With so much attention paid to the suit and what goes beneath it, it’s easy to give short shrift to the final piece of the equation. But the overcoat shouldn’t be something a man slings on as he heads for the front door; it’s one of the most important, and often one of the most costly, items of clothing us chaps will ever purchase. And that’s why it’s important to pick yours with the utmost care.
As with most things in fashion, there are no hard and fast rules when shopping for a suitable coat. There are, however, guidelines that can reduce the margin for costly errors while maximising the likelihood of sartorial success.
Winters are, by definition, cold and chilly, which is why it’s imperative to pick the most appropriate fabric for your winter coat. The best fabrics to keep you insulated are wool and cashmere. The latter is significantly warmer, but you’ll pay handsomely for the privilege.
If protection from the rain is the priority, then you’ll want to go for a waterproof option which nowadays comes in a variety of styles to ensure you don’t sacrifice your look.
Choosing the right fit is crucial when picking the perfect winter coat. To find the one that’s most appropriate for you, simply go up one size over your typical suit jacket size - this will allow you to move easily without the layers binding at the shoulders and neck.
If it’s a good fit, a coat’s shoulder seams should fall just over the edge of your natural shoulder. This will ensure an enhanced profile line while wearing a blazer or suit.
Double-breasted overcoats have been getting quite a bit of interest over the last couple of years. However, that doesn’t mean you should run out and buy the first one you see.
A single-breasted overcoat is generally the more practical choice since it can be worn open or closed, whereas, by the letter of the fashion law, a double-breasted coat should always remain closed. Furthermore, a well-tailored single-breasted overcoat provides a more slimming appearance – a definite plus in the colder winter months when many of us are inclined to carry a few extra (insulating) pounds.
While the fit and finish can make or break a coat, it’s equally important to consider its length. A man’s height, as well as his personal taste, will dictate whether it’s best to go for a cropped blouson-style coat, something a little longer or a full- or three-quarter-length coat.
A full-length overcoat, which should fall around the lower level of the shins, tends to look
smarter than a three-quarter-length design. This style of coat works particularly well on taller men.
A three-quarter length coat, meanwhile, should fall anywhere between the lower part of your knee and the lower part of your trousers' pockets. Increasingly prevalent on both the high-street and in designer collections, it’s the style of choice for many fashion-conscious men.
Go coat shopping while wearing a blazer or a winter sweater. Different labels follow different measurement dimensions - you may be a Large in one brand while a Medium may suffice in another – so the extra layer will give you a better indication of a coat’s fit and comfort.
Don’t just slip the coat on and off, though; sit down, stand up, raise your arms, bend down and tie your shoelaces. You’ll be wearing your new purchase in a variety of situations, so it pays to give it a proper ‘test drive’ before you buy it.
When shortlisting options for your winter coat, ask yourself where and when you’re most likely to be wearing it. If you’re looking for something that you can throw over a 9-5 suit, a roomy overcoat is a smart choice.
If your working wardrobe is more casual and you’ll be wearing your coat with, say, jeans and trainers, consider a lightweight mac or a structured pea coat, which will convey casual cool without compromising on smartness.
The ubiquitous Puffa jacket, meanwhile, is a fail-safe, albeit resolutely casual option, for the urban commuter. Do your best to ensure it is fit for purpose.
An individual’s budget will determine whether the label is high-street or high-end, but don’t scrimp needlessly on an inferior quality item if you can afford to upgrade. Granted, the initial expenditure of a high-quality coat can sometimes be daunting but remember: you get what you pay for.
Think of a coat as an investment. A high quality coat lasts longer (often much, much longer) if you look after it properly. Better still, if you pick a style that is more classic than contemporary it will reward you with years’ of quality wear, season after season.
There’s a good reason that the classic menswear brands such as Burberry usually adhere to a tried-and-tested palette of grey, tan, navy and black when it comes to winter coats: they’ll always look good. Granted, they may not have the look-at-me appeal of, say, a Paisley print parka or a shiny silver down jacket, but they can be worn week after week, month after month; and, trust us, they’ll go with just about anything.
Once you’ve whittled down the options and, ultimately, chosen the single garment that will keep you warm while maintaining your cool, don’t forget about the little details that can elevate a coat from ordinary to extraordinary.
A collar with a wide cut? When turned up, it will protect you from the elements without making you look like you’re cold. A back belt? It will give you a slim silhouette and will allow the coat to drape off your waist, preventing a box-like look.
And then there are, of course, the accessories. Whether it’s a natty scarf, a dapper hat or even a snappy pair of trainers, you can use the rest of your wardrobe to personalise your look and stand out from the crowd – for all the right reasons.