Commuting at this time of year is bleak indeed. You stand on a dark, cold, wet train platform drinking coffee that tastes like dog wee, hop off at some point onto an overcrowded tube train where you are squashed against a puffa jacket (you think it’s a puffa jacket but it actually turns out to be a puffa person), and then listen to them sniff along in time to the latest single from Cheryl Fernandez-Versini.
You then trudge from tube station to office and sit down next to your colleague – in my case, a chap called Dan – who cycles to work quite grumpily each morning and then sits in his wet performance-wear anorak and shorts, on top of an old newspaper, for at least an hour before he eventually poddles off to get changed and nip out for a bacon buttie from M&S. Even dry and replete, he’s still quite furious. When I worked with him previously – at Esquire, in fact – we bought him a special light box to counteract seasonal affective disorder. It didn’t work: all it did was light up his still furious face for all to see.
Making the right outerwear choices at this time of year is not easy. It’s wet and cold (but not freezing) and therefore a Canada Goose parka is unnecessary and will make you swelter on public transport; a trench coat might not be warm enough (and I’ve never really found quite the right way to wear one without looking a little, well, buttoned up), and then, of course, there’s the increasingly popular performance-wear anoraks. Since my dad was a keen proponent of the anorak, I’ve always shied away from them, plus most of these outerwear garments worn on the commute to work have too many straps, pockets, gizmos and reflective patches all over them. Necessary if you’re cycling, I concede, but otherwise they make you look as if you’re auditioning for a touring production of Starlight Express.
What you need is something showerproof, lightweight, insulated and easy to fold away in your Brooks Eton leather rucksack should you not want to wear or carry it for the rest of the day. The perfect brand for this is Arc’teryx Veilance, a Canadian company that manages to produce high-quality performance wear that is simple, practical and stylish. It’s not cheap, unfortunately, but I’ve invested in a couple of pieces over the years and wear them throughout the winter year after year and they still look brand new. Otherwise, APC, Mackintosh and Aspesi have more wallet-friendly, aesthetically-pleasing and less bulky coats that are both warm and showerproof.
The only other items I’ve armed myself with for this month are, rather conventionally, an umbrella and a scarf. The umbrella is a folding one from Muji. I hate carrying things and this fits in my bag when not needed (…well, it would do if I could work out how to fold it up again. If anyone has fathomed how to use Muji’s origami brollies please let me know). The scarf, however, is pretty impressive: it’s an oversized lamb’s wool one by Acne Studios. There’s quite a lot of it. In fact, if I wrap it around my head fully, all you can see is a small tuft of hair peeking out of the top. I look like a furry Walnut Whip.
Now, before I finish, I should warn you off a winter trend that seems to be on the rise. I’ve certainly seen a lot of these around central London over the last couple of months and it worries me. I’m talking about men who have found it necessary to wander around town with an oversized blanket draped over one shoulder. Fine if you’re Cara Delevingne or Suki Waterhouse on the catwalk, but not fine if you’re a bloke nipping out to Leon for a Full English Pot. Shoulder blankets are not a good look: they make the wearer seem like a cross between Dobby from Harry Potter, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Robert Mugabe on a state visit to Norway. Blankets are for draping over beds, grannies and horses – not blokes.
My furious colleague, Dan, has just read this column over my shoulder. He’s even more furious now than he was earlier. I think he’s furious that I’ve written about him being furious. He’s popped out for a cigarette and a cinnamon pastry to calm down. I just hope he doesn’t spot someone wearing a blanket. He’ll explode.