A good coat is one of the key building blocks when putting together your classic menswear wardrobe, as you’ll likely be wearing it every day during the colder months and it should last far longer than just about any other garment (other than that one pair of underwear you were gifted as a teenager that you insist is still wearable). In fact, you’ll wear it so often that, over time, your coat will become a close friend. It will be painful when, like Demeter, you will have to endure six months away. Before I start off on a tangent about how much I would be annoyed if I got pomegranate seeds on my coat, let’s focus on the topic at hand.
A coat for all seasons?
You wish. There is no such thing as a coat that will work in all weather and for all occasions. When I talked about wardrobes earlier, I wasn’t referring to portals to Narnia. You will need to analyse your wardrobe and decide what kind of coat will best fit the garments you already have. Before we get started, a short piece of advice. Do keep in mind that understatement is the key to versatility when deciding on the details for your overcoat.
If you’re mostly going to be wearing suits (whether for work or pleasure), a more formal overcoat is the best choice. Allow me to introduce you to my good friend Mr Chesterfield. Chesterfields are generally made of a dark, heavy cloth and feature a distinctive velvet collar. While it comes in both single and double-breasted variations, we’d recommend going double-breasted (who’d have guessed?) for the added warmth. As stated above, the Chesterfield is a very formal coat, even wearable with black tie and at most evening events. If you just cannot wrap your head around the idea of velvet (or just don’t want to wrap velvet around your head), you can opt for a dark-blue double-breasted overcoat sans velvet, in a wool or cashmere fabric.
Slightly less formal…
If you are sure that you own a suit but are unsure where it is or what colour it is, I think it’s safe to say that you don’t wear it too often. In that case, we’d recommend opting for something less formal that will do the business over casual outfits on a daily basis as well as on those occasions where a suit is unavoidable. Our recommendation would be an overcoat in a mid-grey herringbone. To make sure it can be worn with tailoring as well as chunky knits, opt for a bit more width in the waist and a belt to tighten when necessary. If you do opt for a belt, patch pockets are a definite option. Honourable mention goes to the double-breasted polo coat at this point, although the traditional beige colour might be a challenge for a first coat, unless, of course, you, too, like to live dangerously.
If you have a penchant for the dramatic and aren’t concerned with formality, you should give the greatcoat some thought. However, we would not suggest to make it the cornerstone of your wardrobe, as it is generally difficult to wear it over a suit. That being said, this coat with its characteristic double-breasted silhouette, wide, hinged collar, and heavy wool fabric in either dark blue or olive-green, it is very practical in the fight against inclement weather (perhaps due to its military origins). However, especially in terms of colour, feel free to experiment. If I can give one personal tip (and, as a person who has frequented night clubs in Berlin, you can trust me), don’t experiment with black leather.
If you’re going to opt for a slightly more casual single-breasted coat in a heavy Tweed, raglan sleeve might be worth considering, as they allow for easier wear over sports jackets and knitwear. This is due to the fact that traditional shoulder constructions are generally cut to fit on either a jacket or knitwear and not both. If you’ve already gone down the raglan route, I’d recommend patch pockets and a wide collar for practicality.
NB.: Raglan sleeves are named for the first Baron Raglan, Lord FitzRoy Somerset, who lost his right arm at Waterloo and needed a different type of sleeve construction to accommodate his disability. On an unrelated side note, Baron Raglan would briefly go on to be commander of the British Forces during the Crimean War, being at least partially to blame for the Charge of the Light Brigade.
There can be only one.
Sorry to disappoint you, Highlander fans (and those who read the title of this article), but, when it comes to overcoats, that’s simply not the case. There are many wonderful alternatives. You just need to find the right one for you. FB/MM/DPFC