The origins of the overcoat and the brand that created it

The perfect accompaniment to the suit, be it lounge or dinner and the definitive gentleman’s outerwear option. The overcoat has been a style staple for the sartorially inclined man for centuries, and has a history as storied as the great men who have worn one; from the likes of Sir Winston Churchill to Mr James Dean.

Dating back, in some semblance to its current guise at least, to the Regency period in Britain, the coat shouldn’t be confused with the topcoat, which has different makeup to this winter wardrobe mainstay. The overcoat, to be traditional, is constructed of heavier materials, usually a wool of some kind; extends to around the knee, or below; is single or double-breasted; and possesses just a single vent in the back. In comparison, a topcoat is lighter and never goes below the knee – although the differences between the two are now about as blurred as their origins.

Overcoats also have a close and lengthy relationship with the military, as many a menswear wardrobe hero does – trench coats, pea coats and parkas also among those that have served. The brand most credited for introducing it to the masses in the modern era though is Crombie.

Key Brand: Crombie

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The Crombie coat is an icon of our Isles (and beyond) and has a heritage that traces back to 1805, where the family’s luxurious yarns were used in creating overcoats for the country’s well-heeled. In the 1880s the family established links with Russia, which persist today, introducing the heavy pile “Russian Coat” to combat the region’s harsh climate and quickly became a favourite among the powerful Tsars.

Come the Great War, attention in the company switched to military uniforms with one tenth of all greatcoats, heavier oversized takes on the overcoat, worn by British soldiers baring a Crombie label. A period of prosperity around the globe followed for the brand and in the 1930s they were outfitting the Duke of York (later George VI) before providing coats to the armed forces throughout the Second World War.

Post-war, Crombie coats became the outerwear of choice for the style symbols of the 40s and beyond. The likes of Cary Grant, Winston Churchill, JFK and The Beatles among noted fans.

Overcoat Icons

Winston Churchill

WinstonChurchillOvercoat-TheGentlemansJournal

James Dean

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Cary Grant

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Daniel Craig (as James Bond)

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Top Picks

CrombieOvercoatRetro-TheGentlemansJournal

Black Retro Coat, £895.00 from Crombie

ASOSOvercoat-TheGentlemansJournal

Wool Overcoat in Light Grey, £90.00 from ASOS

JCrewOvercoat-TheGentlemansJournalLudlow Slim-Fit Wool and Cashmere-Blend Overcoat, £450.00 from J. Crew

GievesHawkesOvercoat-TheGentlemansJournal

Striped Wool and Cashmere-Blend Overcoat, £995.00 from Gieves & Hawkes

HardyAmiesOvercoat-TheGentlemansJournal

Slim-Fit Double-Breasted Brushed-Cashmere Overcoat, £795.00 from Hardy Amies 

Further Reading