It was a tradition that although you would keep good suits, tweeds, evening wear, etc… for practically a lifetime and maybe even longer, an overcoat would be looked on as having to be replaced each season when it reaches a moribund state. It’s true that a couple or so years of heavy winter wear can take its toll; pitching and rolling, pulling at the stitching and yanking at the seams, and as an outer garment one invariably tends to be a little thoughtless and chuck it around a bit.
That’s why I’ve never been that keen on softer materials such as every moth’s favourite chow-down: Cashmere for an overcoat. It will eventually mould itself around the shape of the suit underneath, which causes problems when you wear a different suit, it creates confusion in the cloth and it will wilt under such trauma.
But if you feel the need to warm up during a cold snap, which is usually during the aesthetically challenged “festive” and “post-festive” period, get a coat with some proper structure and some survival instinct built into it; for example a heavy tweed, with a working button hole.
I have a favourite ancient American overcoat from the Depression era made from “iron cloth”: Thick brillo pad type wool that performs so well it could stop a bullet yet has the appearance of brushed Astrakhan. In a cold Easterly it doesn’t do much better than a Norfolk jacket would, but you can add a bowler to it easily enough.
What with the proliferation of beardies, fur trim on overcoats is becoming increasingly popular; just double check that the salt and pepper of the facial hair doesn’t collide with the colour of the fur. Dsquared2 (www.dsquared2.com) does a ski parka, complete with fur collar on a short checked coat for £1,405.00; A sort of upmarket version of the type of car coat with the imitation sheepskin that was popular in the 1970s, when you really needed to be able to cantilever oneself gracefully into a tiny Morris 1100, complete with a heating system comprised of a modified domestic electric fan that gave everyone chapped lips.
Then you’ll need a good polo neck sweater; and the beard here comes in useful. The polo neck can sometimes act as a shelf for a slight double-chin on a naked face, especially with a heavier cotton or wool. It would seem that especially around these parts of London, winter garb is very much becoming modified ski gear, some of it looking sudatory, uncomfortable and unflattering.
There’s a price to pay for putting on an awful beanie ski hat with a ridiculous “bobble”, and the infestation is getting worse despite your author’s campaign against them at the end of last season. Despite the ridiculous myth, hardly any body heat is dissipated through the top of the head, otherwise wouldn’t the beanie people have steam coming out of their ears? Apparently the bobble device is there simply to look “cute” which says all that can be said.
Most ways of really staying warm that work are quite simply too boring: i.e. taking a cold bath and laying off alcohol. Others simply don’t work at all, such as the Perthshire Vulcanised Hot Water Bottle Vest; warm water freezes faster than when it’s cold, so you end up wearing a giant ice cube.
Or you could borrow from the inventiveness of the priest Lord William Cecil and his home heating device that involved naked electric light bulbs housed in a hockey mask and attached to the stuffing under his armchairs. “Don,t worry, dear boy” he reassured a slightly alarmed houseguest, “with these central heating systems, safety must go to the wall”.