Cold weather rules for a warm coat

Cold weather rules for a warm coat

Q. What is the correct length for a good winter coat that is not a long coat?  The down jackets that end at my waist make me look fat . . . or fatter, but I don’t want to wear my father’s style coat that goes down to my shins.

A. You’re in luck, a while back, I would have recommended that you choose a topcoat that extends below the knee, but that is no longer the case. First, because such longer coats look out of style, and second, because they tend to have a grandfatherly air (or at least “fatherly” as you suggested).

For the past several years, everything in menswear has leaned toward the shorter and trimmer look, and topcoats are no exception. Today you have two modern options: either choose a to-the-knee length or the ¾ length.

The shorter ¾ length is similar to a casual “car-coat” or “pea jacket,” but dressier. It can be a very stylish look, if you are careful to choose a slim-fit cut. When it is not a narrow cut, it looks too boxy, too dated, and too casual.

Another reason to choose a shorter coat — and perhaps the reason you asked – is it’s more convenient and comfortable when you drive or travel in a car. So, how long should a topcoat be? The rules of fit are similar to the way a suit jacket should fit, but keep in mind the primary rule is that the length must completely cover any jacket you are wearing underneath.

How costly should this coat be?  Well, you need a proper coat that will look sharp and timeless when you are “dressed up” and that will last for many, many years. Because topcoats are so long-lasting, they are usually among the more luxurious (translation: expensive) items in a man’s closet. Still, they are worth the investment. Also, keep in mind that your coat is the first thing anyone is going to see, an excellent reason to choose it carefully.

As we near colder weather and the holiday season, these questions about warm outerwear come to mind. If a man already owns a good raincoat and wants a second cold-weather coat, a wool or wool-cashmere blend topcoat is that next choice. Somewhat on the formal side, it should be dark blue or dark gray, preferably a solid color.

Select a single- or double-breasted cut, depending on your preference. (I think single-breasted is the more versatile choice; it gives you the option to wear it buttoned or unbuttoned while still looking sharp.) A topcoat is not to be confused with a down coat, a motorcycle jacket, a windbreaker, a puffer, a hoodie, or other more casual coats men wear in the winter months. Any of those might be useful in different settings for skiing, for playing with the children in the snow, or taking a brisk winter walk; but, here, we are talking about an office/work setting. And, unless you live in Duluth, or a similarly subarctic climate, today’s business demands do not require a heavier coat, known as an overcoat. You are in and out of cars and buildings, and there are few hours in the year when you will need the stifling warmth of an old-fashioned overcoat.

A coat’s basic purpose is to keep the wearer warm throughout winter months. Because it is a costly purchase, be sure the one you choose is a classic cut and of the right quality to last long. Here are a few tips for buying a topcoat. 

  •  Cut and fit are important. Take your time; shop carefully. Go for the one that fits you perfectly. Both oversized (too long or too boxy) and tight-fitting (too constricting) topcoats will make you look awkward.
  • No coat should be purchased without a full try-on. Some salespeople and some online advice will suggest buying a coat one size larger than your suit size. While this may work for you, the only way to be sure, is to try on both sizes and check yourself out in a three-way mirror. Each manufacturer is different.
  • Wear a suit jacket under the coat for your try-on. Assure yourself of free movement and uncramped fit. If the coat has a back vent, it should hang straight and closed when the coat is buttoned.

Avoid buying a topcoat with any trendy special touches, because when they go out of fashion, you will be stuck with your lemon. Instead, select a classic style that will look good and remain in style for decades. A wool topcoat is expensive, but since it is in most cases a one-time purchase, you need not feel guilty about the cost.

The range of prices is huge, with some upscale makers charging more than $2,000. To my surprise, I recently saw online a good-looking ¾ length coat by Combatant Gentlemen for less than  $160! It appeared to be perfectly cut.

Since a topcoat is a classic garment, it lends itself beautifully to special (even formal) occasions as well as for commuting to work. And to make it all the more versatile, it does not usually look “too dressy.”

Please send your men’s dress questions and comments to MALE CALL:

Categories: Male Call