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FASHION HONESTLY ::What to wear on the commute

Dec 12, 2019 by carol adams.

We spend over a year of our lives doing it, yet the matter of what to wear on the daily commute remains a pain in the neck. Frankie Graddon has a few solutions.

At 7.15 this morning, it might as well have been the end of the world – dark, cold and unbelievably windy. I stood on the train platform in my not-quite-warm-enough mac, considered my bare ankles (?!), wished I had a pair of gloves and felt utterly miserable. Thirty minutes later, after I’d run from platform eight to platform three and back again (it’s amazing how a bit of wind can totally screw up the trains), hurtled through London on the Victoria line, skidded on an abandoned Big Mac gherkin (the perks of working in central London) and navigated the unending roadworks at the top of the road, I arrived at the office so boiling my wrists were sweating. It was not yet 8am.

On average, we will spend just over a year of our lives on the daily commute. That’s more than 365 days either freezing your arse off at the bus stop or sweating it out on the Underground and shedding layers like an onion, trying to get the balance right. Past commuting fails of mine include boiling alive in a very expensive designer jumper (NB triple-faced merino wool is friend to no one) and shredding my feet in brand-new Converse. A friend once famously flashed her knickers to the Euston Road on her way to a meeting with her boss, thanks to the back-wind from the number 59. Thank God she was wearing big pants and thank God she saw the funny side. Never mind black tie/themed wedding/smart-casual, when it comes to tricky dress codes commuting takes the biscuit.

First, the rain. I have a massive issue with umbrellas: they get lost, they break and they drip. My favourite coats do not have hoods and yet it insists on raining between the hours of 7am-9am, Monday to Friday – and I do not have the kind of hair that works when damp. If any of this sounds familiar, then have a look at COS’ tie-up hood (currently on sale for £14). I nearly jumped out of my chair when I saw this – a waterproof mini-cape-cum-hood, which you slip on over whatever you are wearing. Genius! Why is this not more of a thing? Both stylish and fabulously useful, it can also go in the washing machine. In (pleasantly) surprising fashion news, high-shine rain macs are also having a bit of a moment. So, if I haven’t sold you on the cape-hood, take yourself over to Topshop and have a look at the leopard-print mac – a deadringer for the sellout Ganni version but at a snip of the price.

A friend once famously flashed her knickers to the Euston Road on her way to a meeting with her boss, thanks to the back-wind from the number 59. Thank God she was wearing big pants

Whoever I’ve spoken to about commuter-wear issues agrees that shoes are one of the biggies. I have lost count of the times I have been bloodied, bruised and battered by a pair of crap shoes on my way to or from the office. I also hate carrying a spare pair of shoes with me in a tote to change into – there is never a good time to do the switchover and it’s extra baggage that no one needs. Answer? A pair of hiking or biker boots. These are grippy on wet pavements, allow for a warm pair of socks and are sturdy enough to withstand whichever fellow commuter decides to stand on your toe today. They also happen to be very "in" at the moment (need I mention Holly Willoughby's I'm A Celebrity hiking boots?), and will see you right through until summer (wear with a pretty dress and bare legs). While Holly is a fan of the Grenson Nanette boots, Marks & Spencer has a fuzzy trimmed pair for under £50. I'm currently wearing in Danner's Cascade Mointain Hiker Boots, which would see you traverse the Pyrenees, let alone the Northern Line.

Right – bags. I have tried to be a backpack woman, but I am not – I look like an overgrown exchange student. Cross-body bags are my pick, with the hands-free benefit of a rucksack but the added bonus of everything being within easy reach. I am currently enjoying an early-noughties throwback with Coach's Riley with signature logo, but worth a look at is the Sadie cross-body, which is currently in the sale. For leather styles under £100, check out John Lewis & Partners' just-launched spring bag collection. The barrel-shaped Eliza is a particular favourite, with a touch of the Fendi Baguette about it. And if you are feeling particularly fashion-forward, then have a look at the Koko cross-body bag which can be slung over the shoulder or worn around your waist as a belt bag.

 If you are a backpack type, then Knomo is where you need to be. The Beauchamp has been specifically made for commuting ease, with a padded laptop pocket and a special extra-secure section for your phone and wallet.

If you happen to be reading this on your commute, tell me this – how cold are your hands right now? Constant phone use means no gloves, which means freezing hands. Why there aren’t more phone-friendly touchscreen gloves in the world remains a mystery to me. Muji used to have an excellent pair but they appear to have been discontinued. The best I can find are Topshop's Chevron smartphone gloves. If you’re not worried about your fingers being covered, then Catherine Tough (the most gorgeous knitwear brand) do lovely wrist warmers.

Finally, layers. If you truly want to beat the commute, then layers are the way to do it. Do yourself a favour and buy one of Uniqlo’s ultra-light down vests (£39.90), which you can wear underneath your coat for a vital layer of warmth and then scrunch up into nothing once you’ve reached temperature.