The Ultimate Guide To Men’s Overcoats

If you have good taste, as the saying goes, you can shop anywhere. But knowing what to buy when you get there, well that’s a different story altogether. For all the smart-casual occasions that might come up during the winter season, it’s hard to beat a classic overcoat. Insulating, versatile and an easy way to take any look up a notch, the outerwear style is a fundamental part of any well turned-out man’s wardrobe. Wool might not be waterproof, but it is water-resistant, capable of holding 20 per cent of its weight in water before feeling heavy or wet. It’s also one of the warmest fabrics around, made up of fine fibres that trap air that can be warmed up by body heat. And then there’s the overcoat’s simple, evergreen cut, which means you can take it to the Christmas party just as easily as you can throw it over a hoodie to wait in line for the latest Supreme drop. In case you needed any more convincing, here we take you through everything you need to need to know about this most enduring of menswear pieces – from the best places to buy one to the key ways you can style it.

What Is An Overcoat?

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As with many contemporary menswear staples, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when the overcoat first emerged. Several online accounts name 1772 as the year the overcoat was invented, while others claim the early 19th century was when they really came into their own.

Regardless, usage of the word itself dates back to the late 18th century, meaning overcoats were being worn before the Regency Period in Britain.

Crafted from a heavy fabric such as wool (Merino, melton etc.), the overcoat is a long-sleeved coat that can be either single- or double-breasted, and usually has a single vent at the back.

The topcoat, on the other hand, is a variant plenty of people often confuse with the overcoat, and is made from a lighter fabric, extending to the knee at its very longest. To add to the confusion, there’s the greatcoat, which – for all intents and purposes – is just a way of referring to an overcoat that’s particularly bulky, heavy and hard wearing.

What To Look For When Buying An Overcoat?

Fabric

If you’re looking to invest in an overcoat that you’ll wear for years to come, choose a style that is 100 per cent wool and that has decent weight to it (around 4lbs for most men).

“Overcoats made entirely of wool will keep you warm and can weather the storm without falling to pieces,” says Chris Gove, founder of British menswear brand Percival. Alternatively, you could try a cashmere version, but not only are these usually eye-wateringly expensive, they’re also likely to show wear at the cuffs and collar quicker than a 100 per cent wool design would.

Try a wool-cashmere blend if you just can’t do without a little luxury.

Fit

Asket

Despite being the final thing you throw on before heading outside, how an overcoat hangs off your body shouldn’t be a last minute thought.

“Fit is extremely important when deciding on an overcoat,” says Alex McCart, head of menswear buying at Reiss. “If you’re to wear it over a suit, it is important to make sure that there is enough room in the shoulders and waist to fit your blazer underneath. As well as it being very uncomfortable it can look like the coat is too small for you.

“If you’re looking for something more casual then its best to try the size down for a sleeker look, and something with a softer shoulder.”

Colour

Forking out for a good quality overcoat may set you back financially, but this is an investment you’re sure to receive a handsome return on. But only providing you wear it regularly, which means getting your colour choice right.

“Navy is going to look great with almost all of your wardrobe however don’t be afraid to try on a rich camel,” says McCart. “This will look equally as good with tailoring but also a great colour to dress down with denim.”

Like the shirts, trousers and ties in your rotation, block colours should be your starting point

Style

While designers are constantly re-imagining the overcoat, adding elbow patches, appliqué details, contrast collars and raglan shoulders, there are two main styles to choose from: single-breasted and double-breasted.

Single-breasted versions are more minimal and clean, enabling them to be paired with everything from your nine-to-five suits to a jeans and Oxford shirt combination at the weekend. Double-breasted overcoats, on the other hand, have a formidable air of tradition about them and are best paired with full-on tailoring.

“Some of my favourite overcoat styles this season have been single-breasted belted styles,” says Frazer Goater, a personal stylist at Harvey Nichols in London. “I think something with texture and a herringbone finish can help make a statement too.”

How To Wear An Overcoat

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As you’ll likely have gathered by now, the overcoat is intended as an outer layer for wear during the colder months. Many people think it’s merely the final, winter-appropriate addition to a suit, but this essential has so much more potential. For a casual look inspired by the skinheads, try a coat with a trim-fitting gingham shirt, rolled-up acid wash jeans, ribbed boot socks and a pair of chunky Dr Martens. For something that’s refined but not formal, wear it over a slim-fit blazer, jumper, white Oxford shirt and wool trousers, then finish with Derbies. “I would also try an overcoat layered over a hoodie or denim jacket with chinos and trainers to nail that ’90s style,” says menswear stylist Sarah Gilfillan, who also recommends you pick your style of overcoat depending on your height. “If you’re a shorter guy, don’t overwhelm yourself with fabric and go for a neat, single-breasted, above the knee style. If you’re taller and a large build then you can afford to experiment with raglan sleeved styles and calf-length coats.”

Best Overcoat Brands

BEST OVERALL OVERCOAT: ISTO

The cut, quality, and affordability of the clothes on offer at Portuguese menswear brand ISTO have made it an under-the-radar favorite among the menswear pack. Its overcoats are no exception, offering contemporary updates of traditional styles with a shoulder-hugging fit and often produced using wool sourced from historic Italian mills.

BEST BASIC: L’ESTRANGE LONDON

Focused on classic cuts and wardrobe staples L’estrange London still tries to do their best as a company to be responsible to its stakeholders and the environment.

By creating a journey with their customers in mind, their pieces add well to many wardrobes. Specifically, the outerwear pieces are created with an unstructured fit that means they pair well alongside casual streetwear pieces. At the pub or headed to a party their shower-proof, harder-to-crease cotton and rattle-free silver snaps will get to there in style.

BEST DUSTER OVERCOAT: THE JACKET MAKER 

This may shock you, but originally dusters were worn to protect horseback riders from, you guessed it, dust. Home tailors made them using a dense canvas that held up no matter the age of the garment or the season being dealt with. They weren’t even cut using proper tools; Women actually used axes, or whatever else they had in their 18th-century homesteads, to make the necessary rough-hewn cuts.

Fast forward a few centuries, and we have The Jacket Maker crafting the best leather dusters we’ve ever seen. Their leather offers a much slicker look than canvas did for the US cowboys, and it isn’t even cut using a crappy old wood cutter’s ax. Cowboys would have drooled over this soft, smooth full-grain vegetable-tanned leather.

You can get the same custom fittings that a home tailor would have provided, except these are leatherworking masters. The Jack Maker has also set out to provide incredible leather dusters to men of all shapes, with sizes ranging from XS to 4X. Want a custom piece? The pros at The Jacket Maker will work with you to create the best leather duster for you.

Looks like it might be time to channel your inner cowboys.

BEST COLD WEATHER OVERCOAT: BILLY REID 

There’s a reason a classic remains a classic. Despite the most clever of trends, the Peacoat keeps outshining many cold-weather competitors. The heavy, typically wool material helps keep the cold out while a traditional double-breasted design means you can take this coat from the boardroom to the bar, (think tailored trousers AND comfy joggers) without looking out of place.

While there are many options on the market, Billy Reid keeps proving that they know the ins and outs of menswear staples. In particular, the Bond Peacoat shows a deep understanding of what men need out of an overcoat (and not just because it sells out season after season).

Crafted with Italian Melton wool, and all the quality fixings of a top-notch peacoat, this coat will perform in the bone-chilling cold, along with wetter conditions (the power of high-quality moisture-wicking wool). This is a great piece to incorporate into your everyday look, it’s easy to style and hits all performance markers – soon you’ll be reaching for it every time you leave the house.

BEST TO PAIR WITH SUITS: HUGO BOSS

When it comes to making clothes, Hugo Boss has German engineering down to a tee. Case in point: the brand’s cashmere and wool-blend men’s overcoats, which swap bells and whistles for smooth, suit-like linings and notched lapels swiped straight from the tailoring handbook.

BEST AFFORDABLE OVERCOAT: MARKS & SPENCER

For proof you don’t have to skip a few meals in order to afford a quality overcoat, look no further than Marks & Spencer. The ever-consistent department store turns out classic iterations made from wool spun at the celebrated Balli mill in Northern Italy as well as more trend-led and statement takes.

BEST OVERCOAT TO INVEST IN (LONG-LASTING): ASKET

Quality and responsible garment maker Asket works towards creating no-compromise clothing that will last a lifetime. Their fierce focus on garment longevity secures their pieces as stables in any man’s minimalist wardrobe. Committing to ‘Lifecycle Responsibility‘ Asket is ready to help repair or take back pieces of their clothing you no longer wear to either repurpose or continue a second life. But with their timeless tailoring with both comfort and function in mind, there is little chance you won’t get your money’s and season’s worth out of this jacket.

BEST SPLURGE: BRUNELLO CUCINELLI

Dubbed ‘The King of Cashmere’, Italian designer Brunello Cucinelli has been spinning the soft stuff into luxury clothes since the mid-‘80s. The brand’s overcoats strike a balance between unstructured styles and a those with a more rigid cut, in a smart yet modern colour palette of light greens and deep browns. Basically, outerwear doesn’t get much better than this.

BEST CROPPED OPTIONS: TED BAKER

At Ted Baker, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, so expect jazzy linings aplenty at the British brand. Not that the outside has been forgotten, mind. Its overcoats are made out of expertly woven materials and cut slightly cropped, which makes them more flattering for shorter body types.

BEST LUXURY OPTION: DOLCE & GABBANA

With an enumerable list of famous wearers, it’s no understatement to say that Dolce & Gabbana is one of the pinnacle makers of the overcoat. The brand is so synonymous with the classic silhouettes and haute streetwear that some other labels follow quickly after D&G releases a new season capsule to get their cut of the newest trends.

MOST VERSATILE OVERCOAT: NNO7

NN07 (which stands for ‘no nationality’) takes a global approach with its clothing. As a result, overcoats by the Copenhagen-based label sit somewhere between British formality with their smart double-breasted cut and the looser almost unisex fit more popular among its fellow Scandinavian brands. Keep your outfit underneath slim for maximum impact.

BEST SLIM-FIT OVERCOAT: CELINE

With revered designer Hedi Slimane at the helm, luxury fashion label Celine has been quietly stopping slim-fits from falling to the bottom of the fashion pile. Its overcoats are still cut with some room, but the soft shoulders brought on by a relaxed raglan sleeve mean they work best with a sharper, slimmer fit underneath.

BEST DESIGNER OVERCOAT: GUCCI

Classic runway and streetwear brand Gucci complements any outfit with a splash of their classic eye-catching outerwear. Consistently pushing the boundaries, it’s no surprise their outerwear capsule is jam-packed with color and patterns, plus with different length options, there is a cut for every type of body. It’s what’s on the outside that counts, right? Time to catch the attention of all those onlookers this season.

BEST CLASSIC OVERCOAT: REISS

Premium high street brand Reiss specializes in classic British style without the waffle. It makes sense, then, that it excels at the simply cut men’s overcoat, crafting the heritage staple out of a neat textured wool-blend in a modern, slim fit. Grab a version in a light, oatmeal shade of camel for a slick take on this outerwear icon.

The Evolution Of The Overcoat

Formerly used as a means of indicating (usually higher) class and social status, the overcoat found itself the subject of some serious re-appropriation in the 1950s, when the Teddy Boys started gleaning style inspiration from the Edwardian Era. Worn with high-waisted, stovepipe trousers and chunky brogues or creepers, the Teds breathed new life into the silhouette, lending it a little rebelliousness. In the 1960s, as skinhead culture began to seep out of the more radical sectors of the disenfranchised British working class, the overcoat was once again given an all-new guise.

Spurred on by the Teds’ and mods’ reinterpretation of clothing traditionally associated with the upper classes, many skinheads began to team overcoats with rolled-up jeans, ‘bovver’ boots and sharply-cut check shirts buttoned all the way to the top. Later, during the early 1970s, the suedeheads – an offshoot of the skinhead subculture – would go on to fully embrace the silhouette, combining it with smarter attire, such as Prince of Wales check suits and brogues. It was also around this time that knee-length silhouettes really gained traction as the more versatile, practical style, rather than the dramatic full-length versions that originally defined the overcoat.

By the 1980s, the overcoat had made an almighty return to the mainstream, becoming a key piece in the power dressing professional’s wardrobe – often cut boxy, slightly oversized and worn over the relaxed suiting made so popular by Italian designers like Giorgio Armani. Now, given the #menswear generation’s renewed interest in all things tailoring, the overcoat has returned to the forefront of fashion.