When stocking winter wardrobes, it tends to be robust outerwear that takes top priority on most men’s shopping lists. After all, big-coat season is called big-coat season for a reason. But while it’s important to have a solid parka or puffer at your disposal when the mercury plummets, slimmer, cropped outerwear styles shouldn’t be ignored.

Owning a varied selection of winter jackets is just as important as having a solid rotation of heavy-duty cold-weather coats. In fact, it’s these lighter, low-profile styles that are often called upon more frequently, thanks to their versatility.

A good winter jacket can be layered underneath heavier outerwear, or worn separately as a standalone piece. It’s the sort of garment that’ll have your back all through the colder months and out the other side of it. There are a lot of silhouettes to consider, though, so we’ve whittled it down to the key variations that no man should be without.

Lightweight Down Jacket

There’s only one feathered friend a man needs when it comes to layering up this winter. The benefits of lightweight down jackets have long been known by the sort of people who push their clothing to the absolute limit. But you don’t have to be a seasoned alpinist to appreciate one of these insulating wonders for yourself. Packable, ultra-light and endlessly versatile, this is the sort of jacket that has you covered whether you’re scaling the Matterhorn or simply braving the morning commute.

Buying Considerations

When selecting a lightweight down jacket, first consider the fit. This type of garment should be cut slim but with enough room underneath for at least two thin layers. This way it can be worn as an outer layer or thrown under something a bit more robust, should the weather call for it.

As with any down product, it’s important to select the correct “fill power”. This indicates how much down insulation is packed inside and therefore how much body heat it will trap. The higher the number the warmer the jacket will be – but it also makes it bulkier. Aim for somewhere between 550 and 700 to keep it trim.

Technical Rain Jacket

There are precious few places on earth where unexpected rainfall won’t be an issue at least a handful of times throughout the winter months. Nobody likes getting wet, so it pays to be equipped with a jacket capable of deflecting the elements. A technical rain jacket uses a combination of innovative fabrics and clever manufacturing techniques to keep you dry in as efficient a manner as possible. An absolute must in every man’s seasonal outerwear armoury.

Buying Considerations

Material is the single most important factor when it comes to choosing a technical rain jacket. It should be completely waterproof from the outside while still allowing moisture to escape from within. Gore-Tex is the obvious choice, given its reputation as the best-performing waterproof fabric, but many labels have their own variations. Haglofs’ PROOF material or Patagonia’s H2No, for example.

Again, it should be cut trim but with enough room to allow layering underneath. Many brands factor this into the sizing, so be sure to try it on before deciding to buy a size up. Additionally, look out for taped seams, waterproof zippers and an adjustable hood to stop any water seeping in the weak spots.

Thick-Pile Fleece

For several seasons now, fleece has been making its way off of the shoulders of ageing birdwatchers and onto Fashion Week runways. What was once the antithesis of cool is now very much en vogue, and the resulting garments actually spell good news for your winter wardrobe. These aren’t your standard wafer-thin, high-performance mid-layers – this breed of fleece takes its style cues from the past instead of the future, featuring thick-pile fabric and vintage styling aplenty.

Buying Considerations

Look for retro-inspired styles, but keep the throwback nods subtle. You want to be able to pull this garment out season after season without it becoming the subject of ridicule. That means a big yes to a bit of tasteful colour blocking or the odd chunky zipper, and a big no to garish all-over prints and OTT 1990s nostalgia.

Keep the cut in mind, too. This style tends to be a little roomier, so consider sizing down if the end goal is a more fitted look.

Wool Overshirt

Try as we might, it’s impossible to think of a garment more versatile than a simple overshirt. A true all-rounder, this humble shirt-jacket hybrid is suitable for all seasons. To step your game up for the winter months, it’s a wool version that should be on your shopping list. Slightly thicker, heavier and warmer than its cotton counterparts, yet still boasting all the same seasonal adaptability. If you’re going to invest in one jacket this winter, make it one of these.

Buying Considerations

The hem of a good wool overshirt will sit at around hip level. The sleeves should be fitted around the shoulders without restricting movement and the cuffs should end just below the wrist when your arms are side by side.

Button closure is the classic choice, but a zip fastening is a simple way to give this piece a contemporary edge. Bear in mind also that this garment is supposed to be worn both on top of and underneath other layers, so look for one with a fit that can comfortably do both.

Denim Jacket

Workwear is one of fashion’s longest-running sources of inspiration. The combination of durability and practicality carries over nicely into the everyday wardrobe, with timeless good looks simply a bonus. A prime example of this can be seen in the denim jacket. A rugged workhorse of a garment that simply refuses to go out of style. Not only is it a must-have for winter, but it’s a bona fide wardrobe essential, too. A classic piece that every man should have in their collection.

Buying Considerations

Traditionally, the denim jacket is a cropped style, with the hem sitting just above the waist. It’s a detail that makes it a handy layering piece in the winter months as most outer layers will cover it easily.

Fabric choice is key Obviously, it should be constructed from denim, but as any connoisseur will tell you, there’s more than one type to consider. Rigid, raw denim is stiff and uncomfortable at first, but over time it will mould and fade into something that fits you like a glove. Meanwhile, denim that has been pre-washed will be softer, albeit with a tad less individual character.

Premium Bomber Jacket

With its shiny finish, military colour palette and boxy fit, the classic bomber jacket isn’t the easiest of garments to work into a smart casual winter outfit. Don’t write it off entirely though, because all it takes are a few premium tweaks to make this one of the most wearable pieces in your cold-weather jacket rotation.

Buying Considerations

Be on the lookout for styles that are a little more fitted and form-flattering than a classic bomber jacket. Slimmer in the shoulders, arms and body, and with fewer zips and pockets.

Expect price points to be a little higher, but for that to be reflected in the quality of the materials. Think wool, suede, leather or shearling as opposed to shiny nylon. That’s not to say nylon is out of the question entirely – just keep the colour subtle and neutral, and the styling minimalist.