How To Look Good In The Rain
Unlike in Grand Slam tennis, life doesn’t take a recess every time the heavens open. Compensate with these wet-weather blazers, macs and brollies
If you want to buy sunscreen, talk to an Australian; if you’re in the market for a surfboard, speak to a Californian; and if you’re in need of a raincoat, then seek out a Brit, or a resident of some other damp clime. It’s no coincidence that some of the world’s best raincoats come from countries where sunshine is a rarity. In fact, we Brits consider ourselves connoisseurs of the rain cape, masters of the mac and titans of the trench. We’re even rather brilliant at brollies, although in this Edit we’re highlighting the baroque detailing that the Milanese lavish on their ombrelli.
So to mark the month of May, which can often be the unsettled meteorological bridge that connects the northern hemisphere’s spring and summer, we’re focusing on outerwear. Coats for spring need to be lighter, but retain all their capacity to keep out the rain – something of which surprisingly few are capable. But here are six (and an umbrella) that are more than up to the task.
The Storm Blazer
It used to be the case that a man had to decide between dressing for the weather, and dressing formally. No longer, because in the modern world jackets come in many different forms – this unstructured, waterproof blazer being a case in point. What hasn’t changed is that the Italians remain the go-to guys when it comes to relaxed tailoring. Between Loro Piana’s unrivalled fabric quality and its legendary craftsmanship, this blazer might just be the most useful jacket available today – what else will protect a man from a thunderclap, and see him dressed for a business lunch? We’d normally wear this with a pair of slim chinos and some brown suede loafers, but given that we’re forecasting showers for the rest of the month, leather shoes might be a better option.
Dedicated cyclists will want to be prepared whatever the weather throws at them (particularly if caught out by rain on the journey home). Whereas cycling jackets (such as Paul Smith’s estimable Ventile) work best when you’re putting in some serious miles on a road bike, a cape is just the ticket for getting from A to B. And what Brooks England’s version gives up in terms of aerodynamics it more than makes up for in the coverage it provides. We see this being worn by a man riding either something stately, such as a Pashley, or a vintage, steel-frame touring bike. For the full 1970s cyclist look we suggest accessorising the cape with a pair of brown Birkenstock sandals.
Wear it with
The Classic Trench
The story of how Mr Thomas Burberry developed the trench coat is frequently rehearsed, but one element of it bears repeating: the coat got its name because it was worn by officers fighting in the trenches of northern France in WWI. A bad day in our 21st century involves a delay on the underground, a poorly made cappuccino and a stressful meeting; the trench coat was created for men living incomparably harder lives. This explains why a well-made trench coat is pleasingly over-specified for the modest job contemporary commuters are likely to ask of it. However, it performs a supplementary task (making the wearer look sharp) that was entirely superfluous for its original customers.
Wear it with
Before Mr Charles Macintosh had the idea of coating cotton raincoats in rubber in order to waterproof them, men relied on fabric covered with either a thin layer of melted tar, or even animal fat, to keep out the rain. Mackintosh coats continue to be made, by hand, in Scotland, and despite the practical advantages of artificial fibres, the appeal of waterproofed cotton remains undiminished. Chief among the reasons to covet cotton is that it has a mat finish, which gives it a sophisticated appearance. This neutral colour is the classic shade, as Mr Humphrey Bogart demonstrated in Casablanca and as Mr Alain Delon showed in Le Samouraï.
The same logic that suggests that the Brits should be good at rainwear leads us to assume that the Pacific coast of Canada should be another centre of excellence. So it proves, with Arc’teryx Veilance producing some of the best-considered contemporary outerwear. These are clothes designed with bad weather firmly in mind – the results are as much products of industrial design as they are of style genius. This full-length parka folds into an internal pocket so that it can be easily packed and carried between downpours. The taped seams will help to keep the water out, and the hood offers further protection.
The Rock'n'roll Option
Mr Hedi Slimane, Saint Laurent’s creative director, is famous for his love of musical subcultures. Unsurprisingly, then, this cropped trench coat, which has a gingham lining, is imbued with youthful attitude. But it also has the key details that distinguish a proper trench coat – belted cuffs, hook-and-eye closing at the neck and a cape detail at the back to help the water to run off. Don’t forget to pop the storm collar in foul weather.
Wear it with
There can be few more potent symbols of our throwaway culture than the discarded single-use umbrellas that litter the pavements of major cities after a rain storm. Stand up for style, and for a more responsible approach to the planet’s resources, with a handmade, heirloom-quality umbrella with a bamboo handle and shaft. Take pleasure in the hand-sewn navy canopy, and carry it wearing a sports jacket, tie and grey wool trousers. Just make sure you don’t leave it in the back of a cab.