Updated: May 27
Any capsule wardrobe needs a versatile overcoat. Here's some more advice on finding the perfect investment piece.
Getting to Know Foundational Outerwear Garments
In our last post, we went over the basics of topcoats and overcoats. Let’s dig a bit deeper now. Outerwear pieces are complex for a number of reasons. For one, climate plays a large role in not only the style of coat that is most-appropriate, but also in the material used in the construction. In addition, the color of the outerwear piece you wear is heavily dependent upon the color scheme of the outfit you are wearing underneath. And lastly, a man must consider the social or business occasion he is attending before choosing the proper outerwear piece.
For men who live in the Midwest and Northeast, the range in temperature between the months of October and April call for you to own a car coat, topcoat, and also an overcoat. In fact, temperatures can range as much as 40 degrees from mid-day to night, so the last thing you want to do is be caught with a jacket that isn't unsuitable for the weather.
Overcoats are typically dark in appearance, using either navy or black dyes, and are known as the go-to-formalwear piece. If you’re a sartorial enthusiast, we recommend treating yourself to a cashmere Chesterfield jacket. You will be sure to rake in compliments as you make a statement, even before taking off your coat.
Building a Foundational Wardrobe of Outerwear
It would be wise to keep a car coat for casual occasions where the temperatures are between 40 and 55 degrees. Regardless of whether you live in Northern California, or Upstate New York, you will find a need for this piece. Car coats are meant to be long enough to cover your waist and part of your seat. They ideally are paired with a pair of jeans, or cotton chinos; never a suit or sport coat. Wearing an overcoat under these circumstances would not only be uncomfortable, but it would make you look out of place.
And we want to ensure you always look properly dressed; no matter the occasion. As you build your wardrobe, a mid-grey car coat constructed of a wool flannel, whipcord or twill is appropriate. It's color is versatile to be worn with both black or blue pants. Details included for this starter piece are a popped or stand up collar, a front-zip closure, and button panel closure. As you begin to elevate your sense of style, you can compliment the mi-grey coat with a denim-blue, or branch out into something double breasted.
Breaking Down Essential Seasonal Outerwear
Arguably the most important piece of outerwear in a man's wardrobe is the modern topcoat. Their versatility alone makes them a piece worth investing in. Topcoats can be comfortably worn to temperatures as low as 20 degrees, or as high as 55 degrees with a light sweater.
The ideal topcoat is functional to be worn with casual denim, a sport coat outfit, or a full business suit. Lapel styles and pocket decisions can be made based on your preference.
For those who don't currently own a topcoat they feel proud wearing, a charcoal solid material made from 100% wool is a great choice. Charcoal is resilient when dealing with snow, sleet or dirt, and a wool garment provides durability and warmth. Notch lapels are current without being too flashy, and vertical slash pockets provide an easy spot for you to pace your hands when you become cool.
For the more fashion-forward man, perhaps you should more progressive color, such as camel hair or ash grey, and accentuate the look with patch pockets and peak lapels.
Why Outerwear Adds Versatility to Your Wardrobe
Like the chambray shirt or the classic tweed blazer, the topcoat is one of those items that can be dressed up or down in a variety of different ways. It is a reliable piece that instantly elevates any outfit – even something as simple as a grey crewneck sweater and classic blue denim. It is absolutely wearable in both casual and formal situations.
Your topcoat can look great with your other favorite style staples, whether they are a pair of classic leather sneakers, burgundy corduroys and a henley, or something a little more formal and office-ready. The great part about cold-weather layering is that using a strong silhouette – like the topcoat – can really pull an outfit together.
Winter can be a bleak time for everyone, but that’s no excuse to let your topcoat look just as dreary. You have a great opportunity to liven up your look by adding some color and texture to your outerwear. For example, you can rejuvenate your surroundings with an olive green, turn heads with a pepper blue, and use eye-catching patterns like herringbone to keep winter interesting.
The Importance of Investing in High Quality Materials
Like finding the right partner in a significant other, the right topcoat is a relationship that you’ll have for many years to come. It is imperative that you choose wisely. When you’re looking for the right, look for natural fabrics that look both sophisticated and durable - this will ensure that your topcoat will both insulate well and age gracefully. The right topcoat should promise maximum versatility - a 100% wool, wool-cashmere blend, or camel hair is the way to go. These nature yarns drape well and are woven to endure years of faithful wear.
Choosing Outerwear for Performance and Convenience
Opt for a timeless design that will resonate with your style for years to come and won’t turn heads for the wrong reasons. A single-breasted style with three buttons and notched lapels is always a great choice. A double-breasted topcoat version is also an option if single-breasted is too tame for your tastes and has the added benefit of a bit more fabric for some extra warmth in the torso.
For the businessman who spends his winters in cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Boston, or Minneapolis, a true overcoat is a must to survive the harsh winters. The length of these outerwear pieces, alone, make them more favorable for withstanding wind.
Contrary to public opinion, a true cashmere (or at the very least, a cashmere and wool blend) coat provides the greatest amount of heat and insulation in cold temperatures. Double breasted styles and Chesterfield jackets with a velvet collar are popular among overcoats, and provide an added layer of protection from the elements.
The Bottom Line
The topcoat is an essential item for a capsule wardrobe. Make sure to check out our How to Build An Essential Capsule Wardrobe series to learn about all the other items you need to create the perfect and most versatile wardrobe.
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