You don’t need to be a follower of fashion to comprehend the importance of choosing a winter coat. Unlike the frivolities of fast fashion, the coat has gravitas. Its standing is that of a grandfather clock next to endless racks of sartorial Tamagotchis. The winter coat is a singular shopping trip, recognised from childhood. You ride into town on the bus, small hand in parental clutch, specifically To Buy A Winter Coat.
You may think the end of January is rather late to be extolling the virtues of such an item, but this is the moment when I see the glimmer of a belted trench on the horizon. It’s not just the allure of the sales, but the fact that, before Christmas, I tend to remain in the realm of a lighter autumnal jacket – not quite wanting to admit that chilblain season is upon us. The search starts when all it takes for me to acquire Noddy-red cheeks is to be outside for three seconds, putting the bins out.
The perfect winter coat needs to be three things: warm, obviously; stylish, so you don’t resent it; and durable. The choices are endless. You don’t need to pick a greatcoat for it to be a great coat (though I do love a greatcoat). I enjoy roaming the high street looking as though I’m serving in the 19th century Russian army (though I realise this might not be the energy everyone is going for, especially politically speaking).
And though I have no truck with war, I similarly adore a trench with a gloriously patterned lining. The parka has put enough distance between itself and Liam Gallagher to have a resurgence, but the memory of the scratchiness of a fake-fur hood that whipped around my jawline during my school days still remains fresh.
Now, the intrinsically comic bubble coat is having a moment. They are the nearest one can get to wearing a duvet, which is, of course, a very good thing. Longer bubble coats bring to mind Arsène Wenger on the touchline: one of the most iconic looks of the early 10s, and I say this is a Liverpool fan.
The best winter coats form a protective barrier between you and the world; a protection that allows you to be in the world. The pandemic has meant our only options for socialising are outdoors, and given that official surveys suggest 94% of pub garden heaters are broken (OK, my survey) a reliable coat is more essential than ever. If there is one thing that is genuinely gratifying, it’s when the essential and the indulgent cross over.
All my love, your correspondent in the large-lapelled herringbone number.