Unlike many female consumers, men tend to shop by temperature rather than by trend. We don’t buy coats when it’s warm outside; quite understandably, we prefer to wait until it’s cold. Like now.
It pays to invest in a new coat every year: it’s the first thing someone sees when you walk into a room, and the last thing they see when you leave. If you’re not a big follower of fashion, and don’t have the time or inclination to follow the trends, or simply don’t have the cash, a new coat is your one-stop wardrobe update. And it serves a psychological purpose too: it’s a material reminder that you have left the frivolities of summer behind for the dark days of winter.
This season, menswear designers seem to have spent a lot of time and energy on their coat offerings; perhaps they realise that with global warming, and less clearly defined seasons, a new coat needs to promise more than just warmth. The catwalks were littered with military-inspired big coats, duffel coats, padded jackets and, of course, the classic peacoat. So which to choose?
Although synonymous with Paddington Bear, the duffel coat has harsher origins, having been worn by the military in both world wars. It is not, however, wholly appropriate for work. It was a favourite of the beatnik generation but its soft structure and perky hood somehow doesn’t suggest high achiever. Like Paddington, it looks a little too cuddly. Investment buys that will be great for the weekend include Burberry Prorsum’s beige wool classic (£1,995), Maison Martin Margiela’s faux shearling-lined duffel (£975), Saint Laurent hooded duffel (£1,490), Bottega Veneta’s wool blend, plain-fronted style (£1,615), and Junya Watanabe’s down-filled duffel (£1,335).
For work, you’d be wise to invest in a large, roomy coat – something with wide lapels, possibly double-breasted and with just a nod to 1940s film star swagger. Think Cary Grant or Gary Cooper at their most iconic. Not only will these shelter you from rain and cold on the commute, they will fit comfortably over a suit or jacket, hold any number of useful objects in their ample pockets, and work equally well as an off-duty item too. Look out for Lanvin’s double-breasted grey wool coat, from (£1,095, pictured far left), Slowear’s unstructured tweed double breasted style (£815), Alexander McQueen’s double-breasted wool and cashmere overcoat (£1,395), Gucci’s velvet collar double-breasted style (£1,480) and Dolce & Gabbana’s wool blend overcoat (£1,450).
If you are going to invest in a coat for the weekend, then make it a classic peacoat – they look perfect teamed with smart dark jeans. There’s a reason why designers produce peacoats season after season: they always look cool. This is one of the few times when turning up your collar is not only allowed, it’s essential. Look up images of Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor (1975) and you’ll see why. Classic buys include Jil Sander’s olive green melton style (£1,180), Saint Laurent’s navy classic (£1,150), Belstaff’s “Brentwood” style (£850), Kenzo’s navy and black panelled peacoat (£594), and Gucci’s shearling style (£2,470).
Another option is a padded, waterproof down-filled coat. While these used to be the preserve of the ski slope, or the Arctic Circle, they’ve become popular with men whose daily trek is up an escalator rather than a mountainside. Besides their practicality, their appeal lies in the way they make the wearer look sporty and the fact that, for some reason, they look great worn incongruously over a suit or a slim pair of tailored trousers. There’s something appealing about the contrast between the sheen of the coat and the matt of a wool suit, about the cloudlike silhouette of a padded top half and a slim lower one. If that sounds too fashion-fancy, try it for yourself and you’ll see that it just works somehow. Cosy styles include Louis Vuitton’s deluxe ski coat,£4,950 (pictured, second right), Moncler’s “Dinant” down jacket (£628), Givenchy’s down-filled leather jacket (£2,060), Canada Goose’s “Lodge” style (£450), and Duvetica’s shiny navy “Dionisio” down-filled style (£330).
Head gear: Woolly thinking
“You can’t pull a fedora down around your ears,” observes London-based tailor Richard James. Yes, after a brief flirtation with classic felt hats – fedoras included – cutting-edge menswear has embraced what can only be described as the “luxury bobble hat” this winter.
Look online and in store and there are countless variations on the big-label cosy knit hat; from Dior Homme’s beanies (£110) and Dolce & Gabbana’s cashmere styles (£235) to Ralph Lauren’s red-and-black snowflake designs (£85), Rick Owens’ ribbed numbers (£166) and Moncler’s branded pom-pom affairs (£115). Indeed, there is a bobble hat for all tastes.
“We see men of every age buying knit hats,” says Jeevan Singh, men’s accessories buyer at Selfridges. “They have become a true essential rather than an accessory. Go for simple styles in luxury fabrics and a sophisticated colour palette, and you won’t go far wrong.”
Even London’s most sartorial street, Savile Row, has got in on the trend. “Knitted hats certainly feel right this winter,” says James of his hats, which sell for £120 and above. “We have been producing hand-knitted hats on the west coast of Ireland for many years,” he adds. “We know exactly who makes them and each one has a character of its own.”
What’s more, these hats are apparently not just destined for chilly weekends away and après-ski; be prepared for sightings on the streets of the Square Mile. “I’ve noticed a lot of our customers wearing our bobble hats during the week with a suit,” says Richard James.
Thelma Speirs, one half of hat duo Bernstock Speirs, whose knit styles start from £90, agrees: “The addition of a bobble hat can make a smart look seem more contemporary. I think it’s a great mix with a tailored suit. Like the anorak, men’s bobble hats used to be something of a joke but now men of all ages are wearing them. Seriously.”