Shopping for clothes in-between seasons is tricky to master, because when all four seasons can legitimately happen in one day, you’re near guaranteed to get some undesirable mash-up of weather. Don’t make the schoolboy error of dividing your wardrobe neatly by season because the forecast is pretty much guaranteed to go way off piste. The good news: every season is jacket season.
Jackets are the middleweight prizefighters of your wardrobe. Not only will you get more wear from them than thicker or thinner layers, but they also encourage you to better mix and match items you’d previously pigeonholed as ‘seasonal’. We’ve tracked down 10 versatile jacket styles that you barely have to justify the purchase for. You’ll wear them all year.
Loved by preps, jocks and – more recently – menswear dons, the varsity jacket is a versatile, youthful style which segues between smart-casual and elevated sportswear.
You don’t have to be an inducted Ivy Leaguer with a bulging trust fund to put your spin on this preppy classic, though. There are plenty of options that’ll get you extra style credits, without the need to set foot on campus, all of which will add a healthy dose of collegiate cool to your weekend wardrobe.
The varsity jacket works best when the core shape goes grown up, says menswear stylist Paul Higgins, whose CV name-checks the likes of Hardy Amies, Diesel and Kilgour. “A simple, clean version of the varsity jacket without too much fuss going on will let you keep wearing this vintage-inspired style for years to come,” he says.
How to look more high end than high school? “Look for premium fabrics such as suede, pebbled leather and boiled wool which give the style a sophisticated reboot.” Or, if you’re working with a student’s budget, look for darker colours such as black, navy and grey which invariably look pricier than colourful counterparts in a similar price bracket.
Along with varsity jackets, bombers have been one of the most sought-after outerwear designs for the last couple of years, precisely because they’re so in tune with menswear’s current preoccupation with all things laid-back.
Whether you recruit the design to round off a streetwear look or use one to dress down an Oxford shirt, tailored trousers and loafers, with a bomber at your command you can target almost any dress code.
Bomber jackets are everywhere, so to stand out, look to interest fabrics says Reiss head of menswear design Alex Field. “It’s hard to remember a season when the bomber jacket hasn’t been a key player in menswear. Unsurprisingly, a design in black or navy will serve you best, but try a technical fabric or soft suede to keep this classic looking modern.”
By steering clear of more obvious fabrics such as leather and nylon you’ll be able to freshen up your look while retaining the bomber jacket’s versatility with fail-safe colours you can comfortably wear year-round.
The down gilet may have once been the preserve of style-phobic country dwellers, but thanks to a timely reappraisal by practicality-loving designers, the mid-layer has become an essential for city types too.
The beauty of down-filled styles is their weight – or lack of it – and ease of wear. It’s a fact that’s no longer lost on luxury brands such as Brunello Cucinelli, which now styles padded gilets over and under suit jackets, cementing this sleeveless wonder’s place as a trans-seasonal essential.
“The gilet will add a welcome injection of sportiness and function back into your wardrobe,” says Chris Gove, creative director of British brand Percival.
But make sure you’re closer to Johannes Huebl than Jeremy Clarkson by looking for small design details. “A polyester outer shell is fine, but watch out for anything super-shiny and try a contrast fabric yoke to move into the design-led territory,” he says.
The coach jacket may not have the household-name status of the varsity jacket, but just like its more famous stablemate, it was born in the USA, worn by sports coaches as they paced the touchline. Unsurprisingly, practicality is at the design’s heart: being lightweight and waterproof were non-negotiable for this all-season MVP.
Many styles on offer now retain those handy tech specs and but use canny design to elevate the coach jacket from sideline to star player – whether its teammates are streetwear essentials or Scandinavian basics.
A point collar, snap-button front and hip pockets are giveaways that you’re looking at a coach jacket, but the style has become even more versatile in the last couple of seasons thanks to a rethink of this traditionally plain design.
“Try an option that keeps the style’s practical and pared-back vibes, but look for simple patterns or logo motifs to amp up the interest,” says Higgins. All of the function, all of the fashion.
Technical fabrics make for excellent trans-seasonal companions thanks to their ability to multitask: they can be worn come rain or shine, over a T-shirt or on top of onion-like layers, depending on the forecast.
And now both streetwear and high-end designers have fallen hard for the style’s unpretentious aesthetic charms. By adding menswear nous to the jacket’s tech-heavy spec, the danger of looking like a hiker that’s taken a wrong turn has been vastly reduced.
“Active-driven silhouettes such as the technical anorak have emerged as must have items this season, combining seasonal flexibility with an outdoor expedition sensibility,” says Michael Taylor, senior buyer at Urban Outfitters. The difference between off-route rambler and part-ironic, part-practical menswear don lies in the colour of technical jacket that you stick on your back.
“The best examples reflect nostalgia and normcore dressing: choose retro, boxy, 1990s colour blocking options which have visually arresting clashing colours to make a strong statement,” says Taylor. Peak throwback, but in the best possible sense.
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