A Man’s Guide to Overcoats

by Antonio on December 11, 2012 · 79 comments

in Dress & Grooming, Style

You probably want to be taken seriously, get good service at a restaurant, and make a good first impression when you meet a business partner.

Fleece coats from The North Face may be great for a camping trip and for outdoor activities, but at your office job, they make you look like an amateur, especially if you wear a suit.

When it is cold outside, the only acceptable outerwear with a suit is an overcoat. But there are a lot of terms thrown around when discussing these dressier jackets. In particular – what is the difference between a topcoat, an overcoat, and a greatcoat

In a nutshell, the differences all pertain to weight, style, and heritage.

  • An overcoat is a long coat with sleeves that is worn on top of something else.
  • A topcoat is a lightweight overcoat.
  • A greatcoat is a heavy, bulky overcoat with a military history.

When you buy a coat understanding this distinction, especially when buying online, you can save quite a bit in shipping fees as well as disappointment.

Characteristics of a Quality Overcoat

A good overcoat should be warm, fit you, and make you look great.

Fabric. If you plan to wear your overcoat for years to come, make sure you buy a coat that is made of 100% wool and that it weighs at least 4 pounds (for average-sized men). In general, heavier coats last longer because the fabric is more durable.

Cashmere coats are nice, soft, and warm but they will show wear on the cuffs, the collar, and moths love them. In addition, they can double the price of a coat for little to no advantage (in terms of warmth or appearance). With the quality of most wool jacket fabrics these days, they are often just as soft as all but the finest cashmere. I find a nice compromise is a wool cashmere blend – my overcoat is about 10% cashmere.

Sleeves. The coat sleeves should completely cover the suit sleeve as well as the shirt cuff, and even reach a little further down. This way, you should not get cold on your wrists when you wear gloves with it.

Length. Traditionally, overcoats were rather long-reaching garments, extending almost all the way to the ankles. These full-length coats are often the coat of choice for seasoned gentlemen as they can compliment a wide range of figures…to include those of us a bit rounder in the midsection.

Today, most younger men wear their coats knee-length, which is anywhere between the lower part of the knee to slightly above. This only compliments men with trim builds and who wear the coat closer to the body. It’s a convenient option if you find yourself entering and exiting your automobile multiple times a day.

If you pick a full-length or knee-length coat is a matter of choice, but bear in mind that the full-length coat may be warmer, and can make you look a little more seasoned than the knee-length coat.

Fit. When you buy an overcoat, make sure to wear a shirt and a sportscoat or suit jacket because the coat has to fit on top of it.

Some men like a looser fit while younger men often prefer a trimmer fit. However, if you see X-wrinkles when buttoning your overcoat, it is definitely too tight.

Style. With regards to style it is once again up to you what you choose. The single-breasted overcoat with notched lapel is a good all-a-rounder whereas the double-breasted peak lapel overcoat is a little more formal and wears warmer when it is cold because you have two layers of fabric over your chest.

Construction. High-quality coats have a sewn canvas, whereas less expensive overcoats have a fused canvas. A sewn canvas is definitely more durable and built to last whereas a poorly glued interlining can come loose after a few years, ruining the garment. If money is of no concern to you, go with a fully canvassed overcoat. If not, try to buy fully canvassed suits and go with a glued overcoat. Unlike with a suit, a glued canvas overcoat is acceptable since it is cut looser and you wear it less frequently.

Types of Overcoats

In order to be more specific, I want to introduce you to a number of classic overcoats which have all made their mark in men’s clothing history. As such, these styles are timeless and will look as good today as they will 20 years from now.

Chesterfield

First, let’s look at the Chesterfield coat. Named after the Earl of Chesterfield, and invented in the mid-19th century, it was the very first overcoat of its kind. Over the years, it has only changed insignificantly and today a Chesterfield features:

  • No waist seams or front darts (up until then, those were the standard)
  • Single-breasted fly front
  • Short, notched lapel
  • Velvet collar (optional)
  • Straight side pockets – it looks like a flap pocket but it could be a jetted pocket
  • No cuffs
  • Single back vent and an otherwise plain back

Generally, it is about knee-long and in grey or charcoal, it makes for a great business coat. If you go with a velvet collar, you will definitely own a conversation starter. If you want to learn more, check out this article on the Chesterfield coat.

Covert Coat

The Covert coat is very similar to the Chesterfield, but it was designed for hunting and the outdoors. Therefore, it had to be tailored from particularly sturdy material – the so-called Covert cloth, named after the covert bushes. It was designed to protect its wearer from mud, bush encounters, and of course the weather. For that reason, it had to be very heavy (29 or 30 ounces a yard), sturdy, and durable. Today, the fabric is not quite as heavy anymore, but it is still a tweed material made to last. It always comes in a brownish-green color because it does not show the dirt very much.

A Covert coat usually has the following:

  • Single-breasted with a fly front
  • Notched lapels
  • Made of brown-green Covert cloth
  • Short topcoat that is just a little longer than the jacket beneath
  • Signature four (sometimes five) lines of stitching at the cuffs and hem, and optionally on the flap of the chest pocket
  • Center vent
  • Two flap pockets with optional ticket pocket
  • The collar is constructed either of Covert cloth or velvet
  • Poacher’s pocket (huge inside pocket that can accommodate a newspaper or an iPad)

The rows of contrast stitching are a hallmark of the Covert coat and lend it a more casual flair. If you want an overcoat that will be your companion for the next two decades, you should consider this one.

It should be noted that if you wear your coat primarily for business, this may not be your best choice.

If you’d like to know more about this garment, I recommend this article about the Covert Coat.

Trench Coat

The Trench coat is a timeless classic that was invented in the trenches of WWI and evolved into a raincoat that is second to none. To explore the trench coat further, please read this classic AOM Guide.

Paletot

The name Paletot is French and was used to describe a fairly short overcoat that was very fitted, but otherwise could have many features. It could be double-breasted or single-breasted, with pleats or without, and could have pockets or not.

Today, a Paletot is a classic business overcoat with the following features:

  • Double-breasted with a 6×2 button arrangement
  • The top buttons have a wider button stance and are not buttoned at all
  • It must have peaked lapels
  • The coat is semi-fitted to fitted and has a flat back without a belt

Especially in a dark, plain fabric, this coat is very versatile. Personally, I think a navy blue or charcoal Paletot overcoat can be worn to the office, with a tuxedo, at funerals, and pretty much anywhere else. So, if you only have money for a single overcoat, you’d be hard-pressed not to buy a Paletot. To learn more about this coat, read this Paletot Overcoat article.

Guards Coat

Left to right: Ulster coat, Guards coat, and a reversible coat.

The Guards Coat derives from the coat English Officers of the Guard used to wear. It is usually a navy blue overcoat that is very similar to the Paletot with two basic exceptions:

  • It has a half belt in the back
  • It can be buttoned with three buttons or just two

Basically, the Guards Coat is not very different than the Paletot. Its back belt makes it a little fancier and more unique but at the same time it is very difficult to find one off the rack. If you strive to be classic and versatile, yet unique, the Guards Coat is the way to go. Otherwise, stick with the Paletot.

Ulster

The name Ulster is derived from the Irish province of Ulster, whose people popularized a particular tweed overcoat. A classic Ulster is:

  • Rather long, roomy, and double-breasted with either 6 or 8 buttons
  • Great for cold weather because its Ulster collar makes it easy to protect the neck from the elements
  • A rough country code with patch pockets, cuffs, and contrast stitching
  • Made out of heavy, durable Donegal tweed
  • Belted in the back with an adjustable half-belt

An Ulster is an overcoat for a man who is outside a lot and needs a reliable companion. In my opinion, it is an ideal travel coat for the colder months of the year because it is warm, durable, and has big, patch pockets, so nothing can fall out accidentally. In addition, the Donegal tweed structure hides dirt and stains.

Overall, the Ulster overcoat is for the rugged man who is not all that much into suits but enjoys rugged, high-quality products.

Polo Coat

The Polo Coat is an American classic that originates in England. During the chukkers of a Polo game, the polo players used to wear a golden-tan wrap-coat to keep them warm. Later, the belt was substituted with buttons, and when they started wearing the coats after the game as well, spectators noted it and by the end of the 1920’s the Polo Coat was one of the most popular ivy league overcoats. A few years later, no well-dressed man could live without one. A Polo Coat has the following characteristics:

  • It is made out of golden, tan-colored camel hair or a 50/50 blend with wool
  • It has a half-belt or a full belt
  • It features 6 or 8 buttons
  • Patch pockets
  • Peaked lapels or an Ulster collar with optional cuffs

As you can see, the Polo coat is quite similar to an Ulster overcoat, but it is special because of its camel hair fabric and the golden-tan color.

With its light color, the Polo Coat definitely stands out from the crowd. If you are looking for an American legend, this is your overcoat.

How To Buy An Overcoat

Buying Used

eBay and second-hand stores are good places if you are a bargain hunter and look for special styles. Of course, supply is limited and it requires a lot of work. If you do not have an overcoat yet, I would advise against eBay because it is very difficult to get the fit right. Every manufacturer’s sizes run slightly different. Instead, head to your local thrift stores and check the racks for overcoats.

Make sure the overcoat does not have stains, as not all of them will come out at the dry cleaner. Also, double-check for moth holes because fixing them will be either very expensive or impossible. In order to make sure you do not have any surviving moths or their eggs in your garment, send the overcoat to the cleaners. This will guarantee that all moths are dead. And no, putting clothing in the freezer does not work..

This overcoat was purchased for $10 – click here to learn more.

Buying New

New overcoats are definitely an easy route, though department stores often lack variety in overcoat styles and colors. Chances are, you will find a better selection at your local haberdasher and since it is the end of the season, you will probably be able to buy a classic overcoat on a discount.

Custom Overcoats

Most men never bother to think about a custom overcoat, although it probably provides you with the best fit and you get exactly what you want. Moreover, you pay for the quality of the fabric and the workmanship, not for marketing and ads.

Considering that a classic overcoat can last for 20 years or longer and you can get exactly what you want with a custom piece, you may want to think about having one made just for you.

Conclusion

In summary, a well-fitted classic overcoat is a smart investment you’ll get thousands of wears out of.  And every time you put it on, you’ll instantly step up your style. Even if you’re just wearing jeans and t-shirt underneath.

Watch a Video Summary of This Article

What do you think?  What are your thoughts on this classic piece of menswear?

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Written by Gentleman Gazette’s +Sven Raphael Schneider & Real Men Real Style’s Antonio Centeno

{ 79 comments… read them below or add one }

1 dannyb December 11, 2012 at 11:31 pm

I love the idea of wearing a overcoat but at 6 foot 4 and 240 pounds I feel I feel like I would look like a monster wearing coat of that size over a suit

2 Njordy December 11, 2012 at 11:51 pm

dannyb, with my 6’6″ and much bigger weight I looked as a monster already. So, I decided to wear it for years. :)

3 John Rose December 11, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Danny, you’d look fine in an overcoat. You’re about a 38″-40″ waist? You’ll be fine.

I bought my first Overcoat (NOT TRENCH) at Jos. A. Banks. It was marked down from $800 to $200 in August. I had to jump on the deal. Wool. Perfect fit. I bought my second one that’s even nicer for $18 at the thrift store. Who knew. Anyway, get em cleaned and altered professorially.

NOW this is a good article on the coats, but how do you wear them?
You don’t need to wear a suit. A pair of nice dark jeans, V-Neck sweater with a button up under it, black leather slip on’s or some oxfords, and a belt. Never wear just the coat over a button up. Always pad it with a dinner jacket or a sweater. If you’re wearing a suit, you’re good to go. Get 2 colors: Gray and Black. If you live in the southern states, get cashmere/wool blend. It never get’s below 40 here in Atlanta and you can breathe better.

4 phreebie December 12, 2012 at 12:34 am

Jim Caviezel totally rocked a top coat on ‘Person of interest’. http://www.accesshollywood.com/content/images/175/400x400bd/175894_jim-caviezel-as-mr-reese-in-cbs-person-of-interest.jpg

I have been looking for one all year. I have broad shoulders (terrible ‘problem for a man to have right?) which work well for most jackets & coats, but every top coat i’ve tried just ends up looking like a long shapeless box on me.

The other show that totally rocks top coats is ‘Spooks’ (‘MI-5″ in the USA).

Here our seasons are reversed to yours so I am keeping my eye out for good looking coats on the blogs I follow and will look for a US end of season sale and get one shipped.

5 Bradley Turner December 12, 2012 at 1:30 am

Dannyb, my dad is 6,4″ and weighs about 21st, for he retirement he had a custom tailored covert coat made and if anything it compliments his size (even when worn over his tonic suit) rather than drawing attention to it and looks incredibly smart aswell. Personally I wear a black wool Crombie style coat with a double pocket on the front. I am 6,1″ and about 18st and the crombie again compliments my figure. Don’t be disheartened by being a big man, I reckon a good overcoat will suit you well.

6 Edman68 December 12, 2012 at 2:52 am

I had a WW2 heavy wool trench coat when I was in college. I wore that coat all winter long. I don’t care how cold it was outside, I was toasty. If I could find a good wool coat like that one, color me in. It wasn’t green it was more of a khaki color. LOVED IT!!!

7 Chris December 12, 2012 at 3:14 am

What’s the best way to manage an overcoat if you live in a wet climate and spend a lot of time out in the elements?

Are certain thench coat fabrics better for the wet wether, when an umbrella isn’t a practical option?

8 Neil December 12, 2012 at 4:57 am

I have to disagree with your views on the covert coat. It is definitely suitable for business. I used to work as a protocol officer in London. It was my role to work with the Foreign Office, Buckingham Palace, the Ministry of Defence and the financial sector. Almost every man I worked with, whether a Royal, diplomat, businessman or officer, wore a covert coat in the winter. The only loose rule is that you shouldn’t wear “brown in town”, so for business it should be a grey or blue covert coat. The other good thing about a covert coat is that it works with smart casual.

9 Adrian December 12, 2012 at 5:33 am

I’ve always liked the way overcoats look, and they seem so practical too! However, I’m a relatively short guy (5′ 8″) and I find the natural length of an overcoat to be too long. It simply makes me look either extremely short or skinny or both. As a result, I tend to stick to jackets which cut off at my waist. Unless you guys have any other suggestions?

10 Orrin December 12, 2012 at 5:37 am

As an Australian who’s about to spend his first winter in Europe, this has been absolutely invaluable!

11 PlayYourDay December 12, 2012 at 6:48 am

I am not sure about US anymore but in Europe these are really ‘in’ these cold winter days. I actually love those old fashioned American styled coats – a lot of people wearing them at the moment.

12 Matt December 12, 2012 at 6:57 am

This article had some good information, but I do feel like it was lacking in practicality. It tells us a lot about the different kinds of coats, but there is absolutely no information on actually wearing one.

Also, a post on casual coat styles (leather jackets, varsity letter jackets, etc.) would be a good addition to the site.

13 kirk December 12, 2012 at 7:02 am

I got a swiss greatcoat at a army surplus store that looks alot like the last pic. I didnt get it for 10 bucks but did for 20. It’s great coat and always get compliments on it.

14 Jordan December 12, 2012 at 7:25 am

I would recommend looking at vintage and thrift stores first. Older coats have much thicker and better quality wool (not to mention better shoulder construction), however they tend to be very generously cut. I bought a vintage Crombie wool topcoat at a thrift store for about $20 and then took it to my tailor to have it slimmed. I put about $300 worth of tailoring into it, however my tailor said that the cloth alone would cost more than $300 if I were having it made to the same spec today.

15 Guy December 12, 2012 at 7:55 am

Another great article Antonio! Thanks.

16 Charley O'Roark December 12, 2012 at 8:05 am

I was very surprised to find a clean, pressed wool Chesterfield very similar to the one pictured above, at a local charity retail store in my size, FOR $10.00! I was stunned at the find and when I tried it on I was even more surprised to find that it fit me as if tailored for me. I’ve enjoyed it for a few years and it still looks “new.” I expect to be buried in it.

17 Kevin December 12, 2012 at 8:16 am

Never really thought about it, as I always wear my Navy Pea Coat, and think it looks pretty damn good. I’m definitely not a fasion maven though! What’s the thoughts on a enlisted issue Navy Pea Coat?

K

18 Keith McKee December 12, 2012 at 8:30 am

Great article. I have several overcoats. Always buy 100% or a cashmere and wool blend. I have a couple thrift store coats too. They never wear out. One reason to steer clear of anything with nylon in it is that it will pill.

19 Sven Raphael Schneider December 12, 2012 at 8:40 am

dannyb, I have a good friend who is 7′ tall and he looks fantastic in an overcoat. Get in touch with me and I send you a picture.

@John Rose, You are right. Overcoats are not just for suits. Now that it is colder I wear a different one everyday. I like them heavy so they keep me warm.

20 dannyb December 12, 2012 at 8:46 am

Thanks for the input guys. Looks like i need to go shopping for a good overcoat for christmas.

21 Eric Stott December 12, 2012 at 9:20 am

Where do you get your information that freezing clothes does NOT kill moths? I trust your advice in many things, but I’ve found the advice on freezing from many professional sources that I’d respect. If it doesn’t work for you, then your freezer isn’t cold enough or you are not letting the article sit in it long enough. This means using a separate freezer- tucking your slacks next to the ice cube tray won’t work.

22 TomV December 12, 2012 at 9:24 am

Are there certain unwritten “rules” about wearing a business suit with a vintage US Naval Academy (or any military) overcoat especially when it has the “gold” buttons?

23 Tyler G. December 12, 2012 at 9:32 am

I started looking for an overcoat a few weeks ago, with no idea where to start. I ended up getting a nice peacoat with a scarf for about $80. It’s nowhere near as long as anything here, but it looks nice with my suit, I don’t need to worry too much about padding it, and it gets the job done.

I’d suggest getting a scarf or two along with the coat, since your neck and a little part of your chest aren’t covered by the coat. I can’t wear mine without the scarf that came with it; my neck ends up freezing. AoM already has a nice guide if you need a starting point.

24 Sven Raphael Schneider December 12, 2012 at 10:19 am

@Neil, I agree with you that a Covert Coat can be worn for business purposes. However, I prefer to wear my Paletots for these occasions.

@Adrian even with 5’8″ you can wear an overcoat. Make sure to get a shorter one that does not make your legs look short.
Alternatively, you could think about a Peacoat which is warm but very short.

@Kevin Navy peacoats are a great classic. I just wrote a “peacoat guide”. Just google for it since I don’t know whether links are welcome in the comments.

@Keith McKee Keith, Cashmere is soft of course, but there are huge differences in quality and they are mostly lightweight nowadays. I love my heavy wool coats, such as the British Warm or Paletot.

@ Eric Scott. The freezer always worked for me whenever I acquired a vintage piece. Never had any issues. However, some people may not leave it in there long enough. In any case it would be interesting to look further into the matter.
@TomV Gold buttons on a peacoat indicate that it was for officers. Some people think you should only wear it if you deserve it, others just wear what they think looks great on them. If you want to play it safe, try to avoid gold buttons on business overcoats.

25 Rich December 12, 2012 at 10:45 am

I would love to own a good overcoat, they’re so stylish! I love winter wear because I can layer it up and I look good in jackets. But it so rarely gets cold enough around here to make owning one practical. Just a couple of days ago it was getting into the high 70′s. I think I need to move to Canada or something.

26 Scott Sideleau December 12, 2012 at 10:56 am

Danny, I would say go for it. I’m 6′ 4″, 290 lbs, with a 54″ chest and 42″ waist. I picked up an overcoat last year from the Men’s Wearhouse at the end of the season. I got the coat for 1/2 off and picked up a Navy blue blazer (with silver metal buttons) for $100. For less than the cost of the overcoat (at full price), I rounded out my basic dress-up collection (the charcoal gray suit being a holdover from my university days). This year, I’ve picked up more sensible shoes. Little by little, piece by piece, you can build a dress-up wardrobe that’ll last you your lifetime.

27 Hollis December 12, 2012 at 11:24 am

The first image under ‘how to buy’ shows three different balmacaan coats, and you didn’t cover that style.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/balmacaan

28 Stephen MacLean December 12, 2012 at 11:36 am

Great article! Any thoughts on pea coats? And the best fabric mix?

29 Ed Lepczyk December 12, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I wear a leather overcoat and find it to be a great choice for inclement winter weather here in Pennsylvania.

30 Sven Raphael Schneider December 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Stephen MacLean, In regard to Peacoats, I suggest you go for 100% wool Melton, although the current US Navy Peacoat is made from a blend.
I put together a guide about the history, features, dating and where to buy a peacoat that may be of interest to you.
http://www.gentlemansgazette.com/peacoat-guide-history-sizing-buy/

31 Dan December 12, 2012 at 3:22 pm

That covert coat is pretty snazzy, and durable.

32 Eric December 12, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Stephen MacLean if you want a Peacoat you can always get a great deal at the military surplus stores that goes for trench coats too. I have a tan Marine Corp one for light colored suits, and I have the Black one that I have to have for the Army and for dark suits. The Navy trench coat use to be made by london fog so they are very nice if you can get one with the liner.

33 CW Flatt December 12, 2012 at 7:04 pm

I like many others it looks like would like to see stylish clothing for the less perfect figure. 5’7″ and 210lbs I find overcoats to turn me into a beast like dannyb’s concern.

34 Arsch Sharma December 12, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Nice article. Most of the times I wear my black Merino overcoat in winters. It is a 6X2 double breasted overcoat with a half belt and a single vent.
I just happened to visit a store a few days ago, and i saw a cream Ulster coat there. The coat fits me perfectly, however, I am a bit hesitant to buy it because of its colour. What are your opinions?

35 Dane December 12, 2012 at 10:40 pm

I simply chanced upon a Swiss-style overcoat at a thrifty small-town “vintage” clothing store. (Couldn’t find a tag detailing the brand or composition.) It was only $20. Yes, please! It’s durable, it’s handsome, and best of all, it’s winter.

36 Black December 12, 2012 at 11:29 pm

I love the look of the Palelot… but I can’t seem to find any stores that sell this style. Anyone know a store that sells these?

37 Stephen MacLean December 13, 2012 at 6:31 am

Thanks for the advice about the pea coats; the ‘Peacoat Guide’ by Mr Schneider was great — the link to Sterlingwear was very helpful.

38 Chase December 13, 2012 at 10:22 am

I have several overcoats (actually, I guess I have a top coat, an overcoat, and a trench coat). I love to wear them when its cold or raining and I’ve been told that I look very distinguished in them (and I’m a really big guy) when I’m walking around town in them. However, I have to drive just about everywhere and I have real trouble with them when driving. They aren’t comfortable to drive in because they are long and I usually hang it in the back seat like I would do with a suit coat, but that means that it’s not doing its job. Any suggestions for how to wear a long coat in the car?

39 Tony December 13, 2012 at 10:56 am

I just picked up a full length charcol grey over coat from Jos A Bank. All my nicer clothes come from them. They have good sales so that I got the coat here at the beginning of winter for what would be another store’s end of season price. I have also found they people working there very knowledgeable and current trends as well as the timeless classics. Now, if you know of a place to get a good price on an Inverness cape to wear with the kilt I’d be good.

40 Sven Raphael Schneider December 13, 2012 at 2:12 pm

@Arsch, a cream Ulster will look great – go for it!

@Stephen MacLean
I am glad you found it valuable. Which one did you buy?

41 GardenStater December 13, 2012 at 7:30 pm

I bought my first trench coat sometime around 1980 or so. Got it at Lord & Taylor. I remember the salesman (remember them?) who helped me try it on. I started to buckle the belt, and he told me “No, you tie it, like a bathrobe.” I was a 20-year-old know-it-all, and began to buckle it again. He just looked at me and said “No. You tie it.”

Guess what? He was right.

42 Wayne December 13, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Another aspect of wearing an overcoat has been discussed in several “trad” blogs. There used to be a very clearly delineated etiquette revolving around who helped whom with their coat.
It was used in older (gentler) times when a gentleman would assist a lady or an older person with their (then) heavy overcoat. Servants helped their employers or guests with their coats, and junior servants helped higher ranked servants…etc… who assisted whom was determined by and determined social rank….In gentler days…

43 Tryclyde December 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Being shorter, I prefer to wear a peacoat. Overcoats (even the shorter varieties) are just too long and I don’t look right in them.

44 DaleK December 15, 2012 at 10:52 am

Great article! I have two overcoats that I was about to take to the local compassion center. Changed my mind! I’ll be wearing them more, especially now that I know a few ‘rules’.
One thing not mentioned so far in the article is ‘manners’ when wearing any top coat or overcoat. With increased retail security at stores and after several mass shootings, I would suggest this.
If you’re going shopping or into a place where security is a concern (a school), take the overcoat off – and drape it over your arm. I have done so, and you can see the expressions of relief. It’s just a modern consideration we didn’t have to worry about in WWII. Great article, though!

45 DPD December 15, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Surprised that there were no comments regarding the Australian drover style coat. I’ve found this style versatile and warm, with an additional liner it will withstand a western NY winter. The fabric is oil skin canvas, not wool.

46 Jennifer December 15, 2012 at 5:44 pm

One more note–when you buy a new coat with a back vent, remember to remove the large X of thread at the bottom of the vent that holds the flaps together. It’s not there for structural purposes, it just keeps everything tidy during distribution. Leaving it in defeats the purpose of the vent and makes the coat hang wrong. I notice this often when I’m walking up the subway stairs and the hem of the person in front of me is right at eye level–I always wish I could tell them without seeming like a weirdo!

47 Jacob Waterworth December 15, 2012 at 11:55 pm

Dale K – In regards to taking off your overcoat for security reasons, a lot of that is in context. If you are wearing jeans, sneakers, and a t-shirt, then I can see taking off your overcoat…or better yet leave it at home. If you are wearing a suit and tie, clean shaven, and groomed, I can’t imagine anyone feeling uncomfortable around you in a school, mall, or any other venue.

48 Jesse December 16, 2012 at 7:25 pm

I had search’d all over town to find one. I ended up finding two for the price of one at a Goodwill store. Suprisingly they were both made by the same local tailor! Great looking coats and warm.

49 John December 17, 2012 at 11:47 pm

@ TomV – NEVER gold buttons on anything? Do you own a boat? Are you the captain of it? Old men wear gold buttons and a captains hat. Talk to a suit maker for their button options and choose something sleeker than gold.

50 Rob December 20, 2012 at 6:32 pm

I’m rather surprised that nobody has mentioned the trail duster. I have had one for several years now and I must say it was the best $100 I’ve ever spent on clothing. it looks great with almost any outfit and is extremely practical

51 dnice January 2, 2013 at 9:31 am

I don’t know. Some overcoats look like freakin bath robes and you look like a lazy slug covering up your gut.

Although, I admit that if there is a heavy rainstorm, your a** out if you have a mid-thigh jax (like i do).

Sorry, having been in the Army i thought the Drills Sergeants were bada** when they came out w/o jackets in near freezing weather. When i see longa** overcoats down to one’s shoes i’m thinkin that dude cannot handle the cold.

52 Charles Harrris January 2, 2013 at 12:34 pm

In 1980 I was on business travel in Bavaria. I wore my late father’s WWII “officer’s pink” gabardine trench coat with button-in wool liner. It was dark, windy, very cold, and snowing heavily as I stepped into a gasthaus to get coffee and warm up. Two gray haired men watch me somewhat aloof at first, until I removed a flask from my pocket and asked the barkeep, “Is it permitted to add my own whisky to coffee?” “Only if you have enough to share!” he smiled, adding, “…your father’s coat? You are not old enough for it to have been issued to you.” I said, “You are correct. And there is enough to share, would you please ask these gentlemen to join us? I believe there is just enough.” He said, “if not I will find more, dinner?.” A wonderful ice breaker which preceded a memorable evening.

53 Rukhage January 7, 2013 at 7:05 am

My father gave me his old British Warm when I turned 25 a couple of years ago and I have to say it’s both classy and incredibly utilitarian. I feel like a character in a John Le Carre novel. The only thing I am a bit worried about are the leather buttons. They seem to be fraying a little and I’m afraid they’ll snap. I hope just some leather glue can fix that issue.

54 Tim January 10, 2013 at 10:26 am

Though, women fashon is all the rave. One cannot deny time timeless sophistication and style of menswear. Especially the overcoat. The main word that comes to mind when I look at the illustrations is swagger. And overcoats definitetly bring that out in a man. I own a camel colored chesterfield and get looks from men and women when I wear it. But talk about static electricity in the winter. Forget being shocked. I’m electrocuted!

55 Chris K January 10, 2013 at 10:59 am

That first picture is great.

56 mark January 12, 2013 at 6:21 pm

@Edman68
My father recently gave me a similar coat that belonged to my great grandather. It fits me well and is in great shape. Just goes to show how durable a good quality coat can be.

57 Corey C. Jordan January 20, 2013 at 4:31 pm

I’ve owned a nice wool top coat for many years. These things wear like iron. A good dry cleaning once or twice a season is all the care it needs.

http://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-snc7/426877_3435928582342_173892448_n.jpg

58 Ryan January 28, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Here is my question…Does one wear an overcoat over their blazer or does the overcoat replace the blazer?

59 robert Anderson February 15, 2013 at 11:42 pm

Well….I am from the South and there is no need for an overcoat or topcoat. I am now living in Alaska and I see very few full link overcoats. I think they would be a good idea for living in Anchorage, but I don’t think they are very popular. It looks rather odd to see someone in an overcoat today same as seeing a man in a hat. Maybe in some places they are still are popular…Chicago? Michigan? It gets colder there than it does here in the Mat Sue Valley AK. I like the over coat and the hat, but I would look like someone out of the 1930′s, or a “slug” or either Count Dracula.

60 Peter February 19, 2013 at 5:46 am

Looking where the Economy goes to, Thrift Store could become a natural substitute for shopping at the Mall :)

61 stephen February 21, 2013 at 3:48 am

at 6’5 and 42 waist age 63 a good length on the knee or slightly above is perfect – smoothes out any lumps and bumps at front or back – i feel comfortable and confident – you can wear o/coats without jacket but with black polo neck and cashmere scarf to rub softly up against the chin and it looks like a complete outfit – goes well with blue jeans and polished black loafers,. i hate the move to shortie jackets etc – just greedy manufacturers trying to make more money from less material – look ridicuous. for best ever o/c see that ace ventura guy in the film about penguins – superb overcoat.

62 FeatherBlade February 21, 2013 at 3:23 pm

@#7 Chris: Wool is an excellent choice for damp and mildly rainy weather, as it stays warm even when wet. If it’s pouring buckets, maybe the modern equivalent of oilcloth?

63 tincansailor February 21, 2013 at 4:59 pm

I’m 6′ 6″ and 260. My old USN bridgecoat is way too tight. I had a nice caped tweed overcoat made in London when I was stationed there and now it’s way too tight. Yeah, I know..and I do hear it from the wife.. If anyone comes across a caped tweed overcoat that would fit, PLEASE give me a shout. Thanks.

64 samir March 8, 2013 at 6:16 pm

I like the Polo coat.

65 Anton Volney April 14, 2013 at 7:50 pm

This was a great post. I bought a trenchcoat recently, and I had no idea that there were so many distinctions within this realm.

66 Matt May 22, 2013 at 9:27 pm

So is there anywhere that sells paletots?

67 David Carlson July 4, 2013 at 5:10 pm

The only real overcoat I have is definitely a greatcoat. It is a WW2 (possibly even older) wool Russian coat. In the middle of winter, I can be sweating in it. The darn thing weighs about 10 Lbs. I would like a woolen overcoat similar in fashion to the coat worn by Edward Elrich from the anime, Full Metal Alchemist. What would be your suggestions on that matter?
P.S. Without the “Flamel Cross” that is on the back of his. I think instead a Celtic cross in similar fashion.

68 Ian ST John August 19, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Good article Antonio,
Two classic top coats to consider…

1) The black Hart Schaffner Trench. This is suitable for almost any occasion, business, dinner parties, weekend casual and funerals. It comes with a zip out liner for year round wear. It will resist light showers but if you want to use it as a rain coat a black frog togs liner would need to be worn underneath. Colors other than black appear frumpy. Don’t tie the belt in a knot it looks effeminate. Ditto for the shorter Parnell variant, particularly if carrying a leather satchel.

2) Designed for shooting, the Barbour Beaufort is a true waterproof jacket. Olive is too rustic for the corporate commuter but navy Beauforts worn over suits is a very popular look with NY executives. I wouldn’t bother with the optional liner or hood. Wear it with leather gloves and a gray Kangol 504 cap. Wear it on the weekends with a mid check shirt or solid Barbarian rugby jersey, navy jeans and deck shoes. It’s too warm for Summer wear and newly waxed jackets can transfer their coating onto car seats.

Neither coat requires a scarf, leave some shirt exposed unless it’s raining or freezing.

69 Charlie Bailey August 31, 2013 at 9:16 am

Does anyone know a place in the UK where you can buy a ulster coat quite cheaply? They are all so expensive. :(

70 Richie October 9, 2013 at 6:37 pm

I just recently bought my first proper overcoat off ebay. It’s a department store coat (River Island here in the UK), but looks like it has design elements taken from the Chesterfield & shares many of its characteristics.
It is in new condition and I am wondering if there are break-in periods with new overcoats? I say this as while it does fit me well, it is just slightly too fitted to comfortably wear my suit jacket underneath. Will I see any subtle changes in fit with time & wearings?
Either way I love it, cheers to the writer of this article & others online for their expert knowledge & advice.

71 Gerald October 13, 2013 at 6:52 am

I bought one of those Covert coats when I was in London and I love it. Everyone says I look very distinctive in it. I’m 6’1 with a 38 inch waist. That coat slims me down a bit.

72 Evhan October 23, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Would a top hat or bowler hat go better with overcoats generically? It’s a sort of look I was wanting to create for myself.

73 Daniel October 25, 2013 at 7:32 pm

The cut of the Covert coat in that picture is to die for. I’m taking that picture to the tailors.

74 Rory November 5, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Awesome post! I think the Crombie needs an honorable mention though. I wear one with my DMs and trousers and it looks right crisp.

http://www.crombie.co.uk/

75 Georges November 5, 2013 at 8:29 pm

I’ve been looking for a nice overcoat, and I think I may have lucked out in finding one this afternoon: long, and a nice dark green.

My only question is, could I tailor it to fit a little snugger (and give it a faux double-breasted look), or leave it as it is, and wear it big? Any opinions?

76 Alfred November 8, 2013 at 9:17 am

@FeatherBlade
A so-called Lodenfrey overcoat as worn in Switzerland/ Austria is more suitable for damp climate than a regular wool overcoat.
Very pleasant and stylish

77 James November 12, 2013 at 11:22 am

I currently own a Dark brown wool great coat. I am trying to find a place to buy a half belt seeing as mine didn’t come with its half belt. The coat is a perfect fit with a suit but without the half belt it still feels a little off Do you have any ideas on what I can do to solve this problem?

78 Connor Sharps November 17, 2013 at 3:44 pm

I have had an overcoat made for me here in Oxford. After eight weeks of waiting, I am finally having a fitting in a few days. It’s fair to say I am very excited :D

79 Raul Fernandez January 21, 2014 at 11:00 pm

Thanks for the great information. However, where does one get a custom coat?

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