Chilly Complements: The Overcoat

Morning everyone.  This is the second installment of the #ChillyComplements series.  Last week, I focused on scarves and this time around, overcoats are the focal point.  Feel free to leave your two cents in the comments section.  Thanks for reading.

High school used to be our job.  We didn’t get paid for it, but that was our figurative 9-5.  The dress code, for many of us, was relaxed.  Toss on some jeans, a thermal shirt, and a Starter coat with an NFL team on it and you were ready for cold weather season.  Well, now, that is only acceptable if you’re headed to a sporting event.  Long story short, you’re too old to be wearing puffy Giants coats to work these days if, under it, you have a collared shirt on.  So now, you need to be looking for a more sophisticated coat.  Something that says “This person has class.”  But you don’t want to get one that is TOO big (there is an example of an over-sized overcoat below).  I decided to head to the two of my favorite menswear blogs The Art of Manliness and Gilt MANual to find out some specifics on how to properly buy and fit your overcoat.  Check them out below and see the examples of both a well-fitting overcoat and an ill-fitting one.  It’s getting colder.  No better time than now to make sure your wardrobe is ready for the season (Well, actually, the off-season would’ve been a better time in terms of prices, but oh well.  Too late).

Characteristics of a Quality Overcoat

A good overcoat should be warm, fit you, and make you look great.

Fabric. If you plan to wear your overcoat for years to come, make sure you buy a coat that is made of 100% wool and that it weighs at least 4 pounds (for average-sized men). In general, heavier coats last longer because the fabric is more durable.

Cashmere coats are nice, soft, and warm but they will show wear on the cuffs, the collar, and moths love them. In addition, they can double the price of a coat for little to no advantage (in terms of warmth or appearance). With the quality of most wool jacket fabrics these days, they are often just as soft as all but the finest cashmere. I find a nice compromise is a wool cashmere blend – my overcoat is about 10% cashmere.

Sleeves. The coat sleeves should completely cover the suit sleeve as well as the shirt cuff, and even reach a little further down. This way, you should not get cold on your wrists when you wear gloves with it.

Length. Traditionally, overcoats were rather long-reaching garments, extending almost all the way to the ankles. These full-length coats are often the coat of choice for seasoned gentlemen as they can compliment a wide range of figures…to include those of us a bit rounder in the midsection.

Today, most younger men wear their coats knee-length, which is anywhere between the lower part of the knee to slightly above. This only compliments men with trim builds and who wear the coat closer to the body. It’s a convenient option if you find yourself entering and exiting your automobile multiple times a day.

If you pick a full-length or knee-length coat is a matter of choice, but bear in mind that the full-length coat may be warmer, and can make you look a little more seasoned than the knee-length coat.

Fit. When you buy an overcoat, make sure to wear a shirt and a sportscoat or suit jacket because the coat has to fit on top of it.

Some men like a looser fit while younger men often prefer a trimmer fit. However, if you see X-wrinkles when buttoning your overcoat, it is definitely too tight.

Style. With regards to style it is once again up to you what you choose. The single-breasted overcoat with notched lapel is a good all-a-rounder whereas the double-breasted peak lapel overcoat is a little more formal and wears warmer when it is cold because you have two layers of fabric over your chest.

Construction. High-quality coats have a sewn canvas, whereas less expensive overcoats have a fused canvas. A sewn canvas is definitely more durable and built to last whereas a poorly glued interlining can come loose after a few years, ruining the garment. If money is of no concern to you, go with a fully canvassed overcoat. If not, try to buy fully canvassed suits and go with a glued overcoat. Unlike with a suit, a glued canvas overcoat is acceptable since it is cut looser and you wear it less frequently.

For the full article, visit The Art of Manliness.

Rule of Thumb

Photo: Everett Collection

Alongside your favorite pair of jeans, your overcoat—at least during the year’s colder months—is worn on a near-daily basis. When you spend that much time with one piece of clothing, you need to pay attention to the details, and most importantly, that means the fit. A good overcoat should comfortably layer over a blazer, yet not seem sloppy or baggy when worn without one. A good (literal) rule of thumb is a simple sleeve measurement. Put on your overcoat, relax your arms, and see where the sleeve-hem falls. If it drapes past the first knuckle of your thumb, it’s too long, and it’s tailor time. Here’s the length you want: hitting just past the wrist, as shown on the right by Jason Statham. After all, it’s your coat, not your big brother’s.

Photo: Getty Images

Prada, Fall ’11: We’re all for bold statements on the runway, but you might want to think twice before trying the ‘big brother’ look in real life.

Source: Gilt

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