Updated: Mar 21
For the man who spends winters in cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Boston, or Minneapolis, investing in a true overcoat is a must for a custom capsule wardrobe.
Getting to Know Overcoats
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. Overcoats are typically dark in appearance, using either navy or black dyes, and are known as the go-to-formalwear piece.
A high-quality overcoat is an essential part of any man’s wardrobe and may well be the biggest investment you make in a year, so you should be absolutely sure that you choose the style that is going to be fit for your particular purpose. Of course, a coat doesn’t just have to work well - it needs to look good, too. After figuring out when and where you want to wear your coat, the next thing to consider is your body shape to ensure it fits you in the most flattering way.
Why Quality Fabric is Essential for Your Overcoat
Since an overcoat is intended to be worn over a standard suit, it tends to feature a wider cut. Generally, an overcoat is constructed of high-quality wool fabrics that are designed to withstand harsh weather. Its original construction includes a single-breasted closure, notched collar, flap pockets, and a welt pocket at the chest.
When an overcoat is lighter in weight and intended for less extreme weather conditions, it is often called a topcoat. If it is heavier in weight, it is sometimes called a greatcoat.
The overcoat is minimal, and its simplicity is the reason that it pairs well with most suits. Because this coat is intended for more formal situations, a dark or neutral color may prove to be a more versatile investment.
Appreciating Modern and Classic Overcoat Styles
The single-breasted overcoat
The single-breasted overcoat is the simplest style of overcoat and therefore also the easiest to wear, and suitable for all body shapes and heights. Technically speaking, an overcoat should end below the knee with a single vent at the back (anything shorter should be referred to as a topcoat). However, these nuances are no longer strictly upheld, so look for styles that are cut to finish an inch or two above the knee.
Again, traditionally, a good overcoat should be in a heavier wool such as Melton, but if you would rather go for a more lightweight feel, fabrics such as cashmere or a fine merino can be extremely comfortable as well as very luxurious. Whatever the fabric, avoid going for something too fitted. It should still feel comfortable worn over a chunky knit or jacket. If you are narrow in the shoulders, look for slimmer lapels. When it comes to color, it is worth considering where and when you want to wear the piece. If you want to layer it over a suit, a more conservative darker shade, such as navy, is a great play, but if you are intending to wear it more casually, you can opt for something brighter or even a pattern such as a check. Shades of camel are extremely flattering.
The double-breasted overcoat
The double-breasted coat is the most formal design. As with suits and blazers, shorter men are often advised to avoid this style as it can be broader in cut and actually make you feel shorter. For the same reason, it can also make you look wider around the middle. To avoid this, always look for coats that are well-tailored so that the lapels and shoulders balance out your top half and give your body a flattering V-shaped silhouette.
Styles that are cut very low on the leg can swamp you. The classic trench coat is perhaps the most popular double-breasted style. Wear with the collar down for a smarter finish. This formal style works best with a suit and an extravagant silk tie. However, it is important to note that if you favor a double-breasted suit, you will be doubling the layers of fabric around your middle.
Longer coats, cut so that they finish mid-calf, are increasingly popular thanks to the fact that they are flattering, look equally good dressed up or down and, of course, keep you warm in the cold winter months. They work particularly well on a slimmer frame. But if you aren’t particularly tall, make sure that the coat doesn’t come too far down your calf; otherwise you may emphasise any lack of height. However, the vent should be long enough to make it easy to move your legs. The more tailored, the better this style will look as it should fit neatly over the shoulders. If it's too loose, it will look too much like a dressing gown.
Long coats work best worn with block colours in a similar shade, and it is best to avoid wider trousers so as to not draw attention down to your ankles.
The raglan-sleeved overcoat
The Raglan sleeve extends in one piece from the collar with a seam under the arm. Raglan sleeves can be found in a variety of styles, but look particularly good belted. Because the design is all about ease of movement under the coat, it is a style that is particularly comfortable and flattering for bigger builds. Additionally, they look particularly good when worn with gloves. The sleeves are often wider than on other styles of coats, so they should not be too short.
The Chesterfield is a full-length overcoat, sometimes with a black velvet collar, made to be worn with tailored clothing. Typically, it is single-breasted with a fly front, but it may also be double-breasted. Its name derives from its supposed first devotee, a member of the family of the Earls of Chesterfield.
The Bottom line
The overcoat represents the intersection of traditional clothing rules and the modern era of custom clothing. Therefore, we challenge you to be a pioneer. We have dozens of beautiful khan cashmeres to choose from, in every color from pearl grey to vicuna. For the man who prefers an expressive fabric, we offer a selection of plaids, houndstooths and checks to fit your personality perfectly. It’s an inevitable piece of a capsule wardrobe, and you should check out this guide on which other items you need to build it. If you want to learn even more about the wool overcoat by checking out our second post!
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