Finding a proper winter coat is a lot like dating. Finding something worth fully committing to for a few months solid requires playing the field, knowing what you like, and sometimes a little bit of luck.
Wool coats – whether they’re single- or double-breasted overcoats, duffles or pea coats – will keep you warm while adding a chic, classy element to a modern wardrobe. Given their timelessness, they’ll be wearable for years to come, too. The selection of coats on the market right now is crowded to say the least, so here are a few factors to consider before you invest in something that you’ll be wearing all season long.
A note on price: while there are tons of affordable overcoats out there – ASOS, Zara and Topman have particularly large ranges – we’d advise investing in a piece crafted with high-quality fabrics and with a well-cut silhouette.
Of course, not everyone can throw down three racks on a cashmere joint from Saint Laurent, but a good coat should be an investment – something you enjoy wearing every day. Poorly-fitting coats are not flattering, and cheap nasty fabrics won’t have you coming back to your purchase in a few seasons’ time – so make sure you try before you buy, and that it fits you just right (more on that later).
Find An Overcoat That Suits Your Style
Most heavy-duty winter styles stem from two longtime menswear inspirations – what the military wore and what the monied men of yore wore. Peacoats, great coats, and even horn-fastened duffle coats were once standard issue in the armed forces. More dapper topcoats and velvet-collared Crombie jackets were derived from the wardrobes of courtiers and noblemen, before they were co-opted by unsavory Teddy Boys and rockers with awesome hair.
Many labels have taken influence from these classics and worked them into contemporary pieces – like hooded wool coaches jackets or outdoorsman’s parkas reimagined in handsome camel fabrics. While there’s tons of hybrid pieces out there, you should really think about one (or let’s be real, maybe two or three) silhouettes you could actually see yourself putting on over and over again without getting bored.
A winter coat should be like an iPhone—so pragmatic and subtly stylish that you almost forget about it when it’s on, yet miss it sorely when you have to go without it. Not that a winter coat can call an Uber, but you get the picture – if you’re gonna pull the trigger, you should love the damn thing.
Think About What You’ll Wear It With
When shopping for outerwear, remember what the rest of your wardrobe looks like. If you have a lot of navy, black, and gray, then it would make sense for your coat to either follow suit, or go against the grain in a complementary way. A contrasting coat in eggshell white, camel, houndstooth or plaid would be a great statement piece for any man’s wardrobe.
Ideally your coat should fit a bit slim, but still with room to layer hoodies, sweaters, turtlenecks, or lighter jackets underneath. While unstructured, slightly oversized fits are having a moment, remember you’re looking for something you can wear year-in, year-out, not a trendy one-season piece.
Your coat should preferably sit perfectly on your shoulders, and the sleeves should stop where your wrists do. While designer labels like Lemaire like to exaggerate proportions, a good rule of thumb is for the hem to end somewhere around your knees.
Go For Something Timeless
A coat is a pretty big purchase, so it wouldn’t make sense to cop something you won’t wear for more than a season. Go for something as trend-proof as it is weatherproof. Tried-and-tested silhouettes like Gloverall’s Monty Duffle Coat or Schott NYC’s Classic Melton Wool Peacoat aren’t going anywhere. In fact, these are the archetypes brands like Supreme and Stüssy often collaborate on, or the classics that fashion-forward labels reinterpret in their collections.
Consider the details when it comes to finding something that suits your personality – without resorting to one-season fads. Single-breasted coats are more casual than their double-breasted counterparts, but both can be dressed up or down. Hidden plackets concealing the front buttons, as seen on these coats from Dries Van Noten and COS, may appeal to fans of minimalism. Would-be futuristic goth punks may see the value in a kimono-inspired number. Harris Wharf London and Barena have taken the unstructured route, offering a relaxed, boxy fit that looks far from sloppy.
Even designers known for particularly aggressive aesthetics – like Rick Owens – produce wool coats that make staid outerwear staples look suddenly relevant without going too far into the deep end.
Consider Your Overcoat’s Fabrics
One of the biggest contributing factors to a coat’s warmth and final price is its composition. Full cashmere pieces from brands like Brunello Cucinelli will be undeniably delightful to touch and supremely warm, but they’ll cost a mint. It’s possible to snag one for far less thanks to labels like Suitsupply, but even these cashmere coats will set you back around $1,000.
Sourced from goats instead of sheep, cashmere’s high price of admission stems its relative scarcity and expensive production process. It can also be an absolute bitch to care for. So keep in mind if you want to go the cashmere route, you’ll have to put aside the dough to get it maintained and cleaned on a regular basis.
Most cost-effective coats are made from blended fabrics, while 100% wool coats made from Melton or boiled wool offer more warmth – at a price. The distinguishing globe mark of Harris Tweed is such a signifier of quality that it’s literally protected by an act of Parliament – any textile carrying the mark must be certified to have come from the Outer Hebrides. That’s why you can even trust fast-fashion brands like Topman when they carry Harris Tweed topcoats for a decent price.
Other companies will mix in modern materials like Thinsulate lining or windproof GORE-TEX to further insulate their garms against the cold. nanamica does this especially well with its wool Soutien collar coat, resulting in a decent bang/buck ratio, although it’s still pricey.
With all of that in mind, all that’s left is to actually go out and find your perfect wool winter coat. Just make sure you get something that will last for many seasons to come – or at the very least, until you get tired of it, sell it on Grailed, and find something else that tickles your fancy. Happy hunting!
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