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Why workwear is the perfect look for winter

Why workwear is the perfect look for winter

Take a look at your wardrobe and chances are, you’ll have a few workwear gems hidden in there. Whether it’s a pair of work boots that you’ve had for years, or selvedge denim jeans that you treasure, they all have one thing in common: a hardworking past.

“Workwear is kind of a catch-all term for clothing that has a hard-wearing construction and was traditionally used in manual labour,” says Thread stylist Toby Standing. By ‘work’, we mean factories, not offices.

Tough environments required tough fabrics, which makes workwear perfect for inclement conditions. “The clothes are typically thick, which helps keep you warm,” says Toby. “These items were traditionally worn by guys out in the cold for hours on end.” When you’re wearing clothes designed for winter on New York’s docks, your commute should feel much more comfortable.

It’s worth repeating: gear that functions well tends to age well. Look after your workwear items and they will see you through many a long winter. Unlike chinos and tailoring, there’s no need to be precious about these items, so you don’t have to worry about getting caught in the rain, stepping in puddles, walking through sludge. Workwear often comes in dark and muted colours too, which hide stains and rain marks well.

“A lot of workwear pieces, such as selvedge denim, will benefit from not being washed,” says Toby. “And boots always look better a bit beaten up.”

Best of all, the beauty of wearing such staple items is that these pieces will go with almost anything else in your closet.

Look 1: Colour outside the lines

Workwear has always tended towards a muted palette (you don’t find much fuschia in factories) but some of the best modern interpretations pair classic shapes with more interesting design. Safety orange earned that adjective in places where blending in meant being hit by heavy machinery, and even though the shade here is more earthy than hi-vis, it taps into that history.

Since you probably won’t wear yours while bolting together a car chassis, you can afford to experiment. “Think jackets in vibrant colours, or done in non-traditional fabrics,” says Toby. Just like the original safety orange, playing against expectations will help your look stand out when everyone else is in winter’s default darks.

Look 2: Work your staples

The best workwear never feels like a costume. Everything in this outfit has its origins either down mines or in factories, but each piece combines practicality and stripped-back aesthetics so perfectly that none of it looks out of place in a modern office.

When you’re picking out a utility jacket, look for one with a boxy fit and plenty of pockets. The pockets are what gives it that utilitarian edge and will come in handy when you’re dealing with winter baggage like gloves/tissues/cough sweets.

Guys can often let themselves down with a pair of poorly-considered socks, so show you’ve put some thought into it by choosing hosiery that isn’t black or white. Made in Japan, these olive socks are chunky enough to hint at the Great Outdoors (as opposed to fine-knit or novelty socks which are firmly in the urban camp).

Look 3: Factory floor meets C-suite

This outfit wears its workwear influences lightly. Subtler details, like the utility jacket and leather boots, nod towards blue-collar ruggedness, and the trousers are crafted from a durable cotton twill by the OG workwear label Carhartt. But by adding some more tailored elements, like an overcoat, you create a look that balances toughness and refinement. “On cold days, a utility jacket is an ideal mid-layer,” says Toby. “When you lose the coat indoors, you’ll still have that workwear feel.”

This look also embraces the current trend for looser fits, but in a way that feels more authentic because workwear has always been cut roomy enough for manual work. You might not need that in your job, but when it’s below zero, you can definitely take advantage of all that extra layering space.

Words: Theresa Harold
Photography: Jon Cardwell
Styling: Freddie Kemp