Essential Winter Workwear

Dress for success with these five must-have menswear items

Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Photographs: Steve Marais | Styling: Mira Leibowitz

The growing casualisation of the office doesn’t mean the death of tailored clothing. While certain professions demand that those who work for the man must buy into specific wardrobes which we've been led to believe are boring, when you’re not forced to wear something then wearing it becomes that much more fun.

This is especially the case in winter, when it’s possible to build layered looks and stronger outfits, the benefits of which are plentiful. Not least - looking good opens doors. After all, it’s not always the best man that wins, but the best dressed.

Try this life hack the next time you need to, say, get into a hotel lobby in order to stalk Idris Elba. Simply dress your best, walk in confidently, act as if you’re meant to be there, and watch as people fall over themselves trying to please you. If anyone does muster up the courage to request some form of ID, make you sign a register, or demand you spend money, then, well, we're here with five items to help you to upgrade your winter workwear-wardrobe-slash-celebrity-stalker-gear.

The Suit

No longer part of the average guy's uniform, the suit is now something we wear on special occasions or to make a statement. Still, every man needs at least one suit in his closet – and if you’re still only wearing yours to weddings and funerals then perhaps you could learn a thing or two from this guy, who wore a suit every day for a month. Something learned from that suit-up challenge was just how versatile a suit is, and if you break it up and treat it as two separates you can make plenty of outfits with it. So wear your suit jacket with chinos or the trousers with a bomber jacket, because once you start thinking of your suit less as a two-piece and more as two pieces you can wear with anything, you'll unlock the versatility of menswear’s most classic item. Otherwise, navy is far more versatile than black and if you wear yours buttoned-up but tieless, it’s a much more modern take than worn with a corporate noose.

The Topcoat

The power of the topcoat is that a good one will always look good no matter what’s underneath it. A sand coloured topcoat with ripped denim and well-worn sneakers has become something of a street style staple, but for a more tailored outfit, you should resist dressing like an Instagram page for a minute and instead wear it with your smartest tailoring. The trench coat was invented by Thomas Burberry in 1856, as a less stifling alternative to the rubber-lined mackintosh, and has stood the test of time so that today it’s still a major part of the male silhouette. However, the belt and the longer length can feel fussy, so for a modern take, pick a topcoat that’s classically cut and can carry you through any occasion. When choosing yours make sure you try it on while wearing something underneath that's as thick as what you'll usually wear it with, and ensure that the sleeves are long enough and that you can put it on without the shoulders bunching. Remember, you’ll get a lot more wear out of a topcoat in a muted tone than a statement colour, so save the out-there prints and colours for your sock game.

The Knit

Even if you own a closet full of the most up-to-date technical pullovers, fleeces and wind-breaking, water-wicking, polyester microfibre future-fabrics, you still want a few extra thick wool sweaters. Although science has come up with alternatives that are as warm and much more water-resistant, we've yet to create something that feels as good against the skin as wool – the comfort food of fabrics. Nature’s great insulator does not diminish when wet and its heat retention properties are especially powerful when layered. As casual dress changes the look of business, a knitted V-neck sweater worn over a shirt and tie is still sartorially elegant. However, it’s the wide array of knitwear that makes it so alluring, from Papa Hemingway in his chunky cable knit to Sammy Davis Jr in a cardigan, and you should look at building an arsenal of these powerful enough to relegate your hoodies to weekend wear.

The Dress Shoe

Suits and sneakers have been a thing for a while now, and nowadays it’s the new normal to see guys rocking their Stan Smiths with a smart suit. As dope as this looks, you should never be afraid to stand out in a smart dress shoe. The textures in a man’s outfit – wool in his suit and overcoat, and the cotton of his shirt – are predominantly matt, and so the leather of the shoe is a welcome light-reflecting contrast, and a reason why well-polished shoes are essential. However, we can’t deny those pleasant browns and suede leathers, so instead of buying another pair of sneakers extend yourself and your repertoire of footwear by smartening up. Start with a sturdy pair of black leather lace-ups, then add a pair of brown wingtips or any other type of plain or perforated saddle brown shoe. After you have these stalwarts, you can have some fun with the slightly more casual tasseled loafer, boat shoes or driving shoes. These simple upgrades to your footwear will ensure that you’re always the best-dressed man in the room.

The Chino

Also known as khakis, these came into fashion after 1945 when college men returning from the war began wearing their olive drab slacks to classes. Chino, a military cotton twill fabric, was carried into civilian life and the style never left us. Nowadays we wear them everywhere and they’re available in a wide spectrum of colours, not just the military-issue khaki. Match your bottoms to your top for a tonal take on a monochromatic uniform that’s bound to get attention. Use a leather belt to make your trousers fit at the waist and keep your pants up. Also, since jackets outlast pants, every man needs some mismatched, odd trousers to supplement his suit wardrobe – and a pair of crisp cream chinos worn with a navy blazer is a timeless look.