Winter is my favourite season of the year. I often joke that I would be happy in the Highlands of Scotland, but that’s big talk coming from a Saffa. We are fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on your affinity for the cold) in SA to experience relatively mild winters. Also, we’ll take almost any excuse to get a fire going and throw a couple of tjops on the braai, but that’s another story. Two or three layers are all you need to keep you sufficiently insulated from the elements. Besides the apparent benefits that outerwear provides from inclement weather, it helps to anchor a rig. For this instalment of A Primer on men’s wear, I unpack a few of my favourite pieces as we gingerly skirt into the colder months.
The Quilted jacket
One of the oldest sewing techniques used prolifically in the bedding industry applied to garment construction stitches layers of fabric with an insulated filling that traps air between the layers keeping the wearer sufficiently warm. A British heritage piece, the quilted jacket has been the go-to jacket for the town and country English gentleman. Noticeable by the quilt stitch detail on the outside of the jacket, generally in a diamond pattern, this nylon jacket is lightweight and perfect for a South African winter because of its lightweight and medium insulation. A slightly more sophisticated alternative to the puffer jacket, generally styled with patch pockets and a corduroy lined collar. This extremely versatile piece comes in many colours, with the traditional ones being navy, olive green or muddy brown. Pair them with brushed twill chinos and a chambray shirt.
The Aran Jumper or Jersey
I always seem to lean towards traditional pieces with a sense of heritage. None more so than the Aran Jumper. Aptly named after the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland, this Fisherman’s jersey was knitted by their wives from unscoured wool, which helped to repel sea spray and guard against the harsh elements that a fisher was prone to face. A bit of a marketing ploy, legend has it that every family had its own style to the knit, for in the event that the man met a sad end at sea, his sweater would wash onto the shore and offer some sort of closure for the grieving family. This chunky knit, traditionally available in an undyed off-white colourway, is another versatile piece of outerwear worn over a white crew T-shirt, Japanese selvedge denim with rolled hems and desert boots. Add some socks with a burst of colour to keep things nonchalant.
The Tweed jacket
Rugged, traditional, masculine and oozing class. This rough woollen fabric originated in Scotland. A mispronunciation of the Scots word “tweel”, the word for twill,the tweed jacket is a must for your winter wardrobe. Gone are the days when tweed was relegated to geriatric professor types (which I actually lean towards, myself. No chirps, thank you). Nowadays, with slimmer lapels, two buttons and a nipped-in waist, the tweed jacket is less country and more urban jungle. Lose the tie, dress your tweed with an OCBD — Oxford cloth button-down, lightweight knit, washed denim and some cognac-coloured wingtip boots. Don’t forget a muted pocket square to finish off the outfit.
The Denim Trucker Jacket
No conversation regarding outerwear would be complete without paying homage to the classic denim trucker. For a jacket that was first introduced around 1905 by Levi Strauss and Co, the fact that it is as relevant today as it was all those years ago speaks volumes. Based on a blouson style (a jacket that is cut shorter and cinched at the waist), I find myself always going back to my broken-in trucker every season. The perfect autumn transitional second layer, throw it on with just about anything, and you’re ready to go. You can’t go wrong with a crisp white T-shirt, slim-fit cargo pants and a pair of worker boots.
The Varsity Jacket
The iconic Letterman jacket was popularised around 1865 by the Harvard baseball team, an ode to Americana and a definite preppy staple. Fast forward to the 1980s, and the jacket was again granted a new lease on life by urban culture, becoming de rigueur with fashionable hip hop artists. A little daunting to dress, the contrasting leather sleeves and wool body with large embroidered letters may seem too much. With multiple iterations by numerous brands, toned down monochromatic versions can be found these days. Whichever version you decide to go with, a pique knit polo, fine wale corduroy pants and a pair of penny loafers will have you looking dandy.