Two summers ago I wrote about the trend for half-placket (aka pullover) shirts – and now the appeal of this half-fasten format has shifted to outerwear. Of course, half-zips are a staple of skiwear and rambling or military gear, but this season they transcend such specialist kit and can be found on an array of casual jackets in a rich variety of interpretations.
At Nigel Cabourn, the Pull Over Head smock (£1,500) takes inspiration from mountaineering tops, and is made from black/navy L34 Ventile with goose down, orange Pertex for the lining and sheepskin collar. “When zipped up, it provides a fantastic barrier against the elements,” says Cabourn. Another new taped-seam top (£795) is a stylish hybrid based on a vintage German smock and an archive short cagoule.
More ski-inspired style can be seen in Emporio Armani’s EA7 Glen-check, ombre anorak (£2,250), which looks slightly Star Wars Rebel X-Wing fighter pilot in the assault on the Death Star, and can be worn on the piste or pavement with equal panache. Less ski, more swim, is a half-zip anorak (£650) with three-quarter sleeves in a Neoprene scuba fabric.
Tapping further into sportswear, Polo Ralph Lauren’s rugby-inspired top (£259) is given a quilted-nylon spin, creating an active outerwear feel. This follows through to a navy high-tech nylon pullover jacket (£345) with graphic “Polo” detailing for extra dynamism.
Arc’tyrex’s special high-performance outdoor line, Veilance, with its advanced technologies and materials, always seems to push the boundaries of utilitarian dressing, and the resulting lightweight, simple, ergonomic designs always look super-cool. The new battleship-grey or matte-black half-zip Conduct anorak (£750) in waterproof, breathable Gortex, with zip kangaroo pocket, is a case in point. A classy finishing touch is the low-profile, ergonomic storm hood.
Other brands channelling a futuristic look include Woolrich, which this season has a white, padded, half-zip, waterproof, windproof jacket (£585) with articulated arms; and Ermenegildo Zegna Couture, which has some innovative over-the-head down jackets, including one (£2,840) in zig‑zag, quilted, clay-green mohair, and another (£2,840) in charcoal-grey cotton/silk with fur-lined hood. (There’s also a stylish fur-lined hood at Boss, on the grey-mélange wool/cashmere Columbus jacket, £1,800). And at Vuitton, a stippled, metallic-grey camouflage silk blouson (£2,900) with hood and slanted map pockets looks like a hip take on space age-meets-desert military uniform, especially when paired with matching shorts (£1,800) and cap (£700) – more Blake’s 7 than Star Wars.
Also military in feel, though jungle rather than desert, is the Rainforest anorak (£160) from Italian brand Napapijri. Available in both classic camouflage and vibrant colours such as leaf green, it has breathable down-free ThermoFibre insulation, taped seams, adjustable hood and kangaroo pouch.
Meanwhile, a compelling take on the trend can be found at Prada, where the mood at the winter show suggested a sinister dystopia. There are pared-back black or grey tech-nylon, half-zip, hooded jackets (£1,095) that draw on the 1990s Prada Luna Rossa Sport line; a longer cape-like design (£1,760) evoking oilskins; and one in nylon gabardine (£1,205) with military-style tags.
Lastly, an original interpretation can be found at Dunhill this season, where a change of direction draws on the brand’s motoring heritage with new energy – notably through the predominance of quirky leather detailing. This sees the half-zip top (£3,495) realised in supple, waterproof burgundy calfskin with the hint of a raglan sleeve and a burnished finish.
Taking cues from sportswear has been a prevailing menswear trend, but this reworking of the half-zip into a refined piece of outerwear is a cool new look.