Throw an Overcoat Over You

Dennis Kleidsam in a balmacaan

As the mercury drops, so it seems does our ambition, at least for me.  The sun rides so low on the horizon after work that by the time I come home it seems late, even if it’s not, and the only thing I feel like doing, is nothing.  All motivation for self-care that involves effort is packed away with my straw hats and aloha shirts, and the only exercise I can brag about is lifting myself out of bed.  In short, days after the autumnal equinox suck.  But if there’s a ray of sunshine beaming warmly through your polar vortex this year, let it be the clothes.

Of all the cozy items one can wear, there’s none much more satisfying than the overcoat. Perhaps it’s the fact that they make otherwise unpleasant conditions not just tolerable, but almost enjoyable. Tuck your hands in the pockets of an overcoat, lift your collar to the cold, and as your body is cocooned in the safety of windproof tweed, plush cashmere, or even suede, a smile breaks over your face as you see your breath fog in the crisp, refreshing air, and suddenly winter isn’t so bad after all.

This may say a lot about our instinctive need to shelter ourselves. For those of us daring – or stupid – enough to brave the cold, an overcoat offers decent protection that outperforms its physical capabilities and gives us the mental drive to wave away the wind, bolster our courage, and weather the elements. Much like getting into a tent (or a car, for those who refuse to enjoy camping), an overcoat doesn’t so much protect as it lifts our spirits and stokes the fire in our belly to carry on. Below freezing, you’re obviously going to need more than a layer of wool, but until then, an overcoat will do just fine, and give the ooomph you need to power through the ten-minute walk to the pub, after which you can brag to your mates about your feats of valor over a hot toddy.

Now where to get them: vintage overcoats can be a fine choice, but as they’re usually quite heavy and have generous sleeves, they usually look better layered over a suit. Newer options have all the practicality and elongating silhouette of the old school but their softer construction makes them easier to wear with a wider variety of clothes.  A few of my favorites this season:

Balmacaans and belted coats are probably the most versatile, and suitable for almost anything.  This coat from Eidos, for example, can be dressed up or down, with a suit or a sweater.

As to how you can wear an overcoat: you could flex your color theory skills by combining complementary, analogous, or triadic (!) colors, but one of the most striking ways is also one of the easiest, and that is by pairing them with contrasting monochrome outfits. In other words, choose a top and bottom that are similar in color and shade, and throw on a darker or lighter overcoat. For example, try a camel-colored Ulster with a cream sweater and trousers, or a grey topcoat with a charcoal turtleneck and pants. Another easy option is wearing something that picks up on a secondary color in a plaid, or you could try mixing varying textures all in similar hues for subtle interest. And of course, if you’re feeling particularly colorful, there’s nothing wrong with adding a boldly colored knit like Mr. Sexton so wonderfully demonstrates below.

Edward Sexton in his greatcoat
Olof Nithenius in a balmacaan
Erik Mannby relaxing in a greatcoat
Eidos plaid double breasted coat
Vintage belted tweed balmacaan by Pendleton
Alex Pirounis in a double breasted martingala coat from Anglo-Italian
Kyle from NMWA in a Kaptain Sunshine Traveler Coat
Eidos topcoat
Manrico cashmere belted overcoat
Dennis Kleidsam in a balmacaan
Erik Mannby in a balmacaan
Jake Grantham in a double breasted martingala coat from Anglo-Italian
Wool bonded Macintosh
Eidos raglan tweed coat
Doppiaa overcoat via No Man Walks Alone
Ralph Lauren Purple Label suede trench
Doppia covert coat via No Man Walks Alone
doppiaa overcoat by no man walks alone
Doppiaa covert coat via No Man Walks Alone
cotton trench coat in beige
Cotton trench by United Arrows
Kaptain Sunshine Traveler Coat worn by Daniel
Vintage tweed topcoat by Pendleton
Frank Leder short greatcoat
Frank Leder short great coat
Frank Leder topcoat
Bonded Macintosh
Eidos double breasted overcoat
Eidos topcoat
Eidos Aliano greatcoat
classic grey overcoat with big lapels
Eidos Aliano greatcoat
corduroy overcoat beige
Valstar corduroy topcoat
Valstar plaid topcoat
Top coat in Abraham Moon tweed from Abercrombie
overcoat blue textured
Kaptain Sunshine traveler coat
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Peter works in construction, but has an extensive collection of custom suits which he gets so that he can wear suits on the weekend. Even though he lives in San Francisco, he has never used the word "impact" as a verb. He writes about classic menswear and is one fedora away from being a complete dork.