Style and Function: A Guide to Modern Raincoats for the Sophisticated Older Man

Style and Function: A Guide to Modern Raincoats for the Sophisticated Older Man

Q. What type of raincoat do you suggest for an older man? The one I have doesn’t look quite right. 

A. The best choice these days for any man is a versatile/go-everywhere raincoat extending to knee-length. Ankle-length styles are a dated look. The newer, shorter length nicely covers all of your needs whether you are wearing khakis with a polo shirt, dress trousers with a sport coat, a dressy suit, or a tuxedo.    

Because of this new length, if you already have a good raincoat in your closet that somehow looks not quite right, check to see if it extends down too long. Growing older often includes shrinking as many as a few inches in height. The fact that you may be shorter than you were when you bought the coat, and styles have changed in favor of shorter lengths, could make even the most top-quality raincoat look out of style. Still, if you are lucky enough to have one that almost works, you can have it shortened. 

Likewise, some men, while getting older, have also gained a few too many pounds. If this is the case, be sure your coat is not too tight and that it allows enough room for you to wear it comfortably over a sports jacket or a blazer. Anything that is too small will make you look heavier.

If, on the other hand, you plan to buy a new raincoat, start your selection process, if possible, in an absolutely topflight store. Perhaps look for one that carries the Burberry line of coats. Don’t think about a dark-colored one such as navy or black. Men think these “don’t show soil marks too quickly”; however, black actually does show any marks that are lighter than black (which are most). Confine your selection to classic khaki or tan (Burberry calls theirs “honey”).

Of course, you may not decide to buy this Rolls-Royce of coats. But once you try one on, you will know what the best looks and feels like, and will have a reference point for judging other brands. An all-cotton gabardine top-of-the-line Burberry trench coat costs a shocking $2590 – complete with its recognizable wool collar, epaulets, belt, an impressive brass loop or two, and a button-in wool liner. A blend of cotton-and-polyester with similar styling is priced somewhat less, $2150. Single-breasted versions with the distinctive Burberry plaid lining are also $2150. Since Burberry’s have become extremely hard to find, it’s good to know that a few other companies, such as Barbour and some designer labels, come close to Burberry’s quality.

The highest-quality coats are seldom on sale. The styles change so slightly that the retailer has no need to mark down this season’s unsold merchandise. He can pack the coats away in the stockroom until next year, and perhaps even raise the price a little to keep pace with inflation. It is exactly this never-out-of-style quality that makes these coats a good investment. They last for years, and continue to look good. 

With the current swing to more casual dressing, many raincoat manufacturers are no longer making a true dressy raincoat. Instead they feature other types of more casual  coats, such as hooded, water-repellent, short cotton parkas and driving coats. These are useful and somewhat versatile, but not really formal enough to be appropriate for dressy attire. A man’s actual need for a high quality raincoat depends upon the amount of rain he runs into during the seasons between when it is too hot and too cold to wear one. Some men find their investment on suits and quality umbrellas are wiser than on a true raincoat . . . that said, I have never heard of a man’s regretting the purchase of a Burberry trench.

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