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If you're someone who prioritises function over style, then we have good news for you: choosing one no longer means sacrificing the other. Practical clothing has become more stylish than ever, and what better time to embrace it than now, when comfort and practicality are taking precedence? 

Our stylists predict that in the near future, we’ll all be looking for ways to bring our new-found love of pared-back dressing into our post-lockdown wardrobes, and these are some of the best practical pieces worth investing in.

Photographed: Salomon XT-4 ADVANCED (£175)

1. Functional footwear

Why they’re practical

“If you're a fan of practical footwear, you're probably already ahead of the curve when it comes to the ‘ugly’ trainers and hiking shoes trend,” stylist Freddie Kemp says. Versatile enough for any environment from urban commutes to country walks, hiking shoes are designed for outdoor exercise, while sturdy sandals like Tevas and Birkenstocks have also gained popularity as a warm-weather style statement, as they’re engineered to be comfortable and long-lasting. 

Why they’re stylish

“In recent years, the distinction between formal and casual wardrobes has begun to fade for most men,” Freddie says. “Contemporary style is all about how you mix these two elements together to create something that works for you.” 

Hiking gear has made its way into the mainstream mix, and as it works well with the looser, more practical silhouettes that are commonly seen in menswear now, it seems like the outdoor trend is here to stay. 

What to look for

“Look for the function of a good trail or running shoe, but try to avoid the bright, neon colours that you can get away with when working out,” Freddie says. “Instead, stick to more neutral, plain colours – black is always a versatile and stylish option.

Photographed: Nanamica Coach Jacket (£169)

2. Updated anoraks

Why they’re practical

The humble anorak has gained a reputation as a favourite of birdwatchers and trainspotters, but has since made its way into mainstream wardrobes via the 1990s rave scene. Now, you don’t need to fall into either category to benefit from the stylish practicality of this fashion mainstay.

“Great for wearing almost year-round, the anorak protects you from the elements, and is lightweight and packable for taking on and off whether you’re out in the wild or on a city stroll,” Freddie says. “They’re not too heavy or stuffy if you need an outer layer in warmer weather, and they’re great for layering over thicker jumpers and fleeces in winter.”

Why they’re stylish

“Anoraks aren’t a one-size-fits-all style,” Freddie says. “There’s a great variety of options so you’ll be able to find one that works with your personal look, whether you’re a conservatie dresser, or more streetwear-inspired.” The mix of technical fabrics and detailing, and a wide  range of colourways, means an anorak can bring a lot of character to your outfits without much effort.

What to look for

Step out of your comfort zone and pick something a little more colourful rather than a basic black or khaki. “Anoraks are a style that holds colour really well,” Freddie says. “So if you’re a more adventurous dresser, then anything from pastels to neons are a great way to make a statement.” 

Pay attention to the details like flap pockets, hoods, and drawstrings. “Unlike other functional outerwear like parkas, which look better with fewer technical details, when it comes to the anorak, the more features the better,” Freddie says.

Photographed: Carhartt WIP Cargo Pant (£99)

3. Comfy cargo pants

Why they’re practical

The hard-wearing and durable fabric of cargo pants and shorts mean you can wear them over and over without worrying too much about wear and tear. Plus, they come with lots of practical pockets. “Big phones look strange in the pockets of skinny trousers, so cargo pants are a great alternative,” Freddie says.

Why they’re stylish

“Cargo pants fall into the functional hiking trend,” Freddie says. “But they also have a history rooted in skate and streetwear, meaning you can pull them off a wide range of styles.” They’re versatile as they pair well with other utilitarian pieces like workwear, but also with more sporty styles like oversized hoodies and t-shirts.

What to look for

“Opt for styles in technical fabrics from the likes of Carhartt and Stan Ray,” Freddie says. “This way you’ll get 100% of the functionality, without compromising on style.” Avoid the chino/cargo hybrid, which only does half the job of the real thing. Instead, leave chinos to your smarter looks and embrace the true cargo pant.

4. Bags that mean business

Why they’re practical

“It goes without saying that a practical bag is the easiest way to carry your things when a tote or satchel might be too small, or too heavy to carry on one shoulder,” Freddie says. A backpack, or even a bumbag if you’re travelling light, is the best way to distribute the weight of what you’re carrying for both comfort and convenience.

Why they’re stylish

If you avoid overflowing your pockets or carrying your things by hand, you’re already taking a step in the right direction when it comes to incorporating functionality and style. “There are so many great practical bags to choose from, so nobody should have much trouble finding one that matches their personal style,” Freddie says. “Smaller, cross-body bags work for a younger, trend-driven look. Minimal, hard-wearing backpacks lend themselves to a more mature, Scandinavian-inspired look, or if you lean more towards the urban cyclist trend, embrace big backpacks like these by Herschel.”

What to look for

“Firstly, know what you’ll need your bag for,” Freddie says. “If it needs to carry your laptop for work then make sure it all fits, and ensure it fastens securely. If you’ll wear it for cycling, make sure it can withstand the elements like this one by Rains. If you need to fit your gym kit, you may want something larger like a holdall. A small cross-body bag is great if you just need to carry the essentials.”


Words: Ella White