How to wear an overcoat

As the weather takes a turn, it’s time to master the overcoat

We’d say there’s nothing worse than seeing a man on the way to the office wearing an anorak or hiking fleece over his suit – but we’d be wrong. Much worse than these sartorial travesties is the man who attempts to make an effort, but gets it very wrong. And nothing hits further from the mark than an ill-fitting overcoat.

Overcoats – to differentiate from greatcoats and topcoats – are long coats with full-length sleeves worn on top of an outfit and taken off after venturing indoors. Topcoats are lightweight overcoats, and greatcoats heavy overcoats, usually with military detailing. The classic overcoat is a traditional and respected look, and this is how you get it right.

How to wear an overcoat

How long should my overcoat be?

If you were to stick to the traditional overcoat length, it would be brushing your ankles. But, with the inclement weather on its way – we’re talking puddles – and the automatic doors on modern public transport, we’d advise you skirt clear of anything with too low a hem. Instead, we’d opt for something knee-length, or just past the knee.

This is a fit that compliments trim figures, so only opt for an overcoat if you’re confident in your physique. This is a great option if you’re getting in and out of car all day, and this slightly shorter cut – which shows that you’ve acknowledged and respect traditions, but are putting your own spin on a classic design, and bringing it into the 21st Century for modern men.

How to wear an overcoat

What style of overcoat should I buy?

Style is mostly down to personal preference, but there are a couple of rules you should stick to if you want to own your overcoat game. A good all-rounder would be a single-breasted overcoat with a notched lapel – effortlessly sharp, very versatile and smart without looking too try-hard.

However, if you’re looking to buy for the dead of winter, double-breasted may be a good call. Not only is the amount of material across your chest doubled, to keep you warm, but the sewn canvas you tend to get on a well-made, slightly-more formal peak lapel double-breasted overcoat is indicative of a higher level of craftsmanship and build quality.

How to wear an overcoat

How should my overcoat be fitted?

As mentioned, the shorter overcoat only flatters those with a slimmer figure. So, if you’re packing a little more weight around your middle, the longer coat would be the best bet for you. But, if you’re keeping up with your morning run, and have opted for the knee-length option, look for a slim fit cut that will sit neatly over your suit without being too tight.

In terms of sleeves, the overcoat should completely cover both your suit and shirt cuff, and perhaps even reach a little further down again to accommodate the gap between cuff and glove on those particularly cold days.

How to wear an overcoat

What colour should my overcoat be?

As with suits, the classic colours tend to be the best – and most versatile. Opt for a traditional black, navy or charcoal to go with the majority of your suits. Wool and cashmere look great in these colours, and even a taupe or camel will work over the majority of your darker suits – but is more prone to marking. Our advice would be to stay along the darker end of the spectrum, while avoiding a plain, uninteresting black.

Further Reading