Are you familiar with the cost-per-wear principle of buying clothing? There are any number of articles online about this formula, but simply put it’s the cost of the garment, divided by the number of days on which you are likely to wear it. If you bear this principle in mind when you’re shopping for clothes, you’ll come to understand that some wardrobe staples (jeans, smart shoes, a coat) are worth spending a little more on than other, more ‘statement’ pieces. (The suit you’ll wear for your wedding is an obvious exception to this rule.)
The cost-per-wear formula dictates that a good jacket – something you can wear almost every day, particularly in inclement weather – is a worthwhile investment. Buy the right jacket, with the right combination of practicality and style, and it can transform your outfit as well as protecting you from the elements on cold, wet days.
What’s more, jackets tend to be resistant to trends as well as to the weather. From the harrington jacket to the bomber, men’s jackets have an enduring style. Buy your jackets with care and you can build up a stylish, wearable collection over a number of years.
#1 Harrington Jacket
James Dean. Steve McQueen. Elvis. In the 1950s and 60s, every man who epitomized cool did so in a Harrington jacket – and its appeal has endured, from 1960s mods, through 80s sports casual aficionados, to 007 himself, Daniel Craig.
Today the Harrington – still effortlessly blending fashion with function – is available in a range of fabrics. It’s a versatile piece which belongs in your wardrobe no matter your signature style or your body type. Go a size up to broaden the look of your shoulders; or team the Harrington with a vertically striped shirt or crew neck for a sleeker look.
You can also choose from a range of colors, depending on which distinct Harrington look you’re aiming to emulate. The classic beige (or stone) Harrington, as worn by Steve McQueen on many a magazine cover, is a neutral style staple that goes with anything, but particularly suits a preppy, Ivy League look with nautical accents: try it with a polo and chinos or jeans, or boat shoes, a button down – and maybe even a bow tie!
If it’s McQueen’s Thomas Crown Affair look you’re going for, you’ll want a navy Harrington. Team it with jeans and a button down; maybe add a little pizzazz with a patterned or floral shirt. A pair of Chelsea boots or desert boots complete the look.
A red Harrington, á la James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause, guarantees a more casual, laid back vibe – again, go for jeans and Chelsea boots, but avoid clashing tones.
Or try a black Harrington jacket, along with the classic jeans/t-shirt/sneakers combo, for a sexier, more edgy aesthetic.
#2 Leather Jacket
You don’t need us to tell you that the leather jacket is an essential weapon in your sartorial armory. Like the Harrington – and any number of other fashion staples – this jacket owed its initial boost in popularity to a 50s movie icon: in this case, Marlon Brando in The Wild Ones.
It’s never been out of the spotlight since. A leather jacket works in all seasons, versions are available for most budgets, and just about every subculture has their own take on it.
In fact, there are just about as many ways to style a man’s leather jacket as there are men. But if you want to keep it simple: a black leather biker jacket, with blue jeans and a plain white T is a simple, timeless look. You can either keep it casual with sneakers, or dress up a little with Chelsea boots. A brown leather jacket works with the same pieces for a look that’s a little less edgy and more earthy.
#3 Jean Jacket
Put all thoughts of double denim out of your mind…unless that’s what you’re into. (If you’re really committing to that 90s aesthetic you’ll find no judgement here!)
If you buy a jean jacket that fits well and wear it thoughtfully, a jean jacket is both a practical staple and a tool of layering wizardry. Choose a jacket with a slightly slimming fit, preferably one that sits around the waist. Try it under a black overcoat to smarten it up, or team it with a cable knit sweater and tan boots for an urban casual vibe.
Don’t forget that you can also choose from a range of colors, besides the basic ‘jeans color’ jacket. A darker blue will look less summery; try it lumberjack-style with a check shirt and relaxed-fit jeans, or go for a smart-but-edgy look by wearing dark denim over a dress shirt with formal black pants and shoes. A black jean jacket, meanwhile, works with just about any outfit you might wear with a black blazer or leather jacket.
#4 Bomber Jacket
Originally designed for the airforce as a more lightweight alternative to the shearling flight jacket, bomber jackets have come a long way. A bomber will still feature ribbed cuffs and hem and a defined neckline, and fasten with a zip. But beyond that they now vary enormously in style, fit, color and fabric. So whatever your taste, you’re likely to find a bomber jacket that works for you.
Try a bomber with chinos for a casual look, along with a dark sweatshirt or hoodie in winter; or take your look all the way to sports luxe by swapping out the chinos for sweatpants and adding a beanie and sneakers. You can head to the other end of the formalwear spectrum by teaming your bomber with a formal shirt instead, along with slim-fitting jeans or pants – or try combining some of these pieces for a look in between the two.
The Parka is another jacket inspired by the military: originally created by the Caribou Inuit, the US Army adopted this practical garment, with its weather-defying fur-lined hood, in the 1950s. It was then swiftly picked up by the mods of the 1960s, to wear over their suits, and continues today as a wardrobe staple: perfect to wear over jeans and sneakers.
The best way to wear the parka is to roll with its inherent functionality: choose a water-resistant fabric, and consider a down filling for extra warmth – then choose a color and a style of fur that works with your cold-weather wardrobe. Look for loose-fitting styles with lengths between the mid-thigh and the knee for a parka that protects you from fashion faux pas as well as from the elements.
Your most comfortable, practical, weather-suitable jacket is almost certain to be one of your most-worn items of clothing this year. So instead of treating the jacket as an afterthought, respect it as a cornerstone of your wardrobe. Shop around; work out which fabrics, colors and styles work best for you, your budget and the rest of your outfits. Then invest in at least one good quality, functional jacket that you’re excited about wearing and that works well with a number of your other favorite pieces. You’ll soon find that the right jacket can make your outfit all by itself – and that while you update the rest of your wardrobe to keep your look fresh, the style of your favorite jacket will endure for years to come.