What does a classic British outfit look like? This is a question I was recently posed while chatting with my Canadian cousins, who are excited to visit Britain for the first time next year. "I want to look like a local—how do I do that?" The answer, however, isn't all that simple. It would be all too easy to respond, "Pack a Burberry trench coat and Dr. Martens boots," two pieces intrinsic to British fashion and its heritage. Still, the nuances of how we Brits and those who reside here assemble our outfits are way more complex than that. Heritage certainly comes into play, but when it runs as deep as ours, it's hard to pinpoint just one or two influences on it. Walk down any street in the country, and you'll see prim outfits, minimal outfits, maximalist outfits, punk outfits, androgynous outfits and Y2K outfits, all merging with one another to create a potent cocktail of style culture. Take a moment to think about it; we truly have one of the most diverse aesthetics in the world.
I guess what I think makes for a classic British outfit is more about the feeling it evokes and the way in which the wearer has curated it. To illustrate my point, I've assembled 11 outfits that I think tap into that classic British outfit trope without being stereotypical. Yes, a trench coat does feature, but I think the modern ways we now wear it tell a more accurate story of British style as it is now. Scroll on to see them, and read why I think they represent the best parts of British outfits.
11 Classic British Outfits to Try
1. Trench Coat + White Shirt + Jeans
Style Notes: As we've already established, trench coats are deeply rooted in British fashion heritage, with Burberry being the brand most commonly associated with the staple. Today, you can find countless elevated trench coat options for every budget. Me? I get mine from & Other Stories. Worn with jeans and a white shirt, this sartorial hybrid look is perhaps the most classic, modern-day British outfit.
2. Wool Coat + Midi Dress + Knee Boots
Style Notes: Owing to our unpredictable climate, anyone who lives in Britain has become adept at two things: 1) layering and 2) getting as much wear out of your pieces as possible. Here, Alexa Chung showcases how to get more wear out of your summer dresses once the colder months roll around (which happens all too soon every year. Add a woollen coat and rain-proof knee boots.
3. Checked Scarf + Leather Biker
Style Notes: Checks are a staple in many a Brit wardrobe. Perhaps the most noncommittal way to wear them is on a scarf. Leather jackets are synonymous with Brit style, too, having become an outfit essential during the punk era during the mid-'70s. Make like Louisa and wear the two together.
4. Knitted Vest + Floral Dress
Style Notes: See what I mean about layering? British people are always thinking up new ways to stave off the chill. Next, I'll be re-creating this look by Claudia, who has layered a toasty knitted vest over her cute floral midi. Now, I could write an essay on the influence dainty florals have had on British style, but we don't have all day. But at the mention of Liberty and Laura Ashley, I'm sure you'll grasp the concept.
5. Chunky Knit + Miniskirt + Patterned Tights
Style Notes: Jumpers and cardigans are a nonnegotiable part of the British capsule wardrobe, with striped iterations proving popular of late. Given our climate, it might surprise you at just how many miniskirts you see when you're out and about. This, however, is made possible by our penchant for tights.
6. Tonal Corduroy
Style Notes: It might be an integral part of the French aesthetic, but corduroy was actually created in Britain in the 18th century. Hardwearing but versatile, it has been crafted in many ways over the years, but nothing feels quite so classic as a corduroy two-piece suit in timeless tan or navy.
7. Oxford Shirt + Pleated Skirt
Style Notes: Given its name, you might assume that the Oxford shirt comes from, well, Oxford. Not the case! I'm Scottish, and I'm proud to say it originated from my homeland. It was made as part of a four-piece shirt collection crafted by Scottish weavers, with each shirt being named after leading university (Harvard, Yale, Cambridge and Oxford). Today, the only shirt still in circulation is the blue-and-white stripe Oxford, which is beloved by bankers and influencers alike, the latter of which currently like styling them with equally preppy pleated skirts.
8. Top-to-Toe Black
Style Notes: I've been fortunate enough to do my fair share of travelling, and if there's one thing I've noticed, it's that no one wears black clothes quite like us. Sleek and easy, it's the ultimate fast-track to pulling a look together in a flash; something we (or should I say I) love for its time efficiency.
9. Jumper + Wide-Leg Trousers + Trainers
Style Notes: Loafers might feel intrinsic to classic British outfits, but I'd argue that trainers are just as prevalent. From Lily Allen styling hers with a frothy dress for her music video, “Smile,” to Rosie Huntington-Whiteley using hers to give her tailored trousers a low-key spin, we're pretty much experts at trainer dressing.
10. Jumper + Slip Skirt
Style Notes: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, let me speed this up: Britain is often cold, so we own a lot of jumpers. However, that doesn't mean we don't want to look polished in said jumpers. Ever since Topshop released its best-selling slip skirt back in 2016 (a time when it still had brick-and-mortar stores), Brit dressers have been countering their chunky knitwear with fluid, silky slips to great fashionable effect.
11. Tailored Suit + Camisole
Style Notes: As the country that boasts the world-renowned Savile Row, it would be remiss of me not to mention tailoring. From outfitting London's city workers to collaborating with some of the biggest fashion designers, the influence of Gieves & Hawkes, Huntsman and Richard Anderson has caused a suiting ripple effect across the entirety of the UK. Now, fashion people love nothing more than to bestow tailoring with their own stylish spins. Here, Hannah showcases a popular combination of a two-piece suit worn with a silk camisole top.