How To Buy A Sherpa Jacket – Classic Men's Utility Jackets | Denim | Leather | Cotton
Sherpa jackets are a winter staple, particularly in the northern United States and in Canada.
You won't find them in the photo spreads of glossy fashion magazines very often, but in places where getting work done and staying warm is a daily necessity, sherpa jackets are actually among the more attractive options.
If you live somewhere where “winter” means a few inches of snow and a couple chilly days, you'll still find use for this classic jacket.
And for our readers in the seriously northern climes (or seriously southern, for that matter — it gets chilly down near the tips of Australia and South America), this is an option that's worth knowing about especially when you can easily layer it with a fleece jacket or waterproof outer shell.
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The “Sherpa Lining”
As neat as it would be to pitch these as authentic clothing from native Himalayan cultures, the modern sherpa jacket gets its name from an industry term.
“Sherpa lining,” in the garment industry, refers to a polyester lining with a deep pile and large, fuzzy “naps” that give it a bumpy texture.
The overall effect is similar to real sheep's wool, but sherpa lining is lighter weight, much less bulky, and faster drying. It's also considerably cheaper and avoids any ethical concerns about animal products.
That being said – sheep wool lined sherpa jackets are common in some parts of the world. I saw them all over the place in Ukraine and Russia – however, the price is much higher for these luxury coats that are surprisingly durable.
The Outer Layer
You wouldn't want a jacket made of just the sherpa lining. On its own, it's neither windproof nor waterproof (although it does dry out quickly). It's similar to the various blends used to make “performance fleece” gear, albeit a little less high-tech. Not suitable for outerwear, in other words.
A sherpa jacket takes the warm sherpa lining and sews it to the inside of a heavy exterior, usually heavy cotton. The best ones will double- or triple-stitch so that the lining is sealed and you don't loose air through the seams.
In some models quilted padding is added between the lining and the outer shell. That adds warmth, but also bulk, making the jacket heavier and puffier.
Styles and Options
Your basic men's sherpa jacket is thigh-length and straight-sided, with a full front zipper, slit hand pockets, and flap breast pockets. Most also have interior breast pockets — you get a lot of cargo space with your sherpa jacket.
The collars are turndown and lined with the same sherpa lining as the interior. That feature is both decorative (it gives the coat a fluffy “winter” look) and functional (the fast-drying sherpa lining won't get sodden from snow or condensing breath as quickly as a cotton collar).
If you're looking for something a little more out of the ordinary, here are some of the common variations used to “dress up” the Sherpa jacket a little:
- Buttons instead of a zipper. Large, thick buttons or wooden toggles both work well. It makes the jacket slightly less convenient to put on, but a lot easier to repair if the front snags and tugs, making this a popular option for men in farm and forest situations.
- Parka length. A parka-length jacket comes down all the way to the knees for added warmth. Most also include hoods, usually trimmed with fur (real or fake).
- Waist length. Going in the opposite direction, a waist-length sherpa jacket is a little more portable than the basic thigh-length. It also works better with puffy snow pants — you don't get the bulky double layer at the thighs.
- Leather exterior. Using leather instead of cotton for the exterior makes the jacket more windproof and waterproof, but adds weight and increases the cost significantly. Suede is a common option.
Individual brands also make use of any number of small variations in the cuff, collar, and pocket styles to give their jackets a unique flavor.
Earth tones are the most common colors, but blues, greens, and blacks are also common, along with camouflage and blaze orange for hunters. For style purposes, tan and dark brown both work well. Solid colors are your best option — you want the coat to evoke feelings of sturdiness and reliability, and solids do that better than patterns.
How to Wear a Sherpa Jacket Stylishly
Since this is an aggressively functional piece of clothing, talking about “style” may seem a little silly. But there are ways to wear sherpa jackets and other winter coats so that they flatter you while they keep you warm.
The jacket covers your entire torso. What you wear underneath it isn't going to be relevant until you get inside, at which point the jacket comes off, so don't think too hard about trying to make your shirt go with your coat or anything like that.
Your pants are going to be visible, however, so make sure they go comfortably with the sturdy, solid-colored exterior of the jacket. Blue jeans are just fine (unless you've got a medium-blue coat, in which case it starts to get that “Canadian tuxedo” look). Surprisingly enough, dressier flannel trousers also work well, so long as they're a simple, neutral solid like charcoal gray.
A good pair of boots really rounds the look out, so consider investing in some sturdy leather work boots or dress boots that can hold up to ice and snow. With those, a pair of tough-looking pants, and a sherpa jacket, you'll be functional and attractive.
Round everything out with a simple, dark-colored scarf tucked into the coat collar. A neutral-colored ear covering and a brimmed Western hat makes a nice finishing touch, but once it drops down into the sub-zero temperatures no one's going to hold a thick watch cap against you.
You never need to get fancy with a sherpa jacket. It looks good on its own: sturdy, simple, and emphatically “wintery” thanks to the fuzzy lining on the collar. Keep the rest of your outfit similarly plain, and you'll look like a rugged, manly kind of guy who isn't afraid to dig a car out of a ditch or other similarly impressive winter-time feats.