how to spend your money

As the angry trebuchet of British weather flings us from piping hot summer straight into the crisp and frosty precipice of Autumn, it’s time we all got to thinking about what we’re going to wear to keep us warm. Because, you know, now’s when we need it.

My own Winter Coat Quest was hurried along by this temperature drop, and it was the resulting agonising trawl through what Gok Wan incorrigibly refers to as “the Great British High Street” that inspired me not just to write, but to warn people about what’s out there. I don’t want to sound too melodramatic or anything but if you buy certain coats that are available on the high street right now, you WILL get hypothermia and die.

This coat from Mango has no lining. Every time I even think about buying a coat or blazer, or if I see one that I like in a shop, the first thing my mum does is ask about the lining, so I knew it was an important part of the coat’s anatomy, but for the purposes of this post I had to look up what a lining actually does. Wikipedia puts it quite simply and eloquently, so I’ve decided to just copy and paste it in:

A lining reduces the wearing strain on clothing, extending the useful life of the lined garment. A smooth lining allows a coat or jacket to slip on over other clothing easily, and linings add warmth to cold-weather wear.

If you’re buying a serious coat that you intend to wear every day for half the year, for as many years as possible, don’t you want all those benefits? Don’t you deserve them? Not to mention that a coat with no lining also lacks an inner-lining: the extra layer found between the outside of the coat and the lining. By this point you may have gathered, from the faith that I’ve placed in sources such as my mother’s adages and Wikipedia, that I’m not an expert in this sort of thing. You would be correct, but it hardly takes an expert to go to the nearest branch of Topshop, pick up a coat and feel the thickness of the layer. Seriously, try it yourself before you even take off your old, unhip jacket and dump it on the nearest rack so you can try on the new coat you fancy. See if it has any effect on your overall temperature right there in the shop.

Now, okay, you might argue that I’ve misunderstood, that this particular garment is more of a light jacket than a proper winter coat. That’s fair enough and I have one of those myself, (ok two) but when a coat is designed to look warmer than it is, it just feels like a lame trick.

At this point, I really hope I’m not coming off as a conspiracy theorist. I’m not about to tell you that the Illuminati that run all the high street chains are trying to dress us commoners in crappy threads to wear down our morale and thus resistance to their control, or reverse vampires are trying to keep us too cold to going out at night so that they can drink our blood in the day time. BUT, I think there is a strategy behind all this, and it’s a strategy that bums me out: the less effective a coat is at keeping you warm, the more sweaters and cardigans you’ll have to buy to wear under it. It’s kind of obvious, you don’t have to be an awesome fashion scientist like I am to figure it out, especially if you’ve noticed the increasing popularity of knitwear in the UK over the last few years. Hoodies, cardigans for men, “novelty” jumpers with faux scandinavian motifs, 90s style sweatshirts, we’ve had so many fads in this department over the last eight or so years that it’s hard to remember what we wore before. Burlap sacks? Anyway, it’s nice to have more diversity and more choices in the world of knitwear but if it’s at the expense of good sensible coats then what’s the point?

Look, the “Great British High Street” has always churned out crap. I’m not going to judge everyone who’s ever been seduced by a cheap thrill – the other day I bought a bandeau top from Primark that cost £1 in the sale for my holiday to Costa Del NOWHERE. But a coat, like a pair of shoes, is a functional item that needs to serve a purpose and if it’s badly made then it’s actively bad for your health and mood – unlike a bad t-shirt which will just make you look kind of crappy.

In the end, I went for this one from Uniqlo, in navy blue. This French Connection coat is actually bloody expensive but it’s like three inches thick so it looks cool and will do the job: I’d recommend it over a cheaper coat that feels like paper. And of course you can always check charity shops, which always seem to have about nine hundred coats!

This isn’t so much a shopping guide as just something to look out for, but best of luck with your coat-buying adventures and I hope you stay both warm, and chic!

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