Don’t Be Afraid of Shearling

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There must be a theory somewhere for why a skinny, middle-aged guy like me has been wearing leather and shearling all the time lately. Two of my favorite jackets this past winter have included this Nigel Cabourn Aircraft coat and Stevenson bomber. When paired with beat-up jeans and some heavy boots, they feel perfect for these last days of winter. 

All shearlings are sheepskins, but not all sheepskins are shearlings. Sheepskins are hides with fleeces still attached, but the fleeces are either untrimmed or only partially trimmed. When they’ve been “sheared” to a uniform length, the hides are either known as shearling (in general) or mouton (if the skin has been taken from merino sheep in particular).

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Either way, the effects of all these materials are the same. When they’re used for the full body of a coat, you get an exceptionally luxurious and supple garment with warm, insulating properties. When it’s just used for the hood or collar – like the Nigel Cabourn jacket and Stevenson bomber shown above – they’re mostly for style (although, the hood does become a little cozier when worn).

There are a ton of styles for shearling coats, but to prevent yourself from looking like the Marlboro Man, I recommend staying away from denim trucker jackets, vests, or ranch jackets (the last might even make you look like Bane). Instead, try:

  • Bomber Jackets: Many bomber style jackets – from A-2s to B-10s – will have shearling collars. Ami and J. Crew have some navy ones this season. If you want something bolder, you can try RAF flying jackets. For more affordable buys, search for a simple bomber with a faux-shearling trimmed collar. Faux-shearling is typically made from acrylic or polyester, which means it won’t be as insulating, but it’ll have much of the same look. Ralph Lauren used it last season for an olive twill cotton B-10. 
  • Deck Jackets: Deck jackets usually have collars lined with a scratchier alpaca, but some fashion designers have reinterpreted them with a softer shearling detail. Visvim uses real shearling, while Neighborhood uses faux.
  • Parkas: There must be a ton of buys in this category, but the only ones I can think of at the moment are the astronomically priced pieces from Nigel Cabourn (their Everest parka, most notably, which will be replaced next season with an Antarctic model) and Ten C. The latter actually has shearling hoods and liners that you can snap into any of their jackets (such as their snow smocks, field jacketsdeck parkas, etc). 

For those who remain skeptical of wearing what’s essentially Uggs for your upper body, Tracy Morgan’s face at the end of this post tells you exactly what he thinks of your faithlessness. 

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