16 Overcoat DO's & DON'Ts

16 Overcoat DO’s & DON’Ts

Wearing an overcoat during the colder months of the year does not necessarily mean BORING. You can still look elegant in your winter wear if you just follow these simple do’s and dont’s to rocking an overcoat.

Do’s & Dont’s To Stay Stylish & Warm In An Overcoat

Want to learn the difference between an overcoat, a topcoat or a greatcoat? Please check out this guide.

Green triple checked overcoat with fur collar, dark suit, 90s tie and white shirt with flat cap and clear glasses

Green triple checked overcoat with fur collar, dark suit, 90s tie and white shirt with flat cap and clear glasses

1. Avoid Black Boring Overcoats

Don’t just buy the same black dull overcoat that every other man out there has. Black, in my opinion, is quite overrated especially for overcoats because it shows every little hair and dust speck and you just blend in.

At the same time, an overcoat gives you the opportunity to stand out from the crowd, and so I urge you to consider other colors such as brown, tan, maybe different color mixes.

Avoid super long overcoats

Avoid overcoats that go below the knee

2. Opt For Knee Length Overcoats

Traditionally, it’s a very classic look that won’t go out of style anytime soon. If you go to the department store these days, you will find lots of shorter overcoats because that’s the current fashion, at the same time, it won’t stand the test of time, and it makes you colder.

The proper overcoat length can be very flattering to your look, and it should be proportional to your height. If you’re a shorter man, go with something that is knee length or slightly shorter. If you’re a taller man, go with something knee length or slightly longer. If you’re of regular height, just go with something around knee length. If you watch old movies, you can sometimes see men wearing overcoats that reach all the way down to the ankle, and while that keeps you warmer, it has a very stodgy old world look, and in my opinion, it makes you look less attractive.

Material composition label on an overcoat

Material composition label on an overcoat

3. Go For 100% Natural Overcoat Materials

Unfortunately, even expensive overcoats these days are often blended because it makes the fabric less costly and thus more affordable or increases the profit margins of the manufacturer. While polyester nylon fibers can make a garment more durable, they’re not as insulating as natural fibers such as cashmere, or wool, or alpaca, and because of that, I’d stay clear of them. They also don’t age as well and so 100% natural materials will always be your best bet.

Personally, I’m a huge fan a 100% wool for overcoats because it’s heavy, not too expensive, it doesn’t absorb water, and it keeps me warm. Cashmere is really lovely and soft to the touch, however, for overcoats, it’s too lightweight, and so I find it not to be warm enough for the colder days of the year.

Sven Raphael Schneider's Tweed overcoat

Sven Raphael Schneider’s Tweed overcoat

4. Avoid Zippers At All Costs

Yes, you can see them in ski jackets and functional jackets but an overcoat is a classic garment that is stylish, and as such, you’d go with buttons. In case you go with a duffle coat, you can also have wooden toggles.

Classic Double Breasted Herringbone Overcoat with dark scarf

Classic Double Breasted Herringbone Overcoat with dark scarf

5. Stand Out In Double-Breasted Overcoats

Yes, it’s true that single-breasted coats are the norm out there but double breasted ones make you stand out from the crowd and on top of that, they keep you warmer because they have two layers of fabric on top of each other versus a single-breasted, it just has one layer and it’s buttoned in the middle.

If you opt for a double-breasted overcoat, make sure it has peak lapels because that’s a classic style or an Ulster collar which is also appropriate for DB overcoats. Stay away from notch lapels in double-breasted overcoats because it makes it look like from the 80s and it’s just historically incorrect.

The hat makes you stand out even more

A hat makes you stand out even more

6. Don’t Forget The Hat

An overcoat is excellent when worn with a hat because it keeps you warmer and because it’s a classic garment, it is stylish, a hat always works well together. For a darker, more formal overcoat, a fedora is an ideal choice. Alternatively, you can also go with a Homburg hat. If you want to be a little more casual, I suggest you go with a flat cap or a newsboy cap, and if you need to be really warm, you can opt for something that covers your ears such as maybe a sheepskin hat.

Personally, I live in Minnesota where the winters get really cold, but fortunately, I haven’t had to resort to those kinds of hats yet.

7. Boutonnieres & Pocket Squares Are Your Friends

If your overcoat has a buttonhole on a lapel, you should wear a boutonniere because it’s very stylish. If your lapels have buttonholes on either side, always wear it on your left. If your overcoat has a chest pocket, you can also wear a pocket square. Ideally, only if it’s a traditional chest pocket, and not if it is flapped.

Leave enough room in your overcoat

Leave enough room in your overcoat

8. Baggy Overcoats Make You Look Unattractive

First of all, determine how you want to wear your overcoat. If you do want to wear a jacket underneath, make sure you have enough room in your overcoat. Ideally, bring a jacket when you try them on and make sure you have enough space in the shoulder area and the upper arm in your sleeve.

Otherwise, you can end up with a large coat in the torso that is just too tight in the sleeves, and that limits the range of movement. Otherwise, regarding fit, the same principles apply as they do in jackets so I urge you to check out our guide on how a suit should fit.

An interesting weave - can be combined wit blue, black, brown, and gray

An interesting weave – can be combined with blue, black, brown, and gray

9. Look For Striking Yet Classic Details

No, I don’t want you to wear bright orange reflective overcoats. However, I urge you to consider maybe an exciting weave in the fabric; it’s super versatile because you can wear all kinds of suits. Alternatively, you could also go with a bold pattern, a classic would be a herringbone, and they can be oversized, don’t get something that is too small, you can wear it for a suit but not for overcoats. You can also go with epaulets, angle pockets, maybe cuffs, or whatever you like. They’re all classic details, and it’s just fun to play with them on an overcoat.

Looks silly doesn't it?

Looks silly, doesn’t it?

10. Avoid Overcoat Trends

Don’t buy overcoats that combine the styles of different overcoats because they will look dated very quickly. Designers often want to add a little twist to their overcoat, and so they start mixing patterns and details from traditional overcoats. Most of the time, they look just weird.

For example, if you have a trench coat, it should be made out of a cotton gabardine. If you start making it in a wool fabric or leather, the look is just very unadvantageous, and it makes you look like someone from the 80s or 90s.

Red Tweed overcoat

Red Tweed overcoat

11. Do Invest in a Good-Quality Overcoat

Don’t be afraid to invest a little money in a good-quality overcoat because it’s something that will last you longer than a suit most of the time and you also have to buy fewer of them. It’s going to be a lasting investment, and you really want to find something that drapes well and flatters you because you can combine it with your entire wardrobe.

Ulster inspired overcoats with fur shawl collars for men paired with silk scarves from 1937

Ulster inspired overcoats with fur shawl collars for men paired with silk scarves from 1937

12. Don’t Be Afraid To Go Vintage

Personally, I love vintage overcoats because they have heavier fabrics that drape really well and on top of that, they have interesting color combinations. In fact, most of the overcoats in my collection are vintage, and I always get compliments when I wear them so wherever you are, keep your eyes open.

Jeans with hat, overcoat and long scarf by High Snobiety

Jeans with hat, overcoat and long scarf by High Snobiety

13. Overcoats & Casual Attire Don’t Mix

If you want to wear your sweatpants, maybe go with a quilted jacket or a hoodie and leave the overcoat at home. Mixing those two elements just show “Oh I want to dress up, but at the same time I don’t,” and it just makes you look odd. The same is true for accessories such as baseball hats; they simply wouldn’t go with an overcoat.

Ralph Lauren Sherling Overcoat & Olive Green Windowpane Suit

Ralph Lauren Sherling Overcoat & Olive Green Windowpane Suit

14. The Heavier The Overcoat, The Better

Do look for heavy fabrics in an overcoat because they’re much more forgiving, they don’t show wrinkles as easily, and they’ll keep you warm. Today, fabric with 14 – 19 ounces or 420 – 570 grams is considered to be heavy. Back in the day, that was almost a lightweight overcoat, and typically you could find some in 28 – 30 ounces or 850 – 900 grams.

Fortunately, the cloth finishing today is much better, so fabrics are softer which is nice but that doesn’t help you if you don’t stay warm when it’s really windy and cold outside. If you pick up an overcoat, it has to feel substantial and heavy; if it doesn’t, I suggest you leave it behind.

For the same reason, I’m not a huge fan of cashmere overcoats because, in 98% of its time, they’re just a too lightweight and know there’s a substantial version out there I think from Loro Piana and if you can find that it might work out but of course, it also depends on what kind of climate you live.

Proper Sleeve length

Proper Sleeve length of an overcoat

15. Don’t Show Cuffs On An Overcoat

With regular suit jackets or sport coats, most men want to show a little bit of their shirt cuff. With an overcoat, that’s not the case; you want it to reach all the way down to the beginning of your thumb, that way, it covers your entire jacket it gives a little room to move without letting in the cold air.

At the same time, you don’t want the overcoat sleeve to cover your thumb. Otherwise, it looks too long and like something you just borrowed from your older brother.

16. Do Look For The Little Button In The Vent Area

When it’s very windy, you can just close it and stay warmer that way. If you have a long vent and you don’t have a button, an alterations tailor may be able to add a hidden buttonhole as well as a button so you can apply that.

17. BONUS TIP: Stand Out Even More With Classic Accessories

If you wear an overcoat, try to add classic accessories such as a scarf or gloves. Sometimes if you live in a very mild climate, that may not be necessary, but most of the time, you want them. Opt for dress leather gloves, not your ski gloves, and go with lovely cashmere or wool or alpaca scarves that keep you warm and stylish.



In your opinion, what makes an overcoat stand out? Drop a comment below!

16 Overcoat DO's & DON'Ts
Article Name
16 Overcoat DO's & DON'Ts
Learn how you can stand out from the crowd when wearing overcoats; do's & don'ts & how to combine them the dapper way.
Gentleman's Gazette LLC
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24 replies
  1. Dr. M.J . Farooqui says:

    Correct fit and appropriate drop. I an for the longer than knee overcoat as they are elegant even though a but old fashioned. Inclass all by itself.

    • arthur bonnet says:

      Consider also a below the knee Austrian or German made loden overcoat. They are excellent value, so warm, great styling and last forever. Best colours are the traditional green, dark blue or charcoal. More rare is the camel colour.

      • JOHN BROWNING says:

        got to agree with Arthur…I picked up a Salko (Austrian) overcoat that has a very plain (almost cape- like) cut, with hidden buttons. It is medium weight Alpaca in the traditional Loden.
        Loden is a great choice because it is not only a very natural green colour (they boil the fabric in Pine needles!) but in addition they brush the material to give it a shower proof finish…excellent for wet wintry days or walking out into the snow.

    • Matt D says:

      Right. Poirot’s primary offense is a going overkill on gray, not the length. Can be a bit of pain getting in & out of the car and some cloak rooms may leave you dragging on the floor a bit. My experience ( having grown up in Chicago ) is they can “wick up” sidewalk slush and become quite heavy. That and they’ll require dry cleaning more often and due to size and length, are not cheap.

      Being the Windy City, gusts can get under them and the garment may wind up more behind you than ON you. Just a few observations.

  2. Edward K. Jellytoes says:

    And we have another WINNER !

    I do however prefer an overcoat to extend 2-3 inches below the knee except for the shortest men — say less than 5’6″.

    Shawl collars of fur usually look best with a fedora…otherwise omit the shawl-collar and wear the hat of your choice.

  3. Rico says:

    As the days go from cool to cold and wet, I channel my inner “Boggie” with the aid of my classic trench coat and Fedora. A solid pair of leather gloves and it’s “here’s looking at you, kid.”
    Happy Dapper holidays!

    • Matt D says:

      And there’s nothing like the tension of a roomful of people just waiting to hear you say it!? I have to agree w/ SRS, mixing it casual nearly always results in epic fail. Throwing one on to check the mail or run garbage cans to the curb is fine but beyond that?

      And holes in jeans don’t ‘work’ for anyone. Let alone those of us graying…

      • Michael says:

        Holes in the jeans. Laugh. The sight of that ‘gent’ approaching my car, (stopped in traffic)…..clunk go the door-locks. Sorry, I have no small change today.

  4. Mark in OZ says:

    Overcoat, nothing like owning a good one . Mine is by Crombie one of a few great great brands from GB , a good choice in pure wool or cashmere will last you a life time . A scarf is essential , cashmere or even vicuña really sets it off and yes get the gloves .
    If you are going to have an overcoat I would say to put it on , this hanging on the shoulders looks a bit foppish to me .

  5. Joseph K. says:

    These are all excellent tips, and I especially appreciate the bit about looking for a nice, vintage overcoat – I think as long as you get the fit right, the materials, construction and styling are often really lovely and can help a man stand out in a good and dignified way.

  6. Victor Naves says:

    Brilliant, as usual, mr. Schneider, but I disagree a bit in the following phrase:

    “If you wear an overcoat, try to add classic accessories such as a SCARF..”
    In my opinion, when using an overcoat, to wear a scarf (or a Pashmina) is just mandatory.

    Greetings from Spain.

  7. Simon says:

    Another great article & video.

    I agree about having some interesting coloured coats. Of course, you will also need a range of different coloured hats to go with them. The right hat with the right coat makes a big difference to the overall outfit. It is like getting the right tie with the right suit.

  8. jeffrey Kupferberg says:

    I find that many overcoats often have too much uncovered space in the chest area that lets in the cold air even with a scarf. I would be interested in knowing what the “standard” weight wool overcoat is from a Savile Row Bespoke tailor like Anderson & Sheppard or Huntsman.That is to say what is the general starting point for a warm winter coat made from quality all wool and not cashmere.


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