light rather than absorb it, which means they generally look their best on sun-drenched summer days. But that’s no reason to give your white pieces the cold shoulder come winter, according to Harvey Nichols’ Alexander.
“This is one myth I strongly disagree with,” he says. “Yes, perhaps our skin isn’t as tanned as it is in the summer months, but there are ways to wear white stylishly come winter. It’s a versatile colour you can mix into your outfit easily, without feeling too bold.”
Head-to-toe white might be too ambitious, but a classic white Oxford shirt or slightly off-white roll neck are workable year-round. “Pair these shades with contrasting, more muted colours for a fresh take this season.”
7. You Don’t Need To Care For Your Winter Clothes
Your summer wardrobe may not take much maintenance beyond the odd sneaker cleaning session, but the same cannot be said for its wintry counterpart.
Harsh conditions can wreak havoc with even the hardiest of materials. But with the right know-how, you can make your clobber last through the season and beyond.
Cold weather has a nasty habit of drying leather out, which can lead to cracks, making a leather conditioner essential to keeping outerwear and boots nourished. As for suede, apply a liberal dose of fabric protector at the start of the season (or just avoid wearing it entirely). And, if you’re getting into knitwear mode, know when to hold and when to fold. As a general rule, never hang a wool or cashmere jumper unless you actually want those dreaded shoulder nipples.
8. Gilets Are For Farmers Only
A few years ago, a gilet meant country fairs, Crufts and ads for West Country yoghurt. But thanks to the tireless work of Italian street style dons, the gilet has been rebranded a cold-weather wardrobe staple.
“The gilet shouldn’t be reserved for just trekking up mountains or spending time on a farm,” 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 in the arms.”
Getting the look right comes down to how you style it. “Embrace athleisure with a lightweight gilet worn under a deconstructed blazer and teamed with tailored joggers,” he says. “Or go Americana with a check shirt, distressed denim and chunky boots.”