Here comes the rain again — just in time for your new, cool cagoule
I’ve decided to be quite spiteful today. Sorry. Instead of singing the praises of summer-friendly items in cheering pastel colours that make our minds wander to Ibiza beach clubs, Mykonos tavernas and Patmos terraces, I’m writing about cagoules. Cagoule is one of the least alluring words in the men’s style lexicon. Nobody thinks, “Oooh, I’m going to put on my lucky cagoule”; neither do you want to be friends with the sort of person who says, “Don’t forget to pack your cagoule for the awesome stag party I’ve organised”; nor, as far as I’m aware, do many of the shows on the London Fashion Week schedule describe their signature style as “cagoule”.
So why cagoules this issue? Two reasons: first, despite the ugly name — cagoule sounds like something a toddler says when its nappy needs changing — is that in this country, at least, it can be a pretty essential item each summer if you’re holidaying in Cornwall or the Lake District. Second, thanks to a heavy rebranding (including its name) a form of cagoule is having a bit of a renaissance.
The reason I’ve become slightly obsessed with cagoules is that I’m selling my country house and buying one in the Lake District. With its rugged mountains and plethora of lakes, the Lake District is as lovely as it is for a number of geographical reasons, the main one being that it rains all the time. As the train heads north past Cumbria, I stare out of the windows at the beleaguered families on their annual holiday shuddering under station platforms, wind- and rain-swept, in their holiday waterproofs, barely recognisable as human since no sign of bare limb or facial feature is visible through their shapeless weatherproof clobber. Some of these poor holidaymakers will be spending their week away sleeping in weather-battered tents or caravans lodged in muddy fields. Pure hell.
You might wonder why I’m moving there. Well, in the moments of good weather the Lakes is blessed with, there is nowhere more breathtaking to gawp at; but more importantly, the house we’ve found — halfway up a mountain and near impossible to reach — should be totally unappealing as a destination to both friends and family. Humbug heaven. Here is somewhere I can escape to and indulge in my collection of sweatpants, hoodies and other chav paraphernalia far from judging eyes.
I have been warned that large swathes of my wardrobe will be deemed inappropriate up there. Those Gucci floral numbers will likely be scoffed at, the frayed crocheted-cotton coat and embroidered linen trousers by my current favourite label, By
Walid, might also be viewed as a tad radical for Kendal High Street. The big question is how do I tackle the cagoule problem? I don’t want to look like an extra in Fargo, nor does the Stone Island look — despite being fashionable again — really suit me either.
Luckily, there are now a number of brands who’ve successfully tackled the waterproof problem, veered far enough away to escape the cagoule label, and can be spotted around UK city centres looking appealingly acceptable. Today, they tend to be called field jackets, or shell jackets, rather than cagoules. These modern takes on rainwear happily negate the need for a trench coat — along with the polo shirt, my least favourite item of men’s clothing — and yet keep out the rain without making you look like a character from a Mike Leigh film.
The ones I’ve invested in so far — obviously, I’ve already started buying a new wardrobe before even exchanging contracts on the property — are from Italian brand Nemen whose jackets are highly functional yet given a contemporary look with its use of colour, cut and a plethora of pockets, and another Italian brand called Aspesi, which manages to achieve outdoor practicality, aesthetic appeal and the right price. Nearer to home, however, are the designs of a clever Brit-based brand called The Workers Club — for them it’s all about function and craftsmanship — as well as Private White VC, whose ripstop raincoats fit the bill as comfortably in Windermere as they do in the West End.
For those holidaying here and not abroad this summer, if you shop around it is possible to stay dry and look fly — even in the rain.
Manchester, so much to answer for: Liam Gallagher, 1994