I recently bought a snappy Marni red and orange check wool overcoat that brushes my calves, with two deep pockets and a directional pre-crumpled finish. It has a certain attitude. To say it breaks from my usual coat-shopping mindset is something of an understatement. Like most men, when it comes to buying outerwear I’ve always leaned to a more conservative approach – a navy parka, a black trench, a khaki peacoat. But the new liberalism in menswear – where a luxury tracksuit can rub shoulders with a bold cashmere overcoat and pair of limited edition sneakers – continues to shake up old codes, and at the men’s runway shows for autumn/winter 2018 there was a clear next chapter in this ongoing relaxation of dress codes: standout colourful coats.
At his first menswear show for Maison Margiela in Paris, John Galliano kicked things off with a roomy double-breasted, red felted-wool coat (£3,595), which seemed like a major wardrobe jolt. Acne Studios and Alexander McQueen are also backing red this season – the former in a classically elegant Mackintosh shape (£700), the latter with a robust parka (£2,845) that comes with a detachable shearling collar, which was shown on the runway with tailored track pants and sneakers, though it would work equally well over a pinstripe navy suit.
Alexandre Mattiussi, founder and designer of Ami, says he bought a vintage red coat in New York a few years ago and it has kept him “snug and smug ever since”. On his runway, he presented various flashes of primary colour, but particularly winning was a duffel (£810) resplendent in pillar-box red. “Fashion went through a black and white moment, now it’s in colour,” he says. Mattiussi also believes the coloured coat can be “wardrobe royalty”, adding, “It indicates that you’ve already checked off the other boxes of black, navy and camel and are ready to graduate to the next level. A bright-red duffel cannot bring anything but pleasure.
“Wearing a really bright colour in a textured fabric helps to tone it down,” he continues, as can teaming it with sportswear. “However, when we’re talking about pairings with a patterned coat, I do love a good clash.”
The rise of this new breed of standout coat extends to other block colours. Despite basing her latest collection around the label’s trademark black nylon, Miuccia Prada offers a pleasing apple-green woollen overcoat (£3,245) with rubberised hem and cuffs, while Raf Simons, inspired by haute couture detailing, has produced elegant coats (from £1,283) in sumptuous shades, such as claret, that often feature front breast pockets and duchesse-satin lining.
Another designer playing with colour is Pierpaolo Piccioli at Valentino, who injects a predominantly black winter wardrobe with coats of intense colour. Most eye-catching is a yellow, fluid wool/cashmere coat (£2,450, pictured top centre) with a split in the back and sides, evoking a certain kind of old-school masculine glamour when in motion.
Paul Smith is famously in favour of embracing strong colours. He is the man, after all, who took Harris Tweed, known for its muted tones, and reimagined it in bright blue or burgundy. “I had one of those Harris Tweed coats in a lovely Yves Klein blue. It attracted a lot of very positive comments. I certainly stood out in it and maybe even stopped traffic,” he says, smiling. This season, Smith put sharply tailored, double-breasted topcoats (from £1,260) in deep red or turquoise on the runway, usually in tonal pairings with suits. “Over the years I’ve witnessed men becoming a lot more comfortable with the idea of wearing colour,” he says – but adds that while “all out colour-on-colour-on-colour might look great on the catwalk, taking one element to add a pop to your winter wardrobe might be a more sensible approach.”
The designer, who showed his first runway collection in Paris in 1976, has himself pondered why this particular autumn/winter season seems to be so abundant in technicolour. “I can’t speak for the other designers, but in my case, it was an attempt to inject a bit of optimism and positivity into this very troubled world we’re living in. Some much needed happiness,” he says.
“The man of today is becoming more and more daring when it comes to personal style and wants to have fun,” agrees Donatella Versace, speaking from her HQ in Milan. “Go bold or go home” was this season’s motto at the house, known for pushing the notion of masculinity and making a statement, and which embraced vivid red tartan for overcoats (pictured overleaf, from £1,760). “For autumn/winter 2018, we wanted to make a collection that is very Versace – reinventing the rules and ignoring the boundaries,” she says. “We wanted anarchy in the choice of fabrics and colours.”
In recent seasons, Versace has talked often about the millennial man. She is, like many designers, aware of the power of social media, where clothes with bite – such as colourful coats – get more likes on Instagram over, say, a black tailored overcoat. This generation also demands clothes that offer diversity and individuality, Versace believes. Her take on the bright-coat trend was “inspired by the real people you see on the streets of London, New York, Milan – people who create their own style, who look for clothes with personality that speak about the life of the person who wears them.”
This thinking is echoed by Silvia Fendi: “There’s a real movement towards dressing in a more positive and bold manner,” she says of the current mood in men’s fashion and the trend for standout coats. “It’s nice to be more relaxed. Before there was so much formality in menswear.” On the runway, Fendi showed updates on traditional outerwear, including a strong, yellow check coat (£2,690).
I ask Fendi if there are any rules when it comes to wearing a coat that has the potential to wear you. “I try to stay away from fashion diktats. That’s why our coats are all about beautiful details, colours and materials that are very Fendi, but at the same time are easy to mix and match with other pieces,” she says, adding, “The only rule is not to be afraid to break the rules.”