Style Hack

It’s time to reconsider the waxed jacket

Once the preserve of out-of-towners, the waxed jacket has arrived in the city

Last month, I was in Florence at Pitti Uomo, the bi-annual menswear trade show that has become well-known for its parading peacocks with their feathered trilbys, too tight check suits and sweeping fur coats. Thankfully, the peacocks finally look like they may be a dying species. Numbers were certainly down on previous seasons. Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise given the rise and influence of sportswear over the past few seasons. As a result, traditional menswear is far more mixed and relaxed than ever.

This really struck home while I was having a conversation in between appointments with Nick Sullivan, fashion director of American Esquire, who was sporting a double-breasted pinstripe tailored jacket, a cosy navy rollneck and a well-worn, beaten-up waxed jacket. It all looked quite effortless and stylish without being too try-hard. It’s what the Italians would classify under the term sprezzatura, the art of not looking overly put together.

‘It’s what the Italians would classify under the term sprezzatura: the art of not looking overly put together’

To my mind, back here in the UK, the wax jacket is something that initially gained traction with the most conservative and traditionally dressed businessmen both in the City and Mayfair – usually in a rich olive green, but sometimes in navy or black. Not a day goes by when I’ve not passed half a dozen men in their tailoring with a wax jacket thrown over. It also transcends age: I’ve witnessed young, cool creatives pulling it off with their otherwise all-black outfit and I’ve spied 50-something men wearing them over their Savile Row pinstripe suits. However it’s being worn, the result is the same: a waxed, utility-style jacket with its poppered patch pockets, storm-neck fastening, and elbow patches makes for one of the most stylish and practical jackets around. It’s substantial, but not constricting; waterproof, but not sweat-inducing; smart, but not formal; traditional, but not stuffy.

Barbour, which celebrates its 125th birthday this year, is still the go-to, as you might imagine. The lightweight Ashby and Bedale models still prove the most popular and familiar styles, while the Glen jacket, with its large bellows pockets, has a more contemporary tailored fit thanks to its side adjusters. However, this season, other brands are getting in on the action. Belstaff, another Brit brand with a rich and storied past with the great outdoors, has the Fieldmaster, a 6oz lightweight number in faded olive, coated with a blend of waxes by the historic British Millerain mill to create a robust water- and wind-repellent barrier. Private White VC, Hackett and Burberry are also offering their own versions of this utility style in a variety of fits and vibes for every style sensibility.

Funnily enough, I moved out of London some six years ago to a farm in the countryside and now I practically live in my waxed jacket, yet have never thought of using its practicalities over my loose tailored jackets or trousers in the city. That might have to change.