For generations now, mothers have championed the belief that there was little less than the whole story to be read from the shoes on a man’s feet. In other words, daughters: if your suitor be a man with shined and polished shoes, then he be a man capable of earnest hard work that will devote himself to building a healthy and prosperous future for his family.
And, though the high school warnings of my own mother to steer clear of boys who would dare consider wearing sneakers with their prom suit has manifested itself into a belief that any man out of his twenties in Chuck Taylors is an untrustworthy Peter Pan, in the end, it’s a man’s jacket — not his shoes — that I examine when trying to decipher the type of gentleman he may be.
With the recent arrival of Topman in Canada, brought to us courtesy of The Bay at the Yorkdale Shopping Centre, and the opening celebration of both it and Topshop held just last week at The Hoxton (to the live soundtrack of The Kills), what better occasion than this — bestowed with a plethora of outerwear choices by the trendsetting British label — to decode the story behind his fall coat selection as chosen from Topman’s current collection of outerwear.
To illustrate the romantic “types” of men associated with this season’s coat selection, allow me to introduce Jordan Catalano, the rebel without a cause who makes an unlikely love connection with introspective good girl Angela Chase in the ‘90s cult television series My So-Called Life; Lloyd Dobler, the iconic, nerdy-yet-cool romantic hero of Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything, who puts his love of the object of his high school obsession, Diane Court, above everything else in life; and finally — my personal favourite — from director J.J. Abrams’ first television series Felicity, Ben Covington, the wounded soul with the heart of gold, who realizes his true potential through his on-again-off-again relationship with the sweet and sensitive Felicity Porter.
The Jordan Catalano
A lone wolf with lost puppy dog eyes, this guy is as emotionally distressed as his jean jacket — likely the same one he’s had since the 11th grade. A man with casual tastes who plans by the moment, there’s nothing formal in his sense of style, i.e. no colourful silk lining or shearling coats for this one. Look for him in the denim borg collar western (also available in stone cord) jacket this autumn. The detachable cream borg collar gives the jacket the versatility that this hard-to-pin-down chameleon spirit needs in a staple closet item — as much as in his girl. May also be spotted in the faux leather borg lined aviator jacket, layered on top an old hoodie about the time when others play it sensible and begin donning parkas.
The Lloyd Dobler
Dressed in his trench coat and hi-cuts, with outstretched arms holding a ghetto blaster above his head, playing Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes, Lloyd Dobler’s never-say-never earnest approach to love earned him a place in pop culture’s canon of romantic films and re-introduced the trench coat as the modern gentleman’s choice of outwear. See Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca and Cary Grant in An Affair to Remember.
If you’re seeking the sort of guy who would kick away a piece of glass in your path, look for someone (likely writing in his Moleskine while sipping on an Americano at a kitschy café) in Topman’s charcoal wool belted trench coat this autumn season. Subtly stylish with its double-breasted cut and detachable contrast collar, the trench speaks to this male’s awareness of looking attractive to the opposite sex, while the wool fabric blend attests to his practical side: this one likes drama as much as he likes going out in the rain without an umbrella. Unless it’s to chase after his beloved following a misunderstanding, that is, which will inevitably be resolved with a passionate embrace in the rain.
A more reluctant romantic hero can be found in the camel funnel neck trench coat. Not your classic knight in shining armor, the funnel neck detail in this coat suggests this gentleman has a modernized view of love: he needs his lady to show a little chivalry herself before he rushes to open the door for her.
The Ben Convington
There is something intrinsically masculine about the pea coat; it conjures images of Paul Newman, roadside fires and lumberjack breakfasts. It is a coat owned and worn to the end by the type of man who doesn’t let outside factors like trends sway his taste. Notably, Ben Covington wore the same pea coat through all four seasons of the show. That, and plain T-shirts.
A timeless closet item for the utilitarian male, this season’s fashionable drifters have Topman’s Peacoat Project — a reimagining of the classic clothing piece by international menswear designers like James Small and Tim Hamilton — to help them achieve their rugged just-thrown-together aesthetic.
Hamilton’s take on the coat is city smart for the sort of guy who drives a motorcycle to better navigate the traffic during his daily ride to work. No nonsense, with its brushed metal buttons and boxy fit, it also features a detachable faux leather quilted waistcoat to make it easier for this attentive gentleman to share the warmth of his coat — while still being able to fend off the cold himself — should you catch a chill. This guy is of the mind that to help you, he must help himself first.
Looking every bit the nautical classic in cut, James Small’s wool blend pea coat departs from the norm with navy sleeves to offset the coat’s black body. The man who opts for this one is not one to run with the crowd; he needs a girl that’s willing to stray with him.
There’s no doubting the advice of generations of mothers: there’s a lot to be said about the shoes a man chooses to put on his feet. But just try and throw in a peek at the coat while you’re there and figure out whether he prefers to face the cool fall weather in precious shearling or simple wool. It might be the difference between a jacket over a puddle and wet feet.
Toronto-based writer Jennifer Lee is the editorial director of FILLER magazine, an online fashion and culture journal. She is also the co-editor of Hardly magazine, an arts-centric online teen publication for Canadian girls.