Thursday 22 March 2018

Paul Galvin: The don of overcoat styles

Paul Galvin.
Paul Galvin.

Paul Galvin

Paul Galvin makes light of cumbersome winter dressing

That old familiar nip is back in the air. There's a reason it's familiar, of course. It never really leaves the air, does it?

And you know the old saying about familiarity breeding contempt. So that's why we all hate the cold.

Not to fret, plenty can be done to beat the chill. Overcoats are the obvious choice for tackling the winter elements; the classic way to insulate the body's heat.

A good winter coat is a wise investment and better to invest properly, if at all. There's a big difference between an expensive coat and a cheap one, even if they might look the same.

You'll notice the difference naturally enough when a real cold snap sets in and you're left shivering like a tramp's dog in a doorway.

You'll also notice the difference in the quality of the construction. Under-arm lining is the first thing to give, so every time you put your arm in a sleeve you go down inside the lining first.

Then buttoning is an issue. The sewing starts to unravel and you lose buttons. What use is an overcoat if you can't close it up?

So, you learn that it's best to buy quality first. Nowadays, I stick to The Kooples for overcoats and All Saints for trenches, and a vintage fur-collared overcoat I picked up along the way.

I'm not an overcoat fan. But then I'm not a fan of winter dressing. Number one, it's expensive, and number two, it's just too heavy duty for me.

Dressing in winter feels like hard work. Overcoats, wools, knits, polo necks, layers, scarves... it's a mission in itself to go about your business.

Dressing, undressing, wrapping, unwrapping, layer on, layer off, too warm, too cold and so on.

I'm choosy about overcoats. I only have three I wear. My favourite is a vintage Oberstoff military-style coat. Why? Because it has a fur collar. My advice is to buy a winter coat with a fur collar.

First, fur collars are cool; you'll look like a don. Second, you won't have to wear a scarf.

Scarves interfere with my plumage something awful. My beard gets upset and stands on end, my hair sticks out at the back. Too much hassle.

I do love this new trend for print overcoats. Prada has created a beautiful collection of overcoats and trenches this season. My favourite is a beige print one with black and grey fur collar. An exception in the usually staid world of the overcoat.

If you're like me and you don't love the cumbersome, somewhat boring nature of overcoats, there are alternative methods of dress.

Polo necks. Wear them with a blazer and a vest or T-shirt layered underneath for a warm but classic winter look.

There's no denying polo necks are controversial. They split opinion, like politicians. I find this a simpler, more stylish way of dressing.

Turtle necks, as our American cousins call them, are versatile and masculine. The key this winter is finding the right colours. Black and grey can be ditched for red, burgundy, stone, burnt orange and dark green.

M&S always has affordable options; John Smedley at BTs has more expensive merino and lambs-wool options. Cos and Sandro, being French labels, are well up on the polo game.

There's nothing as Parisian as a polo neck. I might have to take up smoking cigarettes, perhaps.

As well as jumpers for outerwear, you can get lighter polos that can be worn under shirts, peeking out from behind the collars. The Kooples does this look really well.

So if you're over your overcoat, why not play polo? After all, it's good enough for Louis Walsh.

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