I’m writing today from sunny San Francisco. It’s an unseasonably warm 83 degrees outside for early October and I’m thinking about outerwear. Go figure. If the baseball Giants were in town I would be at AT&T park. Alas, they are playing the Nationals in the first game of the NLDS in Washington D.C., where it is just 72 and cloudy, with a 70% chance of rain.
It occurred to me that it can be very difficult to think about preparing for cold weather when it is so nice and warm. It would be easier (though still not easy) today in DC than in SF to get into the mindset for buying outerwear. But for those who want to be ready when the cold and rainy weather hits, it’s time to give it some thought. So let’s think ahead. Better yet, let me take you back to last winter for a moment.
The weather last winter was ridiculous in large parts of the U.S.A., especially in the Midwest and Northeast. There were more than a few days when it was just plain crazy to even venture out to the mailbox. That didn’t necessarily stop us from going, but it did make a lot of us rethink the layers of protection we had to choose from. A great coat, a scarf, a pair of cashmere lined gloves, and the right shoes or boots can go a long way toward keeping one comfortable when the temperature plummets. As you would expect me to ask, is it not equally as important to look smart and stylish as it is to be warm and comfortable in your outerwear? Of course it is. But choosing the right piece of outerwear to accomplish all of that may not be easy. To help with that, here is a simple guide:
In simplest terms, there are three kinds of outerwear coats:
- Those that are to be worn ONLY OVER another coat or jacket.
- Those that can be worn most ANYTIME, whether over another jacket or as the only coat.
- Those that are to worn ONLY as the ONLY coat.
Coats to be worn over other coats or jackets (overcoats) – whether a suit jacket, sport jacket, or dinner jacket – are inherently more formal than those to be worn as a stand alone coat. An overcoat can be either single or double breasted and must be longer than the under or base coat. Those that should be worn only over another coat will be at least 10 inches longer than your suit jacket (Topcoat length) and may reach as far down as your ankles (Overcoat length.)
A popular choice of late for a dressy overcoat is a well-fitted Chesterfield (pictured left), distinguished by a single-breasted fly front and made from a moderately heavy cloth woven from wool, cashmere, or a blend of the two with raised nap or flannel feel, and Topcoat length. A true Chesterfield will also have a black velvet collar, adding a dash of panache.
Other less formal overcoat options would include the classic Trench coat, the Covert (not pictured), and the particularly masculine Polo coat. The blue coat (pictured below), a stylized version of the polo coat – blue instead of tan – cuts a commanding appearance. You will pretty much always get your way when wearing a coat like that.
The ANYTIME coat must walk the line between dressy and casual, and be neither too long nor too short. Coats in this category will be in the neighborhood of three-quarter length or a little shorter.
A classic choice for the ANYTIME coat that may be worn OVER another coat or by itself is the CAR coat (pictured left.)
Introduced in the early 20th century to be worn when driving in Open-air and Convertible cars, the car coat is shorter in length than a top coat (about 5 inches longer than your suit jacket), allowing for less bulk and more comfort when seated.
Coats that should be worn by themselves and not over another coat range from most leather jackets to coats made from canvas, nylon, fleece, or any sort of quilting. I’m really liking the idea of a quilted coat as a cool and comfortable option for casual wear this Fall and Winter.
In summary, the well-dressed man must have a bare minimum of three distinctly different coats and more likely at least five to cover the range of occasions and circumstances.
Do you remember last winter? How could we forget! Well, I’m not the weather man or Mother Nature, but I’m betting that there’s a pretty good chance another one is coming along real soon. For a full range of outerwear options, don’t miss the month’s 12 Essentials for Daily Living.