Now, many will say why is “Winter Coming”? It’s already freezing here in the UK, well technically Winter does not officially start until 21st December. So, given that Autumn already has us bracing for a chilly winter, it’s time to talk about an essential part of any man’s wardrobe and maybe the biggest ashion investment you make in a year, the winter coat. Given the scale of the potential investment, you should be sure that you choose the style that is going to be fit for your particular purpose. Now, of course, a coat doesn’t just have to work well, it needs to look good, too. After working out when and where you want to wear your coat, COVID restrictions willing, the next thing is to consider is your body shape to ensure your coat fits you in the most flattering way possible.
Now irrespective of how you describe your body shape as pear, apple, inverted triangle or endomorph. It’s more impactful to give you some simplified rules and not give you a high school PE lesson.
Think function first
The choices may seem daunting, but in reality, the rules are simple. Just think FFS – function, fabric and silhouette – when considering which coat is right for you.
The function is the most straightforward, if only because the right coat should look as good over a suit as worn with a pair of jeans, though in reality, you will want to decide whether you are primarily thinking business or pleasure. You might also want to consider what you’re wearing more generally, and how to dress to your body type.
Pick your fabric
Having established the function, your choice of fabric, including colour and pattern, will naturally follow. So, if you want it to be waterproof, you might want to consider something lighter in weight. Cashmere is more luxurious but potentially less robust, so if you wear your coat with a backpack, the straps might cause bobbling on the shoulders. Darker colours such as black and navy are more adaptable, but the camel is always smart, too. 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, you should consider the more casual styles, such as a peacoat or a duffle.
Consider the silhouette
Finally, the silhouette. You want a coat to be long enough to comfortably cover the bottom of a suit jacket but not so long that you look like you might be on wheels. The belted option may appear bulkier than a single-breasted coat that finishes below the knee. Do you tend to fill your pockets? (Remember that loose keys and change may well, over time, create holes in the lining.) Finally, you may be looking for a slim fit coat but it is worth bearing in mind that as a coat will be worn over other clothes, you probably don’t want something too fitted. You will be wearing 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.
Choose an investment piece
At the end of the day, the function of a coat is not to get you papped by street-style photographers, or earn the respect of your friends and acquaintances, but to keep you safe and protected from the howling winds of winter. So, when considering what coat to wear you need to choose types of outerwear that will last. Few things do this better, and more stylishly than a parka. A shearling coat is certainly something of a statement, but it’s one that’s showing no sign of moving off the style agenda. You can pick one up safe in the knowledge that you’ll both be extremely cosy and at the forefront of style for seasons to come. For longevity’s sake, it’s best to err on the classic side. The tried-and-tested style of camel-coloured coat will do you well for decades, whether you’re throwing it on at the weekend, or wearing it over a pinstripe suit in a power-lunching, Wall Street kind of way. That’s a lot of great choices, we know. But once you know which coats fit your body type, you may want to consider investing in more than one of them.
Check coat-sleeve length
Bear in mind that off-the-peg coats, like off-the-peg suits, won’t always fit perfectly straight from, well, the peg, particularly in the sleeves. Ideally, these should end just after your wrist bone, so you can see the entirety of your hand. Anything longer and your coat will start to look like a hand-me-down.
The single-breasted overcoat
This is the simplest style of coat 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 – any shorter and it should be referred to as a topcoat – but such sartorial niceties 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 heavier wool such as Melton, but if you would rather go for a more lightweight feel, fabrics such as cashmere or 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 the chunkiest knit or jacket. If you are narrow in the shoulders, look for slimmer lapels.
When it comes to colour, the choice is yours, but it is worth considering where and when you want to wear the piece. If you want to layer it over a suit, go for a more conservative darker shade, such as navy, as this will be more adaptable, 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. For a smart but casual look, try pairing it with a fine-gauge roll neck in a contrasting colour and slim-fitting wool trousers.
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. Being belted means it can be tricky if you are chunkier around the middle as it can draw attention to this, particularly in lighter colours and fabrics, so look for slightly heavier pieces in navy or black as these will be more flattering. Wear with the collar down for a smarter finish. This formal style works best with a suit and an extravagant silk tie. Be aware, however, that if you favour a double-breasted suit, you will be doubling the layers of fabric around your middle.
The long coat
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 depths of winter. They work particularly well on a slimmer frame. If you are tall, the long coat is a great option for your body type.
However, if you aren’t tall make sure the coat doesn’t come too far down your calf, otherwise you may emphasise any lack of height. The more tailored, the better this style will look as it should fit neatly over the shoulders – too loose and you risk looking like you are wearing a dressing gown. The vent should be long enough to make it easy to move your legs. Long coats work best worn with block colours in a similar shade. Avoid wider trousers as these will 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. It is said to have been designed for Lord Raglan after he lost his arm at the Battle of Waterloo, and allowed him to use his sword arm. Raglan sleeves can be found on 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. The sleeves are often wider than on other styles of coats, so should not be too short. They look particularly good when worn with gloves.
The duffle was originally designed as military-wear, in particular the navy, and owes its popularity among students in the 1960s to a surfeit of them in army surplus stores. It is perhaps the most casual of coat styles, with a hood, buttoned neck strap, patch pockets, wood or horn toggles attached through leather or rope loops and usually ending just above the knee.
Fit-wise, think about what you are intending to wear under it and allow the necessary space so that it doesn’t restrict you when it is done up. This isn’t supposed to be a tailored style, so it is perfect for hiding wider middles or if you prefer, a good coat for pear-shaped body types. Colour-wise, the duffle is very flexible. Camel is a popular choice, but lighter shades of blue and green work very well, too. This coat looks good with jeans or cords, and chunky boots. And if you’re wondering what goes with a denim jacket, try layering the duffle with the jacket underneath. Chunky scarves work well, too.