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Clothes for specific weather

The Thread guide to winter fabrics

The Thread guide to winter fabrics

Photographed: YMC shearling jacket (£995); MVP flannel shirt (£28); A.P.C x Louis W. Svein rollneck (£285); Patagonia down jacket (£185); Wax London mac (£185)

 

Winterising your wardrobe is not, unfortunately, as simple as adding a coat to the clothes you wore in summer. Warm-weather pieces are made in fabrics designed to do one job – keep you cool. But bad weather has a lot of definitions; what you wear has to trap heat, deflect wind and repel rain. But it needs to do that without cooking you, or turning you into the Michelin man.

“There’s one big difference between summer and winter fabrics,” says Thread stylist Freddie Kemp. “Cold-weather materials have a tighter weave, which means that they trap air rather than letting it pass through.” And because air is insulating, the more you can hang on to, the warmer you’ll be.

Not that winter fabrics are purely practical. “They actually look better when it’s not as sunny,” says Freddie. “Things like cashmere and flannel are matte and very textured, unlike cotton which is quite smooth, so they style well together and add visual depth to your outfits.” They also look better in winter light, which is less intense than when the sun’s higher in the sky. Here’s the five to know and how to wear them.

Shearling

What is it? The skin of a sheep with the wool left on, so one side is fluffy, the other leathery. Because there’s no join between them, there’s nowhere for the cold to get in.

How to wear it: “It’s best on outerwear,” says Freddie. “It’s seriously toasty – the first pilots wore it because it kept them warm in uncovered cockpits – but if you aren’t facing subzero temperatures, or you’ve got ethical concerns, then fake versions can be virtually indistinguishable. They're more affordable, too.” Shearling has a ruggedness that works best on casual styles. “It looks best a bit beaten up and bit lived in.”

Flannel

What is it? Wool which has been brushed on one side, to lift the fibres. This means it traps more heat and feels softer.

How to wear it: “It’s great for winter shirts because it’s cosy and warm,” says Freddie. “But they’re more casual, so better with jeans than a blazer.” For formal flannel, think tailoring. “Flannel trousers are really smart and look great with a blazer. Because the fabric has lots of texture, it’s versatile enough to wear with a jacket that isn’t the same colour.”

Cashmere

What is it? A wool made the hair of the eponymous goat. The fibres are incredibly fine – a fifth as wide as human hair – which makes it softer and around three times warmer than sheep's wool.

How to wear it: “Because it’s so tactile, it’s best for things that sit against your skin,” says Freddie. Cashmere knitwear is ideal, because you won’t have to wear a t-shirt underneath. It’s also ideal for scarves, because it’s warm but not bulky. So perfect for stowing in a bag once you’re back indoors.

Down

What is it? More a filling than a fabric, down is the layer of soft feathers found closest to a bird’s skin. It’s used as padding in jackets because it traps enormous amounts of heat.

How to wear it: “It’s incredibly warm and also light, so it’s best in coats,” says Freddie. Down jackets tend to be quite technical, rather than formal, so don’t try one with a suit. “But a down gilet can look smart with tailoring, because it’s a bit less bulky.”

Waxed cotton

What is it? Cotton treated with a waterproof wax, which is applied either to the individual fibres or to the fabric as a whole.

How to wear it: “It’s best for outerwear,” says Freddie. Waxed cotton is impervious to rain, but also doesn’t breathe, so can get a bit sweaty. “It was originally worn by farmers and soldiers in trenches, so keep it for when you’ll be outside all day.”