Utility thrills


When you overhear the stylish citizens of Lancaster talking about ‘utility’ this winter, it’ll have nothing to do with rising gas prices. Rather, it is the hottest trend for this season that witnesses fashion taking a backseat to function.

It is a natural progression from the military styling that has been in vogue for years.  It favours less the pomp and decoration of historical uniform, focusing instead on modern military wear.  Think urban sportswear, a grimy palette of colours and pieces that wouldn’t be out of place on a rock-climbing holiday in South Wales.

Despite appearances, fashion is always at the forefront of this trend, so you can’t just throw anything on and expect it to work.  Clothes are best kept block-coloured and unfussy, letting the accessories build the outfit’s character. However, pockets and zips are great details for this trend as you’ll always need somewhere to keep your compass and Swiss army knife.

Marshall belted leather jacket £160.00, Ritchie dress £39.99, Crotchet glove £12.99, Hawker boot £74.99

Autumn-Winter 2010 is all about variety in texture and there are two in particular fabrics making a huge impact on utility style.  Ribbed fabric is an easy texture to layer as it is light, but visually distinct.  Ribbed socks and long-johns are fantastic outfit-builders which you shouldn’t be afraid to wear out. Underwear as outerwear is in too.

The other material making a comeback is the return of chunky knit from last year, but in a specific form.  Cable knit may be reminiscent of country singers and the Dorset Coast, but when worn ironically, it brings out the element of geek-chic in utility dressing.

Army green is the stand out colour for this trend because of its connotations to 20th century military uniform and, for non-landlubbers, navy blue is also a strong choice.  However, as the styling of this trend’s military inspired clothing is subtle; avoid breaking out the camouflage from a few years ago. We’re not ready for that comeback just yet.

(Above) ASOS Hiking Hi-Top Plimsolls for men £30. Available at asos.com

Shoes have a lot of potential as statement pieces as the simplest shoe is not always the most functional.  Military boots are too formal for this style, being replaced by work-wear or hiking boots instead.  Textured soles may seem like an insignificant detail but will cement the look together far better than thinner, smoother bases.

Some girls can’t live without their heels, but I doubt anybody has ever described them as functional before.   The solutions are the clog heel; thick, functional and much sturdier than a stiletto.


Layer up – Texture is key to making an interesting ensemble, so let others see what you’ve got on underneath your outwear.

Don’t distress – Denim works best in utility when it looks like it’s not trying too hard. Clean, blue jeans are the way forward.

Un-accessorise – You might be tempted to try jazz up your utility look with a few accessories, but remember functionality.  Scarves, belts and hats have a purpose, but do those Pat Butcheresque earrings?

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