What to consider when buying a men's overcoat

The overcoat shouldn’t play second fiddle to what’s worn beneath. It’s one of the it’s one of the most important, and often most costly, items of clothing a man will buy, so pick it with care, writes Alexander Fitzgerald.

Buying a winter coat is a serious investment, particularly when funds are in short supply. You need to keep warm, obviously, but you also want something that represents value for money and, no less importantly, offers a modicum of style.

As with most things in fashion, there are no hard and fast rules when shopping for a suitable coat.

There are, however, guidelines that can reduce the margin for costly errors while maximising the likelihood of sartorial success.



The best fabrics to keep you insulated are wool and cashmere. Cashmere is significantly warmer, but you’ll pay for the privilege and will have to contend with its inferior durability compared to the relatively hard-wearing, if rather less luxurious, wool.

If protection from the rain is the priority, there’s usually a compromise on aesthetics involved. Waterproof, breathable coats in high-vis colours and with tapered seams don’t exactly score many style points, but they will keep you dry.


It’s got to fit properly. To find the one that’s most appropriate for you, simply go up one size over your typical suit jacket size – this will allow you to move easily without the layers binding at the shoulders and neck.

If it’s a good fit, a coat’s shoulder seams should fall just over the edge of your natural shoulder.

Single or double

Double-breasted overcoats are having what's known in fashion circles as "a moment". They may look great on the likes of Harry Styles and Bradley Cooper (pictured right), but that's not to say they're suitable for everyone.

A single-breasted overcoat is generally the more practical choice since it can be worn open or closed, whereas, by the letter of the fashion law, a double-breasted coat should always remain closed.

Furthermore, a well-tailored single-breasted overcoat is more slimming – a definite plus in the colder winter months when most of us are carrying a few extra (insulating) pounds.

Size matters

While the fit and finish can make or break a coat, it’s equally important to consider its length. A man’s height, as well as his personal taste, will dictate whether it’s best to go for cropped blouson-style coat, something a little longer or a full- or three-quarter-length coat.

A full-length overcoat, which should fall around the lower level of the shins, tends to look smarter than a three-quarter-length design. This style of coat works particularly well on taller men, rather than their shorter counterparts, as longer overcoats can make the vertically challenged look stockier and shorter than they really are.

A three-quarter length coat, meanwhile, should fall anywhere between the lower part of your knee and the lower part of your trousers’ pockets. Increasingly prevalent on both the high-street and in designer collections, it’s the style of choice for the younger, fashion-conscious man. Fit for purpose That suede bomber may look the business draped artfully over the shop mannequin, but is it really going to prove insulating and impervious to the November rain as you pedal furiously down Pearse Street? Thought as much.

If you’re looking for something that you can throw over a 9-5 suit, a roomy overcoat is a smart choice.

If your working wardrobe is more casual and you’ll be wearing your coat with, say, jeans and trainers, consider a lightweight mac or a structured pea coat, which will convey casual cool without compromising on smartness.

Consider the long-term

It’s not necessary to break the bank to score the perfect winter coat, but don’t scrimp needlessly on an inferior quality item if you can afford to upgrade. Granted, the initial expenditure of a high-quality coat can sometimes be daunting, but remember: you get what you pay for.

Think of a coat as an investment and spend as much as you can. The blow-the-budget stuff tends to last longer (often much, much longer) if you look after it properly. Stay classy There’s a good reason that classic menswear brands such as Burberry usually stick to a tried-and-tested palette of grey, tan, navy and black when it comes to winter coats: they’ll always look good.

Granted, they may not have the look-at-me appeal of, say, a Paisley print parka, a lime green down jacket or a technicolour number that would be the envy of the cast of Joseph, but they can be worn week after week, month after month and they'll go with just about anything.