Over the winter, quite a few readers have asked what I wear for very cold weather.
If it’s formal, the answer is a simple variation on the coats we’ve already featured: a heavyweight overcoat like my 30oz from Sartoria Ciardi, for instance, but layered up.
Those layers might be a vest, a shirt and a 4-ply knit. For the coldest weather, the vest could be merino, the shirt heavy, and the knit a cashmere roll neck. The gloves, scarf and hat might be heavier too. I have a fur hat from Eggert that gets an outing on days like that.
I might even, in extremis, try to get a fur liner under the overcoat – like my recycled mink one. But I’ve never needed to wear down just for the warmth.
Down parkas always looked a little odd with tailoring to me. They can, in some cases, be an effective form of high/low dressing. But an unusual, stylish-because-unexpected look is not really what guys are after when they ask about deep-winter clothing. They want something they can wear easily every day.
The only time I wear down is casually – in a gilet like this from Real McCoy’s, or my old Everest parka from Nigel Cabourn. Which is what this article is about.
I bought the parka in 2014. It was a huge amount of money for me at the time, but really felt like an investment. There was clearly a lot going on with it, in terms of the materials and the details, and it was something that would keep me warm in a way that nothing else I had would.
In the eight years since, that has proved true. I’ve worn it every winter – including in Swedish and New York winters – and it has both kept me warm and given me pleasure.
The first should be a given, but the second isn’t necessarily. Part of the joy for me comes from the down: quality down is a lovely thing to put on in cold weather – it feels basically like getting into bed and putting your duvet back on – and this is 100% goose down.
But there are other goose-down jackets. I think the Cabourn model is separated more by the other materials – the use of Ventile cotton for the shell and sheepskin in the hood – and then the lovely design details.
Ventile, as most readers will know, is a densely woven cotton that is designed to expand when it gets wet, to become waterproof. It will never be quite as waterproof as a synthetic, but I’ve worn this for extended periods in absolute downpours with no issues.
And it is a lot nicer to wear than a synthetic shell.
It is cotton, like your T-shirt, like your chinos, and is that much nicer to wear. It doesn’t rustle when you wear it, it softens over time, and it even looks better with age.
Look at the close-ups of my pocket edges in the image above. This slow fading after years of wear is personal and beautiful. It’s like whiskered jeans or shoes with patina.
Ventile is a material to enjoy like any other we discuss, whereas Gore-Tex, as functional as it might be, is not.
Skiing jackets in the mould of Eddie Bauer have become popular recently, driven by the ‘gorpcore’ trend but also probably by the popularity of vintage generally. The problem is, those old jackets and gilets look great because they were cotton, and faded. Newer versions are synthetic and don’t look the same.
The sheepskin lining on the back of the Everest hood is genius. It basically acts like a half scarf, hugging the back of your neck even when the coat is open.
That sheepskin is actually one of the key reasons I prefer this to the Arctic down jacket from Real McCoy’s. I also prefer the Ventile and goose rather than duck down, but I’d miss the feeling on the back of my neck in particular.
The Cabourn is also more engineered. The Everest neck and hood has essentially four different heights of fastening: zipping up, a button placed a little higher, the throat latch fastened with a wooden toggle (above), and then closing the hood itself.
When the hood is closed, it has the ‘snorkel’ look of enclosing the face entirely. I’ve only needed that once, while on holiday in Massachusetts in the falling snow. But I did enjoy doing so.
More details. The horn buttons are leather backed. The drawstring at the waist is made from a heavy-duty canvas that doesn’t fold when you pull or tie it. The bottom hem has a slight elastication that keeps the jacket snug under your bum, stopping air getting in.
It’s a very well-thought-out coat, and the beauty of the ‘How things great age’ series is that I can say so after 8 years of wear, rather than relying on review and analysis.
The drawstring is nice tied loosely instead of a waist button, as I’ve shown above. It looks retro, perhaps, but it’s also functional as it keeps all the warm air in your back, even if the front is open.
If you can’t be bothered with that tie every time, I found it also works to knot the cord on each side, to retain the cinch, and just use the buttons or zip to fasten the front. That’s what I do most of the time.
The Everest parka is very expensive – today it’s £2500. But the best evidence that I think it’s worth it, after my many years of wear, is that I’m about to buy it all over again.
This coat is a size 48. It has always felt big enough, and been warm enough. But recently, I tried on a friend’s size 50 and it felt better. It didn’t look oversized in the body, and it gave me an extra couple of inches in the length, meaning that it dropped decidedly below my seat, rather than only just doing so. It felt more enveloping.
So I’m buying that size 50 from him (he, too, is buying another Cabourn) and selling mine. It is on sale now, on Marrkt (NOW SOLD).
I really hope it goes to a good owner. It has served me very well over the years, and is just as functional as the day I bought it. On a cold December day in Covent Garden.
Stylistically, by the way, I usually wear more colour with casual, outdoorsy clothes like this – certainly much more than with tailoring.
That might be a faded red or green sweatshirt, but it’s more often accessories, like the bright-red PS watch cap shown higher up, or the yellow gloves above.
With the yellow gloves I’d wear a navy watch cap, to give the gloves more pop. But the red hat is also nice with tan colours, like tobacco peccary gloves.
That goes for boots too. Color 8 cordovan is great with this outfit, but a warmer colour like snuff suede is even better. This is the tanker boot from Alden, which Drake’s offered as a collaboration last year, on the Barrie last with a crepe sole. I wasn’t sure about the crepe at first, but I don’t mind it with a casual look like this.
Off-white socks go with the outdoors aesthetic as well. Although I’m not about to tuck my trousers in.
Current Everest parkas from Nigel Cabourn cost £2500. The colour shown here is navy-black.
Simon’s parka is on sale on Marrkt here. (Now sold)
Other clothes worn: 12oz sweatshirt from The Real McCoy’s, chinos from The Armoury (old style), ribbed socks from Anonymous Ism. Gloves from Mazzoleni, T-shirt from Allevol.
Photography: Mohan Singh