07 Think big
It might seem odd, in a style column, to tell you that it doesn’t really matter what you look like this winter... but, by good fortune, this is mostly true. Thanks to the current trend for oversized, voluminous clothing where everything from coats to kicks are big and baggy, there really doesn’t need to be much of you on display this season. You can almost completely disappear under layers of triple-ply cashmere, twinpleat trousers, 14-hole boots and ribbed beanies — an unlikely cross between Withnail and a Ringwraith.
The primary purpose of a coat today isn’t to keep you warm (central heating and the Central Line do that) but to help you make either a grand entrance or a discreet exit. Whichever of these you prefer, you should really be investing in a double-breasted coat. There’s a lot of them out there and they offer many advantages. These are worn today with room on the shoulders, a little length on the sleeves, and a bit boxier than you might previously have chosen. The practical element of these supersize coats is that you can shove them over your blazer or suit with ease — fitted double-breasted coats, on the other hand, are super smart but tend to look bumpy or stretched when worn over a jacket. Another bonus is that most of this winter’s coats are made from deceptively lightweight fabrics, such as wool bouclé, so they don’t weigh as much, or overheat you as much as you may imagine: they really do take you from car to bar without feeling too cumbersome.
For the grand entrance-lovers among you, one look to consider is the double-breasted statement coat. Besides the size, what makes these loom large is the plethora of patterns and plaids. Whether checked wool tweed by Stella McCartney, dogtooth alpaca by Incotex, Prince of Wales check by Alfred Dunhill, or oversize checked virgin wool by Calvin Klein, most of the men’s designers have carefully avoided making you look like an off-duty minor royal. Instead, the cut and colourways of this new breed of coat have both town and country appeal: as suitable for pub-crawling in Kensal Rise as they are for fell-climbing in Cumbria.
If you’re looking for the discreet exit coat — the one that enables you to leave the Christmas party early and undetected — opt for one of the wrap-up-and-go, luxuriously long cashmere coats from Brunello Cucinelli, Canali or The Row (the chic label founded by the Olsen twins that has just launched its menswear line). Pop up the collar on one of these and you can sneak out of the room looking like heyday Mickey Rourke in 9½ Weeks.
If you want something more casual or streetwear-friendly — but are bored of bombers and puffas — then plump for a hidebehind parka. Labels such as J Crew, Dries Van Noten and Yves Salomon are offering duvetsize parkas with oversized hoods that will keep you both warm and invisible. Slip on one of these and nobody will know if you’ve trimmed your beard, matte-moulded your hair or swallowed an entire Colin the Caterpillar cake. These supersized coats allow you to pile on the pounds and dial down the grooming — what more could you ask for?
And if you’re wearing a big coat, you’ll need big shoes, too. A dainty derby just won’t do. Team instead with a pair of clunky boots or chunky sneakers. Leather boots with rugged rubber soles are by far the best option — whether it’s an urban hiking boot with shearling lining (try those by Moncler, Officine Creative or Loro Piana) or a polished brogue boot, à la Peaky Blinders, in a chestnut brown or conker red by a brand such as O’Keeffe or Grenson. One note of caution: if you’re prone to dressing or undressing in haste, these boots are not your friend. A long boot means a lot of lacing and a fair amount of tug and pull. I just timed how long it took a colleague to put on his new pair of full-grain leather brogue boots by Mr P and it was a sizeable 90 seconds.
These are not for the man in a hurry.
So there you go. Invest in a big coat and matching boots and you barely need bother with anything else at all. A winter wardrobe for the man who wants his clothes to do the talking this Christmas.
Above left: Richard E Grant’s Withnail upbraids the elements. Above right: brown leather-shearling lined boots, £1,335,by Loro Piana. Above and below: new winter wrapsfrom Calvin Klein205W39NYC and Dries Van Noten