This is the Donegal Overcoat. Yarn from Donegal, woven in Lancashire and manufactured in Manchester.
As an idea, it had its origins in the observation that I wore my brown raglan coat (shown here) more often than any other last winter.
Despite the shortcomings of that piece (low collar, odd button positioning) it was a lovely material and easy to wear - just thrown over anything, whether smart or casual.
I wanted to keep the cloth. Donegal tweed is so pleasing in the texture it creates, yet subtle. There’s slubbiness in there and colour variation when you look carefully, but it never feels as old-fashioned as a big windowpane.
Genuine Donegal yarn, and weaving it in the UK too, appealed to Private White of course, given their emphasis on local make.
I wanted to change the colour though. Brown is great, but too warm and casual to wear with a suit - so I took inspiration from the charcoal donegal jacket Steven Hitchcock made me last year.
That seemed to have the perfect combination of casual texture yet coolness of tone.
Developing the cloth was pretty straightforward. Harder was the overall design of the coat - in fact, rather harder than I expected.
A raglan coat looks so simple. There are no fiddly bits like belts, box pleats or cuffs. It’s all collar and then long drape of cloth.
But actually I think that increases the emphasis on the few design elements there are. The collar really bothered me, for instance, but I couldn’t figure out why.
After a couple of samples, we figured out it wasn’t the collar itself but where it sat on the body. We needed to lift it up, so it encircled the neck and covered the shirt and tie when buttoned.
This is practical, giving more protection from the wind, but also flattering, as it makes the wearer look taller as well as broader across the shoulders.
Walking the coast of Ireland (in fitting with the Donegal theme) put that to the test.
Buttoning up just the top two buttons (also a style I like) showed how well the new collar design worked. There was no need for the throat latch, though we did test that as well.
If you needed to, it was also possible to tighten the cuff of the coat against the cold. And fasten the vent closed at the back, with a hidden button.
I carried across a couple of favourite design points from the Bridge Coat.
One was the deep gold lining, which goes as well with grey Donegal and it did with the Bridge Coat’s navy. Distinctive, but not showy.
Another was cashmere-lined pockets. Frankly, I’ll never understand people that line pockets with bemberg or similar. It’s so cold. Cotton would be no more expensive, and a good deal warmer.
But the ultimate is cashmere (and on both sides, front and back of the hand). It’s like putting on luxurious gloves every time you put your hands in there.
The buttons were also carried across: the matte, two-hole, dark-brown horn that is used on Savile Row tailoring and (for me) immediately separates this from normal ready-to-wear.
There are also small brown flecks in the Donegal cloth - some dark brown, some light - which go well with the buttons. It’s the key reason the coat works with things like jeans and brown suede I think, as well as tailoring. It softens the look.
The outfits pictured here are intended to demonstrate this versatility.
In the outfit below, the coat is worn over a grey roll neck (also Private White), blue denim and brown-suede boots, with a Permanent Style cream watch cap.
That’s for the weekend walk, chucked on to run out with the dog.
Next, the coat is worn at a local coffee shop, with tailoring.
The jacket is in our brown Escorial Tweed, made by Sartoria Zizolfi; the trousers are green flannel by Pommella; and the shirt is in striped PS Oxford cloth.
With Edward Green loafers, it’s smart but not too smart. A good example of the sports-jacket-and-trousers combination I’ve been banging on about for a long time.
And then it’s worn with a tie, below, just to show how smartly that all comes together.
I doubt many readers will want to add the beret. But just so you know, that seems to work nicely as well.
I’m still experimenting with the beret. It’s so practical, rolling up into the pocket, but it sits on a fine line between distinctive and dandy.
Other product points to mention are that we made the coat a couple of inches longer than most, so it drops just below my knee. But it’s easy to shorten if you want (in fact easier than almost any other coat) and we left 2cm of inlay in there so it can even be lengthened.
Full details on alterations at the bottom of this post.
I also reshaped the throat latch. It’s the only significant, asymmetric design point on a coat like this, and often ignored. Ours follows the line of the collar, with angled ends.
And probably most importantly, the collar has a large crescent-shaped insert at the back, between it and the body of the coat.
You can wear the collar of this coat down, but I would always have it up - and it simply won’t stay up without that insert.
It’s something bespoke overcoats often miss out, because they’re cut like a jacket and not designed to be popped up.
Here are some details for those that are interested.
First, the cloth, which is really what makes this coat. The long flowing expanse of it is a celebration of that cloth, its character and its texture.
The origin is 'Donegal Yarns': the last remaining spinner of the product in Donegal, Ireland. The tiny mill has been spinning that distinctive flecked yarn since the nineteenth century, and the Kilcarra tweed we used in our coat deliberately echoes the feeling of the very first incarnations.
The mill also dyes, blends, cards and spins all itself - all in a tiny operation between the heather-topped hills and the Irish coast.
Cloth and make
The yarn was then woven by Mallalieus of Delph, a small family-run mill in the middle of the Pennines that dates back to 1863. It is also one of the few vertically integrated mills left in England.
And conveniently close to Private White VC in Manchester, where the coat was manufactured.
The cloth is 620g, which is good for most of the winter in the UK - but not the kind of thing to buy if you need just one coat to survive the season in Boston.
- The Donegal Overcoat costs £745 plus VAT. At the moment it is exclusively available through Permanent Style, on the webshop here.
- We have sizes from Small (Private White 3) up to Extra Large (Private White 6).
- Have a close look at the measurements below if you're unsure of sizing, and if in doubt compare to a coat you already own
- However, I would say the coat is standard size, so I would take your normal size - roughly Small for a 48 chest, Medium for 50 and so on. Unlike the Bridge Coat, it is not slim in fit and there should therefore be no need to size up.
- I am six foot tall and usually wear a size 50-chest jacket. I am wearing a Medium.
- As with all our products, there are free returns should you want to change sizes. Ships from the UK.
- The coat is cut a little longer than most modern overcoats, as I consider it more practical and flattering
- However, it can easily be shortened by a tailor - a good four inches without interrupting much of the balance
- It can also be lengthened slightly if needed, by around 2cm
- The sleeves can also be lengthened by around 2cm if required
- And they can be shortened. Shortening by 1.5cm would be easy - more than that would require the wrist strap to be moved, but that would not be a big job for a tailor
- The body can also be narrowed, but I wouldn't recommend it, as the style is supposed to be roomy, easy to wear, and flow
Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man