The topcoat has become a staple of the modern man’s closet. It’s newfound versatility certainly hasn’t hurt. What used to be reserved strictly for wearing atop a suit has evolved into a jacket that is the ideal complement to a great pair of jeans or sweatpants. And it can look just as good on top of a plain white t-shirt as it does over a white button down with a tie.
Of course, this is not your father’s topcoat. (No shoulder pads here). Modern overcoats have a slimmed down fit and come in some progressive colors. To help you find the perfect topcoat for you, we put together this helpful how-to guide.
Your suit has a slim fit, so should your overcoat. You don’t want to be swimming in a coat that makes you look like a kid wearing his dad’s jacket. But you also don’t want to pull a Chris Farley and go all “fat guy in a little coat.” Even though you don’t always have to wear a topcoat over a suit or blazer, it’s a good idea to have one on hand so you get a feel for how the topcoat feels over a few layers. Make sure the coat goes on easily and allows you to move unrestricted. It’s also never a bad idea to have a tailor make some adjustments after you find the right one.
Your topcoat should come to the knee or just above it. The extra warmth you gain by going longer isn’t worth looking like you’re wearing a clergy’s vestments. With a coat that stops around the knee you’ll look formal enough when you wear it over a suit, but you’ll also be able to pair it with more casual attire like jeans or jogger pants without missing a beat. As for the sleeves, make sure they are the same length as your shirt—perhaps a smidge longer—to keep you toasty.
Single- or double-breasted
This is going to come down to personal style and which one you feel you can pull off. A double-breasted topcoat is a little more formal and makes more of a statement. It also provides a little more warmth since you have two layers of fabric covering your chest. A single-breasted coat dresses down easier. If you’re on the fence, go with the single.
You can’t go wrong with the colors commonly found in suits (i.e. navy, black, grey). But camel is another great choice and pairs great with a pair of well-worn jeans. If you don’t want to go with camel-hair coats made with actual hair from actual camels, try a more affordable but equally sharp dyed-wool version. If you want to show a little more flair, opt for a burgundy or a plaid pattern.
A wool-cashmere blend is going to provide durability, warmth, and softness. You can get a full cashmere version but be prepared to shell out some loot. You’ll have to be more delicate with cashmere since it’s not as tough as wool and can fray easier. So, yeah, buy the wool-cashmere blend.
Now that you know what to look for, here are five great coats that fit the bill:
Polo Ralph Lauren