New season, new wardrobe. Right? Well, not necessarily. With some of fashion’s most influential players conceding the industry’s pace is out of whack, the idea that what you wore last season is redundant now, isn’t just outdated, but irresponsible, too.
Plus, climate change is re-writing the rulebook anyway: September and October might’ve called for toasty overcoats 10 years ago, but in 2018 there are some days when it’s still almost T-shirt weather.
“Layering is the key,” explains Toby Lamb, design director of Savile Row tailor and British menswear brand Richard James. “There are four layers, essentially: the base layer, which consists of long- and short-sleeved T-shirts. The second, which includes shirts and light-gauge knitwear. The third is tailored jackets, denim jackets and blousons. And lastly, the top layer is the heaviest, so that’s pea coats, overcoats and double-breasted greatcoats.”
Winter will always mean shearling instead of shorts, it’s true, but that’s not to say your entire wardrobe needs to do a 180. To help you navigate the shifting seasons without spending a fortune on new pieces you don’t need, here are a selection of summer garments you can wear year-round. Don’t pack them away just yet.
The idea that all fashion is seasonal is the biggest scam since the Nigerian banking sector got email. Just look at T-shirts: despite being intrinsically linked with the warmer months (and therefore often the first into storage when days get shorter), the barely-there material can still be worn when it gets frosty if you think of them as a base layer.
In addition to adding ballast to help fight off the cold, T-shirts give an otherwise staid outfit a burst of colour. “Use them as an accent,” suggests Lamb. “With a neutral crew neck sweatshirt, it’s nice to see a thin sliver of colour from a brightly coloured T-shirt poking out from the neck or hem.”
The key to making this look work is by using high contrast colour combinations, so a bright red tee under a rust-coloured coat, for example, or a yellow design to liven up a navy shirt.
Summer’s smart-casual staple looks every bit as sharp even after the season is over. Lightweight, breathable and not as airily thin as a T-shirt, a polo shirt (especially one cut from cotton piqué) is a top seed player in your transitional line-up.
The only thing that needs changing is the placement. Where in the summer a polo might sit front and centre, its role is more supporting once the mercury begins to drop.
While it’s still relatively warm, try a short-sleeved style under a lightweight jacket (such as a shacket, mac or duster), then switch to a longer-sleeved version under a blazer for a late-autumn look that proves you’ve got a handle on menswear’s trickier moves.
“Just opt for a jacket made in a fabric with texture,” says Lamb. “Polos don’t look as good with fabrics in a flat finish such worsteds or mohairs, which are more businesslike.”
Just because mankles are given the cold shoulder at this time of year, it doesn’t mean your hemlines have to follow suit. “A pair of cropped trousers, or a regular pinrolled pair, is a perfectly acceptable style move to pull come the colder months – provided you wear them with socks,” says Chris Gove, creative director of British menswear brand Percival.
There’s something about that combination of autumn’s low light and gooseflesh that makes us feel positively bilious. So please, stop it – put on some socks. Any socks.
A few years ago only smart socks (the kind you wear with office slacks) would’ve cut it, but now sportswear rules, which means the tube socks you save for the gym are perfectly acceptable, too.
If street style has taught us anything, it’s that a denim jacket isn’t just an outer layer – it’s a bona-fide wardrobe workhorse. Sure, you can throw it on over a T-shirt or shirt, but a denim jacket is so much more: it’s the mid-layer that offers a textural contrast or the extra outer layer that dials up the heat.
If you’ve been wearing a trucker during summer, chances are it’s thin enough to slot between layers. Try wearing it over a hoodie or roll neck, or under a blazer or overcoat to nail that high-low contrast.
Just remember to keep colour coordination in mind: a classic blue jean jacket pops against black and camel outerwear, but a black one won’t.
“A baseball cap?” you say. “As in the thing I wear to keep the sun off my face? As in the thing I wear to a Yankees game?” Yes, yes and, well, no.
It is now possible to mix and match not only your summer and winter clothes (within reason), but also sportswear and workwear. However, this rule only applies if your hat meets a certain criteria.
“Baseball caps work best in the winter when they are more structured, simple and free of logos,” says Lamb. “The hat should be fairly low-key and preferably in the same colour as the rest of your outfit.” Let’s forget the political statements, as well, yeah?
Public service announcement: there’s nothing seasonal about UV damage. Which means, despite the fact that sun-drenched days are as rare as hen’s teeth in winter, when the clouds part, the rays still burn.
Your eyes, like your skin, are vulnerable to damage year-round, with extended exposure known to cause macular degeneration and cataracts. So don’t stow away your shades with your shorts.
“I’d go for lenses with a lighter see-through tint, as opposed heavy blacked-out lenses,” says Fabio Ribeiro, manager of London opticians General Eyewear. “This creates a look which feels fresh in the winter, and looking through these tinted frames also lightens everything up and helps with SAD (seasonal affective disorder).”
What’s more, a quality pair of sunglasses won’t just protect your corneas, they’ll delay those crow’s feet too – forming a barrier between your skin and signs of premature ageing. Plus, and perhaps most importantly, they’re cool AF. Just don’t wear them indoors.
A Breton Top
Autumn’s onset might mean sailing city streets rather than clear blue seas, but that shouldn’t mean putting Breton shirts on the plank.
Timeless and versatile, the Breton top’s simplicity makes it virtually seasonless, so while, sure, it looks great sipping a negroni on a beach, it’s just at home with a pint of beer in the depths of winter.
Bonus: it works with everything else in your wardrobe. “Go low-key with a Breton top, chinos or cords and clean trainers, or take a smarter tack by teaming with a wool blazer, trousers and smart shoes,” says Gove.
Along with the wardrobe classics, putting paid to the sartorial swindle that is seasons also makes investing in trending pieces all the more justifiable. Getting wear out of a pair of white jeans beyond the high-summer months, for example, sees their cost-per-wear ratio rocket.
They lend a pleasing colour contrast to the traditional winter palette of black, navy, olive, grey and brown, so deploy them as you would indigo denim, with everything from leather jackets to pea coats and overcoats.
Trying to keep them pristine, however, is like pushing rope up a hill, says Nicolas Payne-Baader, who has styled shoots for the likes of Jocks & Nerds. Instead, Baader recommends letting them get as dirty and battered as you like, giving them a “rugged off-hand appeal”.
Perhaps it’s the loafer’s association with bare ankles that’s seen it branded a fair-weather footwear option, but it’s autumn that the shoe is really made for.
Just look at the way it’s built: lightweight, yet sturdy – the ultimate between-season shoe, offering warmth (not to mention the ability to withstand showers), without the heft of a stacked sole Derby or winter boot.
Material is the deciding factor in determining just how autumn-appropriate your loafers are; a high-summer pair made from suede should sit this one out, but leather? They’ll do nicely.
Socks are the difference between a look that’s unexpected, and one that’s unacceptable. Tempted as you might be to stay true to the Pitti Uomo aesthetic, swerve it once summer’s gone.