We all love the cold weather seasons for the opportunity to wear tweed and chunky sweaters, but nothing will transform your look more than a good piece of outerwear. You could be wearing a pair of jeans and a white t-shirt, but if you have a good coat or jacket, you’ll look like a million bucks.
Unfortunately, some jackets cost close to a million bucks (Visvim is hilariously selling a velvet track jacket this season for $12,000, although … I guess it’s reversible?). That doesn’t mean you’re without affordable options, however. We’ll run through a two-part series today and tomorrow, covering over a dozen options that’ll run you less than $200. Many even less than $100.
Military Surplus Jackets: Drab olive military jackets have been worn with everything from jeans to suits since the 1960s. See the British mods and films such as Serpico for inspiration. You can get civilian versions these days from any number of casualwear brands, but for something more authentic, go vintage. Those can be found on eBay, Etsy, and Vintage Trends, as well as at your local military surplus store. Use Pete’s awesome milsurp guide to figure out which models you’d like.
Peacoats: I’m with Jesse, there are few options better than a vintage peacoat. They’re both better and cheaper than the designer knockoffs, and will likely outlast anything in your closet (maybe even you). Again, your best best is to check eBay, Vintage Trends, or your local thrift store. You can also use this guide to date when the coat was made, which is useful if you want to wear something with provenance. Personally, I pair peacoats with textured knitwear, just to add some visual interest. Raw denim jeans and hefty leather boots work well too.
Work Jackets: Rugged work jackets were popular five years ago at the height of the Americana/ workwear craze. Ones from Pointer feel a bit stale now in 2015, but French chore coats remain popular. Those can be styled in any number of ways (see Bill Cunningham and Chris Gibbs). I also like Le Laboureur, where you’ll find chore coats made from wool, cotton drill, and moleskin. (Fun fact: you can sometimes find really cool, beat-up French ones on eBay. They’re essentially the inspiration for these Japanese designer re-interpretations).
Duffle Coats: A heavy duffle can be worn with chinos and cabled sweaters for a slightly preppy look. You can find them at Sierra Trading Post and Vintage Trends. Ebay will also have hundreds (if not thousands) of models at any given moment from brands such as Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren, Original Montgomery, and Gloverall. Just note, although duffles are meant to be worn oversized, some models are better if you size down (one, maybe even two sizes). As always, check measurements before buying.
Vintage Leather Jackets: When it comes to vintage leathers, you may be better off sticking to classic styles, such as basic bombers, cafe racers, and double riders. Leather jackets have gone through so many fashion trends over the years that some designs can be dicey. Also, if possible, check the leather quality in-person before buying – especially if you’re getting something from an unknown brand. Watch out for leathers that feel cheap, or where the surface has started to crack. On the other hand, if the jacket is just a bit dry, don’t worry, you can condition it at home.
Trucker Jackets: The iconic denim jacket, to be worn with faded jeans, white t-shirts, and leather boots. The original trucker, known as a Type I, was made with a cinch-buckle at the back and a single, lowered pocket at the front. Subsequent models, known as the Type II and III, have clean backs and dual chest pockets (the Type III is the one most people are familiar with, and the one that’s arguably easiest to wear unless you want to go full repro-workwear). Check this guide by Heddels to familiarize yourself with the styles. Get something new from Levi’s or go vintage, then learn how to perfect Martin Sheen’s badass denim jacket flip trick. (Upside to vintage: the cool factor in a denim trucker jacket is all in the wear pattern. Buy second-hand and you’ll automatically get something with character).
Harringtons: Harringtons hold the promise of making you look as cool as Steve McQueen or members of the British skinhead scene (the non-racist variety), but honestly – on the average Joe – they end up looking a bit tame. Good for when you want something lightweight and low-key though. The price of Baracuta’s iconic G9 model has gone through the roof in recent years, but you can find affordable alternatives through Jump the Gun. Fred Perry and Ben Sherman Harringtons can also be had on eBay for about $75 to $150.
For brand-specific options, come back tomorrow for part two.