Updated: Mar 21
The classical overcoat, loose and slightly oversized, is a foundational concept that the majority of experts and sartorial enthusiasts agree upon.
In the previous piece in our series on overcoats, we introduced the classic wool overcoat and what the key considerations, fabrics and styles are for you as an investor. So, make sure to check it out if you haven't. In this post, we will provide education, lay out key styling considerations, and provide advice for ensuring your wool overcoat will be a good fit.
Overcoat Fitting Considerations and Styling
"Men’s style has never been more factionalized. Whereas men once agreed on what they thought were 'The Good Clothes,' today’s landscape is such that the ascendency of one look doesn’t necessarily displace another, comments Derek Guy, from Put This On.
"Ten years ago, men rallied around Americana and denim, then prep and Italian tailoring. Now with a million style tribes, it’s hard to coalesce excitement around any one thing. There are streetwear and tech wear, tailoring and normcore, the brutalist avant-garde and Japanese folk. Nothing is fully in or out."
As men’s style has evolved, both fashion-forward men and classical menswear connoisseurs have found understanding on how they perceive a coat should fit. Whereas traditional overcoats once seemed out-of-touch, modern shoulder-hugging coats now look to be out of date. Right now, a classic overcoat, is an ideal foundational garment to add to a wardrobe that everyone can agree upon.
The overcoat is so universally beloved due to its versatility. The overcoat is a very useful component of any wardrobe, especially today’s dressed-down world, as it is a good way of getting some benefits of tailoring without looking overly dressed up.
Overcoats are typically unstructured, so they don’t have the shoulder-defining look of a suit jacket, but they present face-framing advantages and the general sensibility of tailoring. With a suit, a long overcoat can convey charismatic and confident auras. With a chunky sweater and some jeans, an overcoat can provide a refined touch of sophistication to an otherwise casual look.
A Brief Overview of Overcoats
When it comes to wearing an overcoat or adding one to your wardrobe, there are a few general considerations to know and to internalize. Below, I summarize the elements that you need to be aware of:
First, you will wear your coat during the colder months, so it shouldn’t be cut too close to your body. It might end up looking uncomfortably tight when thick layers are added underneath.
Second, think about colour. The more formal the style, the better it will work in conservative shades such as black, navy and grey. If you are in the market for something more daring, consider the more casual styles, such as a peacoat or a duffle.
Third, remember off-the-peg coats, like off-the-peg suits, won’t always fit that well, particularly the sleeves. Ideally these should end just after your wrist bone, so you can see the entirety of your hand.
Tactical Advice for Customized Fitting
Here are some basic priorities keep in mind when selecting your overcoat:
Shoulders: Even though your overcoat will go over a suit jacket or sport coat/blazer, you still want the shoulder seams of the coat to end where your shoulders end. If the shoulders are too tight or loose, they will be very hard to fix. You should not see divots or wrinkles in the shoulders, as well. If nothing else, the coat’s shoulders should fit perfectly.
Sleeves: With your arms straight down and your wrists bent so your palms are facing the ground, the sleeves should dab the top of your hand. This is the length you want with any coat, as it will cover anything you’re wearing underneath.
Body: When buttoned, the coat should not be roomy; it is close enough to your body, but should not not feel constricting on your chest or midsection when wearing it over a suit or blazer.
Lapel Width: For overcoats, the lapels are pretty standard width, so this is a non-issue.
A good overcoat can also be a versatile component in your custom capsule wardrobe. It’s something you can wear to delightful parties and special dinner outings, but also be a practical piece for running errands. It folds up well and can be a travel companion. Here are some advanced tips to ensure that you have the right overcoat experience for any setting, casual or formal.
Understand Garment Length - traditionally, overcoat should fall under the knee, but if you’re a shorter man, always opt for a knee-length or slightly shorter overcoat. This will help to lengthen the torso and create height. If you’re a taller man, opt for an overcoat with knee-length or slightly longer.
Choose the Perfect Fabric - the fabric determines the lifespan of an overcoat. Always opt for natural fibers like cashmere or wool, or alpaca, a more durable material. An overcoat made with 100% wool is the best option because it’s heavy, not too expensive, water-resistant, and it keeps you warm.
Pick the Optimal Weight Based on Climate - after you’ve chosen the fabric, remember that the weight of the fabric is just as important. Look for heavy fabrics in an overcoat because they don’t show wrinkles easily, and they will keep you warmer. Here's a good barometer - an overcoat with 17-20 ounces (or 480-570 grams) works well for New York winter.
Fit to Flatter - The best-looking overcoat is the one that fits you the most. Ideally, have enough room on your overcoat if you are going to wear a few layers underneath. If it is just a single layer underneath, make sure the coat fits you in the most flattering way and it is not over baggy.
Focus on Sleeve Length - the sleeves should be long enough to cover your shirt’s cufflinks but not so long that it makes you look like you’re stealing someone’s coat. Unlike a regular office suit, we should not show shirt cuffs after wearing an overcoat. Your overcoat should reach all the way down to the beginning of your thumb and cover your entire jacket so that no cold air will hit your body.
Invest in Quality Tailoring - prioritize quality over price for your best return on investment. A good quality overcoat can last longer and save you the time and money of having to buy it again every winter.
Understand Single-breasted vs. Double-breasted - the single-breasted overcoat is the norm, but the market now has the double-breasted option. Double-breasted is expected to be warmer because they have two layers of fabric on top of each other versus the one layer of a single-breasted.
Consider Coloration and Intonation - In addition to the standard black or dark grey, try to consider other colors like beige, camel, or maybe light grey. It will create some color contrast with your dark suit and make your style more stunning.
Avoid Fashion Taboos - Overcoat and workout attire are not friends - don't wear the overcoat with jogger pants or gym tank top.
Integrate Tasteful Accessories - we can wear several finishing accessories with an overcoat. For example, a scarf can be worn to alleviate your outfit and provide extra warmth when the winter days get harsh, dress leather gloves are a wise compliment for commuters, and wristwatches dazzle nicely underneath the sleeve of your overcoat.
How to Incorporate Style like a Fashion Expert
Shoulders: The first is what’s known as a set-in sleeve, which means the sleeves are inserted into the armhole, as you’d find on your dress shirts. These will leave a shoulder seam at the end of your shoulder bone. We know the second treatment as raglan, which means the sleeve runs continuously up your arm and then shoulder.
When shopping for a coat, pay attention to how these different sleeve and shoulder treatments affect the silhouette. A set-in sleeve will give you a relatively stronger, T-shaped figure because the shoulder seams help define your shoulder joints. A raglan sleeve coat will typically be rounder and more relaxed looking. Raglan sleeved coats are often easier to fit since you don’t have to be as precise about the shoulder seam.
Silhouette: For a classic silhouette, get something that ends at about your knees. A trimmer topcoat that’s mid-thigh will look younger and more modern.
Balance: In tailoring, balance refers to how a coat hangs off your shoulders. The most important aspect is what’s known as the “front-back balance,” which is the relation of the front of your hem to the back. You want to think of this like a finely tuned measuring scale. When viewed from the side, the front of your hem should be even or slightly lower than the back. If it rides up, the coat doesn't fit and will be expensive to alter. Balance is especially important for overcoats, as small distortions can become glaringly obvious.
Collar: Not all collars can be worn up – a lot depends on the material and cut – but see how a coat looks when you pop the collar from the back. Doing so can be an acceptable way to help frame your face.
Single Open, Double Closed: Some coats simply look better when worn open. If you live in a freezing environment and think you’ll often have to fasten your jacket, check out how it looks both ways.
The Bottom Line
We hope that after reading these posts on the classic overcoat, you feel like an expert on how to find the right piece for you. Soon enough, you’ll be keeping warm in style!
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