The wise man knows that a great wardrobe is built, not from trending pieces, but from seasonless staples. Neutral tones and transitional fabrics don’t just streamline your morning decision-making, they also provide a solid foundation on which to update your entire wardrobe. Especially in winter, when your layering game needs to be tight.
If you only buy one piece this season, make it one of these seven winter wardrobe staples picked by the menswear maestros who do getting dressed best.
Athleisure has shown more sticking power than last New Year’s commitment to pilates. Which at least means all that slim-fit sports kit you bought in January won’t go to waste. “Seen on [countless] catwalks, sports luxe mixed with utility is a key look for the season,” says Ross Wilson, head of buying at House of Fraser.
Head-to-toe sweats are a no-go – you want to look like you go to the gym, not like you’re going to the gym – but by mixing athletic kit with weekend staples, you get a look that does the heavy lifting in the style department. “Pair a khaki bomber jacket with a luxe pair of black joggers and a cap,” adds Wilson. Just no racerback vests, please.
The chunky monk strap has long been the Pitti peacock’s shoe of choice, but this season, sizeable soles have infiltrated just about every footwear type on offer, including loafers, Derbies and brogues.
“The trend for chunkier shapes and heavy soles that has dominated the catwalks is not only a refreshing alternative, it’s also rather practical,” says Giles Farnham, head of River Island’s style studio.
Rather than ‘proper’ shoes being saved for ‘proper’ outfits, this elevated upgrade makes them easy to work into casual or smart-casual looks. “Chunky black [shoes] in a rugged textured leather is the perfect accompaniment to rolled-up dark jeans or cropped tailored trousers. Plus, the heavyweight cleated sole will give you extra purchase on those icy pavements.” Your style doesn’t slip, so nor should you.
In a season of statement outerwear, shearling is one option that just about any man can pull off. Which means, to stand out, you need a coat that doesn’t follow the flock. “For me, it works best when shown in a classic style like a flight jacket,” says Daniel Todd, a buyer at Mr Porter.
The military favourite went AWOL on the back of James Dean, and hasn’t shaken its rebellious air since. Even when some shearling jackets cost more than a car – especially if you’re buying real leather.
As for how to style? “[You’ll never beat] a white T-shirt and raw denim jeans,” says Todd. Cause for your rebellion: optional.
Outerwear and emulsion don’t have a lot in common, and you certainly only want to wear one of them, but what they do share is that one coat is sometimes enough.
“An overcoat is formal enough for the office and, if worn the right way, can [also] add a smart edge to casual get-ups,” says Alice Watt, a stylist at men’s personal shopping service Thread. “You can wear it with a suit or over a crew neck sweater, jeans and trainers.” And if you stump up for wool and cashmere, it will outlast everything else you own.
Plus, unlike other winter coat styles such as the peacoat, you don’t have to default to black or navy. Shades of camel and brown are arguably even more wearable than the go-to winter staples. “Toffee and copper-coloured hues work with everything and are an ideal way to refresh and lighten up a look. They’re also just as versatile as some of the more obvious colour choices,” says Watt.
Some pockets of the City cling tight to the grey suit. But for most men, tailoring is now open to experimentation. Pick a print. Pick a pattern. Pick the kind of colour normally draped on Christmas trees. Then dress it however you like.
“The past few seasons we’ve seen guys start to move away from traditional styling rules, which is really exciting,” says Farnham. “They’re wearing suits with T-shirts and trainers instead of the formal tie or pocket square combo.”
The punchier your suit, the more room to play. “Try a print number with a crisp white sneaker and a plain T-shirt or Henley, for maximum impact.”
Yes, there will be days when they’re rained out of consideration but suede boots give your outfit a tactile finishing touch on crisp winter days. “Every man should have at least one good pair,” says Chris Benns, who has dressed the likes of actors Jack O’Connell and Riz Ahmed. “Good”, in this case, meaning a smart upper and a practical sole to stop you slipping in the frost.
Benns recommends a brown pair, which goes perfectly with heavy selvedge denim and a thick knit through the autumn and winter months. “Their classic style will never age meaning you can wear them year after year, making them the perfect investment piece that will get better with age.” Providing you stock up on suede protector, of course.
Some trends seem to come out of nowhere; others are simply updates of what you’ve already got. Recently, there’s been a tectonic shift below the belt in menswear. “The key item that every man should invest in this autumn winter is a relaxed-leg trouser,” says James Lawrence, head of menswear design at ASOS.
And since the silhouette is relatively new, it makes even your default pieces look on trend. Although if in doubt, steer simple. “They look their best worn casually, with white socks and sneakers for a true skater look,” says Lawrence. “Chino versions are great, as the weight of the fabric holds the shape.” But don’t discount loose wool styles or a more relaxed denim fit, either.