So many coat options, how will she choose? (Photo: Rowena Waack, Flickr)

Winter is here—well, almost. Coming from someone who thrives in the heat, I consider it winter after daylight saving time ends. I spent last week packing up all my shorts and sandals while unpacking my sweaters, jackets and cold weather gear.

I don't even know what this is. (Photo: nylcoat, Flickr)

Style professionals and enthusiasts rejoice this time of year. Colder temperatures allow them to layer various fabrics, patterns and other items, carefully and constantly adorning themselves with scarves, gloves and coats.

Staying warm and stylish is an easy task, as long as you understand the situation and match your outerwear accordingly.

The casual
Paired with jeans and a T-shirt, the casual winter jacket is perfect for running errands or taking out the trash on a cold morning. A casual jacket has many purposes and will be the go-to outwear for the majority of the year. I consider any fleece, micro puffer, range coat or chore coat a casual jacket. My go-to jacket for the past few years has been the Marmot Variant. It’s light, warm and perfect for most of my activities. The idea here is to find a workhorse coat that will get you through most situations. A big trend right now is the quilted look. Bonobos and Barbour make some great options. Save some dollars with one from J.Crew Factory.

The functional
Though casual jackets are great and comfortable, they have limitations. Function trumps style with these, but only to a certain point. I love to snow ski, so I splurged on an insulated, water-resistant hooded jacket in a bright color that someone can spot when I’ve crashed into the woods. Everyone needs a 100 percent Gore-Tex/water-resistant/water-repellent jacket of some sort. If you’re after something waterproof but not too tech-looking, try a waxed cotton jacket, or perhaps one of these from Eddie Bauer (option two).  You can never go wrong with the classic trench coat.

A great option has always been the component jacket, AKA the 3-in-1. Included in the weatherproof outer shell is a removable liner in either fleece or down. This is a great budget option for what you get.

This is how a pea coat should fit. (Photo: Brandon Nedwek, Flickr)

The formal
When the occasion calls for it, you may need to fight the cold while wearing your finest suit, tuxedo or just a nice outfit to the office. Normally a more casual option, the pea coat can be dressed up or down and is extremely versatile. I’d look for one in navy, trim-fitting with enough room for a layer underneath. The next option for more formal outerwear is the topcoat, most commonly seen in camel or black. Black would be more formal than camel shade in this case. 

Remember when trying on outerwear that you need to consider what you’ll be wearing under it. When considering layering, a vest can be invaluable; if you can keep your core warm, you'll be set. Natural fibers like cotton and wool are going to be more breathable than nylon and polyester blends, but may not provide the weather-repellent qualities. Fighting the wind is half the battle, so look for windproof options and technology.

With outerwear, just like footwear and watches, you truly get what you pay for.

Alan Baird writes about men's style and occasionally fashion. He thinks fashion is temporary, while style is forever. His personal style is classic, preppy and contemporary. If there are trends you like or if you want to argue about the utility of cargo shorts, feel free to contact him at or on Facebook or Twitter. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not or its employees.