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Overcoat | The Ultimate Styling Guide

November 08, 2021 6 min read

What is an Overcoat?

Despite being a staple of menswear, it's hard to pinpoint the exact origins of the overcoat. Several sources say that the overcoat was invented in 1772, while others say it was developed in the 19th century. Regardless, the word overcoat was used well before the 18th century, meaning that overcoats were around before the Regency period in Britain.

Crafted from heavy materials like wool, Melton, Marino, etc., the overcoat is a long-sleeved coat. The overcoat can either be single- or even double-breasted and usually has a single vent at the back. The topcoat, often confused with the overcoat, is made from a lighter fabric, extending to its knee at the very longest. Furthermore, the greatcoat is also a widespread confusion of overcoat. Essentially, the greatcoat is bulkier, heavier, and hard-wearing overcoat.

What to Look for When Buying an Overcoat?

When it comes to buying an overcoat, it is essential to choose the correct fabric. We recommend that you choose a style that is 100 percent wool and that has a good weight too, around 4 pounds. Overcoats made entirely from wool will help keep you warm, which is ultimately its primary purpose, as well as looking stylish. Alternatively, you could always try a cashmere version; however, not only are these painfully expensive, but they also wear at the cuffs and quicker, much faster than 100 percent wool design. If you're the type of person who can't do without at least a little bit of luxury, you can always try a wool-cashmere blend.

Despite being the final piece, you put on before you leave your house and start heading outside, how your overcoat hangs off your body should never be a last-minute thought. Fit is critical when it comes to deciding on an overcoat. If you choose to wear your coat over a suit, it is crucial to ensure that there is enough space for your shoulders and waist to fit your blazer underneath. As well as being very uncomfortable, it will look like the coat is too small for you, which may be embarrassing when attending formal or casual events.

Alongside fabric and fit, color is essential to ensure that it matches the rest of the items to wear underneath it. Navy will look great with most of your wardrobe; however, don't be afraid to try lighter colors like rich camels because it will also pay off. Like the shirts, trousers, and ties at your disposal, block colors should be your starting point before moving on to more exciting patterns such as checks.

The last thing to keep in mind when buying an overcoat is style. While designers are constantly re-imagining and changing the coat, adding things like elbow patches, contrast collars, and raglan shoulders, it is essential to go back to the basics and examine the two main styles: single-breasted and double-breasted. Single-breasted versions are much more minimal and clean, which allows them to be paired with everything from your suits to your casual denim jeans and shirt combination. On the other hand, double-breasted overcoats are much more traditional aesthetic and pair more easily with tailoring. The only exception to this is if you're wearing an unbuttoned and dressed down.

How to wear an Overcoat

As you can probably gather by now, the overcoat is intended to be worn outside as an outer layer piece of clothing. However, it is a common misconception that this is meant for the final piece in a winter suit attire. For a casual look, try a coat with a trim-fitting gingham shirt, rolled-up acid wash jeans, ribbed boot socks, and a pair of chunky Dr. Martens. For a perfect blend of formal, yet cultivated try wearing it over a slim-fit blazer, jumper, white Oxford shirt, and wool trousers, then finish with Derbies. A good tip for pulling off an overcoat is to choose one depending on height.

If you happen to be a shorter guy, don't feel overwhelmed by fabrics, and go for something neat, single-breasted, and most importantly, above the knee. On the other hand, if you're taller and have a larger build, then you can afford to experiment with different things like raglan sleeves or even calf-length coats.

The Evolution of the Overcoat

Overcoats were most formerly used to indicate wealth and power and often predicted one's social class standings. The overcoat was redefined back in the 1950s by the Teddys Boys or Teds, mainly a British youth subculture whose styles were derived from the styles during the Edwardian period.

Routinely working with high-waisted, stovepipe trousers and chunky brogues or creepers, the Teds reestablished this once old silhouette, making it a little more rebellious.

After a decade later, in the 1960s, the skinheads, who were a more radical and extreme subculture of the British working class, redefined the overcoat once more. Inspired by the Ted's reinterpretation of much of what was considered "high-class clothing," many skinheads began to pair coats with rolled-up jeans, 'bovver' boots, and sharply-cut check shirts buttoned to the top.

During the early 1970s, the subheads, a sect of the skinheads, would envelop a deep connection with the silhouette and start to pair it with smarter attire, such as Prince of Wales checks and brogues. Furthermore, in this same era, knee-length silhouettes began to gain recognition as the more versatile, practical style, rather than the dramatic full-length versions that were originally the overcoat.

By the 1980s, the overcoat made a miraculous and sudden return to the mainstream and became a crucial piece in the power dressing of a professional wardrobe. Box cut, slightly oversized, and worn over the relaxed suiting made the overcoat famous amongst Italian designers like Giorgio Armani.

Different Types of Overcoats

To truly have a full grasp of the overcoat, one must know about the different types of overcoats.

Initially, there was Chesterfield, named after the Earl of Chesterfield and invented in the mid 19th century. It is well known to be the very first overcoat in existence. Its many qualities include; single-breasted fly front, no waist seams or front darts, no cuffs, a single back vent, and otherwise plain back, short notched lapel. Most commonly, it is about knee length and comes in grey or charcoal. It makes for an excellent business coat, and if going with a velvet collar, it is definitely a conversation starter.

The Covert coat, which is very similar to the Chesterfield but designed for hunting and the outdoors. Therefore, it is made from an exceptionally sturdy material. The covert cloth is named after the covert bushes and is designed to protect the wearer from mud, bush encounters, and the weather. For that reason, it had to be a hefty, sturdy, and durable material. Currently, the fabric is not as heavy anymore, but it's still made to last. A couple of tell-tale signs of a Covert coat is that it is single breasted with a fly front, made from brown-green covert cloth, has a center vent, and has two flap pockets with an optional ticket pocket. If you want an overcoat that can be your best friend for the next 20 years, you should consider this one.

The Paletot. It is french and was used to describe a relatively short, fitted overcoat. It has many features, including that it can be either single or double-breasted, with or without pleats, and could or could not have pockets. Today the Paletot is used as a business overcoat. When worn in a dark, plain fabric, this coat is very versatile. Colors like navy blue and charcoal math exquisitely with the Paletot, as they can be worn to the office, with a tuxedo, at a funeral, and essentially anywhere else. If you only have the budget to buy one overcoat, you'd be making a big mistake not buying a Paletot.

Where to Get the best Overcoats

All in all, the critical factor to consider when looking to purchase a good overcoat is to get it from a place that can specifically tailor it to fit your body perfectly. At Isaac Ely Bespoke, we specialize in tailoring every piece to fit you perfectly. With our expert measuring process, fabric selection, and experience in designing high-quality custom-made pieces, our goal is to help you master your style. So whether you are looking for an expert tailored single-breasted overcoat,shirt,trousers,shoes, or suit, we have you covered.