By design, an overcoat is meant to be worn over a suit jacket or a sport coat and because of that, it’s usually a little wider. Of course, you can also decide not to wear it with a jacket and simply get the trimmer silhouette, but it pays to keep in mind what you want to wear it with so you get the right fit.
Things To Consider Before Buying An Overcoat
Bespoke vs Off The Rack
Obviously, a bespoke overcoat is awesome because you can pick the fabric, you could pick the details, and the fit is going to be sublime. The problem is, a true custom garment is always very expensive and so I’d say good luck finding one for under two thousand dollars, however, if you look at all the garments out there, I believe that the overcoat is the one that you least likely have to make bespoke simply because it’s made of a heavier fabric that tends to drape better and hide your flaws more easily and therefore you end up with a better garment.
For example, my right shoulder is about two inches lower than my left one and if I wear a suit jacket or a sport coat, you can definitely see wrinkles especially in the back and in front. Now with an overcoat, you can either see fewer wrinkles or if the fabric is really heavy, you can’t see any wrinkles at all. So if you opt for a heavy fabric, I don’t think you need to go with a bespoke overcoat.
First of all, you want to make sure it has the proper shoulder width. If you look at our guide on how a suit should fit, you learn that the shoulder seam should be slightly extended from your shoulder bone. Because you wear the overcoat on top of a jacket, it should be even further extended but not by too much otherwise, you’ll get ugly wrinkles here and it just looks like a football player.
When it comes to overcoat sleeves, you should pay attention to those two things. First of all, you want enough width in the sleeve especially on top because you’re wearing something underneath a bit such as a sweater or a jacket and so you need extra room. Avoid a sleeve that is too tight and I know the current fashion is to go with something that’s really trim, however, it will impact your range of movement and the comfort when you wear it.
The second thing to consider is the sleeve length. Unlike a suit jacket or a sport coat, you don’t want to show anything of your shirt cuff or your jacket sleeve. Ideally, you want the sleeve to end at the beginning of your thumb. If it’s too long, it looks like the overcoat came from your older brother.
If it’s too short, it simply helps cold air to get in and you don’t want that. Ideally, the torso of your overcoat should be fitted like an hourglass shape which means broad on the top, slightly accentuated in your waist, and then broader again. It is just a very masculine shape, it accentuates your V, and it’s very attractive.
So if you buy an overcoat, make sure you wear the same layers you will, later on, otherwise, you may end up with something that is too tight. If you button your coat and you see X wrinkles, it’s a clear indicator that it’s too tight. If you see vertical folds, it means there’s too much fabric and you should find something that is trimmer. Of course, always keep in mind that you can also go to your alterations tailor.
If you’re able to grab more than a few inches of fabric around your torso, it’s simply too much. One option to achieve a visually slimmer waist is to go with a belt because you can really tighten it more than without one. No matter how the overcoat fits you off the rack, chances are it will look even better if you have it tailored. So when you buy a new overcoat, reserve about a hundred- hundred fifty dollars for alterations.
Traditionally, different overcoat styles were inspired by horseback riding or the military, they have very specific details. Today, those details are very convoluted and so you end up with a coat that is very fashionable but out of style in two or three years, avoid buying that.
Length is very important for overcoats because it really changes the entire look of the garment. Ideally, you want something that is about knee length or slightly longer because it keeps you warm, it looks very proportional, that being said, if you’re a little shorter, a slightly shorter overcoat will make you look taller. At the same time, it’s an overall more fashionable stylish and younger look.
All overcoats should have a button closure because that’s the classic way. Stay away from zippers, those are better for other kinds of jackets. If you go with the duffle coat, toggles are permissible as well.
Unfortunately, most overcoats today are single-breasted, however, if you think about it, a double-breasted overcoat is much better during the winter because it provides two layers of fabric over your chest rather than one. So if you live in a place where winters get really cold, I suggest you go with a double-breasted overcoat rather than a single breasted.
Ideally, you want something that is a hundred percent natural such as wool or cashmere maybe alpaca or if money is no object, maybe vicuna. Sometimes you can also find blends like 90 percent wool and ten percent cashmere and that’s great. Try to stay clear of polyester blends or nylon blends and things like fleece or puffy down jackets, because that’s just not meant for a classic men’s overcoat.
In terms of color, if you want something versatile, Navy or blue tones are probably best, gray can work as well, as well as brown and tan tones. In my opinion, it’s best to go with a fabric that has multiple different colors because that way, it’s easier to combine.
Also, an overcoat should always have a large-scale pattern so it contrasts with your suit and jacket patterns as well your accessory or scarf patterns. Classic overcoat patterns include maybe a Glenn Check or Prince of Wales check that is oversized, windowpane, most importantly, herringbone.
Five, pay attention to the construction of the overcoat. Just like with suits, lower end models feature a glued canvas which won’t last as long and you always want to go with a floating or sewn canvas .
Skip Department Stores
If you want a stylish overcoat, skip department stores and go with traditional haberdashers or sources that specialize in good overcoats. I think places like Al Bazar in Milan have very stylish unique overcoats, the problem is, they’re usually meant for milder climates.
If you live in a colder climate, try to go with a British overcoat because for some reason, they get the mixture between a heavy fabric, a stylish look, and interesting details just right.
Be On The Look Out For Overcoats Year Round
During the summer season, most people won’t ever think about buying an overcoat but if you spot one, you can usually get it at a huge discount. For example, my herringbone Donegal tweed overcoat came from a flea market in Dresden which I bought when it was a hundred degrees outside or about 38 degrees Celsius. Because no one else was interested, I got it for five bucks. It was in perfect shape, it’s made of a heavy fabric, it drapes well, it always looks dapper, and I get lots of compliments for it. If I go to a store, a similar overcoat would cost me at least a thousand dollars.
Personally, the vast majority of my overcoats are all vintage because I like the heavier fabrics. I like the difference in the weaves and they usually drape extremely well. They’re different than what other people wear, they have those classic details, they have little buttons in the back of the vent so I can really stay warm when it’s windy and cold outside, and overall, it’s just a different look.
If you find yourself in Great Britain, definitely make sure to stop by at vintage stores or alternatively, you can go to eBay.co.uk and search for vintage overcoats. Most of the sellers ship worldwide and so you can find a piece that really suits your style on a budget.
So last but not least, let me urge you that weight is really important for an overcoat. Today, 18 or 19 ounces is something that’s considered an overcoat weight. Back in the day, you’d have to look for 28 or 30-ounce fabrics. Most companies don’t offer those heavy fabrics anymore and that’s the reason I really love vintage.
Great Overcoat Styles For The Classic Gent
I believe if you choose from one of the following five, you will have something that will always look stylish and stand out from the crowd.
The first overcoat is a Chesterfield. It’s named after George Stanhope the 6th Earl of Chesterfield and it’s a traditionally single-breasted garment with very short lapels, it comes in a dark color and it’s great if you don’t want to have too much emphasis on the overcoat and if you like for example, business outfits and you just want something that’s not over the top. It has a very clean simple silhouette, a center-back vent, and no belt.
2. Covert Coat
Sometimes also referred to as cover coat. It is a style that first appeared in the late 19th century and originally was meant for horseback riding but by 1890, it was adopted by the masses. It’s a short overcoat, it’s usually about 34 inches long but definitely above the knee. It’s made of a special covered cloth and it usually comes in greenish or fawn tones and it’s always a mottled yarn that is very rugged.
It also features a huge poacher pocket which originally was meant for game when you went hunting. In this day and age, if you go to the city, you can maybe put your newspaper in there or your iPad. Sometimes, covert coats also have decorative stitching or a velvet collar.
Even though it sounds very French, originally, it was derived from the Roman word pala which meant as much as a greatcoat. In the 18th century, the Spanish came up with a palletoque and it was likewise an overcoat. Today, the word paletot is used to describe a classic double-breasted overcoat with peak lapels that have no belts. It usually comes in colors of navy or charcoal or something else in dark because it’s very business appropriate and you can also use it as an evening overcoat.
If you have an office job and you just want one overcoat that you can wear with the most possible occasions, I suggest going with a Navy paletot. Personally, I have a vintage paletot with a black velvet collar and a wonderful fabric that is consisted of black, blue, and gray yarns and because of that, I can easily combine it with any kind of business suit.
Ulster is named after the Irish province of Ulster. It is usually a long roomy Donegal tweed overcoat and because of that, it’s perfect for people who don’t have to wear formal suits but wants something that is stylish and keeps them warm. If a paletot is too formal, I think this would be a great first overcoat. It’s always double-breasted and comes with usually six or eight buttons, it comes with country details such as patch pockets on the side, cuffs, sometimes a seam on the outside of the sleeve, most importantly, the so-called Ulster collar.
It’s something in between a peak lapel and a notched lapel, with the lapels being very wide and the collar coming all the way out that’s being able to flip it up easily and keeping you warm. It usually also comes with a 1/2 belt in the back which is just very elegant and stylish.
5. Polo Coat
The Polo coat is very similar to an Ulster overcoat, however, it has a tan color and it’s usually made out of a camel hair, it’s very hard to find, sometimes Brook Brothers or Ralph Lauren carry them. It’s a very stylish and elegant coat that’s also double-breasted, has the patch pockets, and it used to be worn by polo players during the chuckers to keep them warm. Today, it’s just worn as a very stylish Ivy League garment that really ups any outfit.
What do you look for in a great overcoat? Which among the five mentioned above do you have? Share your thoughts below!