Knitwear and necklines – with Ciardi overcoat in ‘British Warm’

Friday, October 23rd 2020
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My love of bespoke overcoats continues unabated: the thing I was most excited about this Autumn was the prospect of wearing them again. 

It's annoying that, useful as they are (and arguably today, more useful than a bespoke suit) they are limited to the colder months of the year. Perhaps I just need to develop an equally strong love of linen trousers; then I'd never be unhappy. 

The coat I was particularly looking forward to wearing was this new one, from Sartoria Ciardi in Naples.

It was made earlier in the year, but due to some poor planning, only got worn a couple of times before the weather was too warm - and it had to be carefully packed away in the attic. 

It is rather a warm coat, being made in 850g wool from Holland & Sherry. It's from their Contemporary Overcoatings bunch (code 9819306) which has some pretty wild things in it, but also this and a few lovely herringbones.

The cloth is their recreation of the 'British Warm' - a style and fabric that was worn as a great coat by British officers during the First World War. (Though not a melton, as it is often described.) It was later made popular by Winston Churchill. 

It is at the heavier end of the range for overcoats, and yet, I rarely feel hot in it. During the visit to Stockholm pictured, temperatures topped out at 16 degrees (celsius). Yet I was not hot.

I wore it open except in the chilly mornings and evenings, and thanks to its beautiful bespoke shape, it still looked good, draping rather than just hanging. 

That perhaps comes across in some of the images, such as the one below. 

The cloth has a beautiful hand. It's wool - no cashmere in there - but soft and tightly woven. An attractive combination of pleasure and practicality, perhaps.

The colour is probably best described as taupe: a greyed, warm brown. It's not formal enough for the smartest business attire, really, but certainly for anything other than that. 

And it has a feeling in common with the camel colours of a polo coat - that it could be thrown on with knitwear and jeans at the weekend, yet be smart with a blazer and trousers too. 

That's how I was wearing it here, when we shot in Stockholm with Oliver and Carl of Rubato (shown above - article on their newest things soon) on a walk around Sodermalm. 

The jeans are from Boncuore/Drake's, from a few years back, and have a nice creamy (rather than stark/optical) white that it's not always easy to find. The boots are my suede Saint Crispin’s

On top is a dark-grey cashmere crewneck from Colhay's, with a white T-shirt showing significantly over the neckline. 

I say significantly because this strip of white is a very effective way of freshening the look, making whatever is underneath sit better against the face. 

If there is a colour that isn't quite so flattering on you, but looks great otherwise (as this grey is on me) then that strip is very helpful. 

It's nothing new, but is a little point that men who wear a lot of crewnecks could do well to pay attention to. That no-shirt look might be rather more complimentary as a result. 

Of course, the problem is you then need a T-shirt with a sufficiently high (at least at the front) neckline to keep consistently above the knitwear. This one is from Warehouse (via Clutch Cafe) but is a little thick for an underlayer. 

While I do then like the look of this knit under a coat with the collar down (as above), I still prefer it with the collar up. 

There is some attitude to wearing the collar like this, and a little more relaxed air, which is often helpful with tailoring. I would be more likely to wear the collar down if I were in a suit and tie. 

Shrugging on the coat as you leave a restaurant, popping the collar, and then buttoning it, is also very satisfying. Like being given a sculpted heavy-wool hug (from behind). 

One disadvantage to this combination of crewneck and overcoat is that the neck can look a little bare. When I'm concerned about this (as I might be with a smaller-collared coat, such as my Ettore de Cesare topcoat) I would wear a scarf loose around the neck as well.

A dark brown washed cashmere would have looked nice here. 

That height of the collar was the only thing I tweaked to Ciardi's normal style of Ulster coat. 

The Ulster is a particularly popular style in Naples, and most tailors have their version of it. You can see me wearing Panico's 20-year-old version here. (There's also an article coming in a couple of weeks on the various styles of coat.)

Ciardi's has the normal horizontal gorge, making it easier to wrap the coat around the throat, plus the turn-back cuff and buttoned vent at the back. There is the (non-functional) buttoned half belt and swelled edges created by the (fairly standard Neapolitan) double rows of hand stitching. 

Stylistically the only choice, really, was to have postbox pockets rather than the more standard patches (something I’ve liked ever since my navy Cifonelli coat). And then that collar, which I requested to be raised a little to better suit my neck height. 

Interestingly, English and French makers tend to have a two-piece collar - with a stand and then the actual collar folding over the top. And ready-made coats often have a crescent-shaped insert in the back. But the Neapolitan collar is usually just one piece. 

Regular readers will note that this coat is a little similar to the one I had made by Whitcomb & Shaftesbury last year - both in general style and in colour. 

It is, but there were some mistakes made by both sides in that commission (covered a little here) and I was keen to try a Neapolitan Ulster - for some completeness on PS as much as for a replacement on the Whitcomb commission. 

I’ll likely write more about my reflections on that some other time, as I have done in Reflections on Bespoke posts

The coat cost £4800 (including VAT), which is also Ciardi's starting price for an Ulster coat.

Photography: Milad Abedi 

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Henry

Lovely coat Simon! how would you compare this colour with camel hair? Would the taupe be more versatile or is it just personal preference. Many thanks

Darryl

Lovely coat Simon. I am surprised that you advocate having a t shirt showing above a crewneck. This has always looked messy to me, perhaps giving the impression that the wearer has given no consideration to their appearance. To my mind a crew cut worn with a scarf, but no t shirt showing, is a far more elegantly casual way to frame the face. But as with all things I suppose it just comes down to our personal habits and preferences.

Johannes P

What a beautiful coat! The style reminds me a little bit of a long version of your PS Bridge Coat, maybe you should consider doing a long version of the Bridge Coat? 🙂

Johannes P

In some sense yes, but I think the back of the Edward Sexton one is a little bit “strange” and in general that coat feels much more formal than the Bridge Coat (which I personally use more like a Peacoat) and this coat from Ciardi. So from my perspective I’d very much prefer a merge of this Ciardi coat and the Bridge Coat.

Shoddy

Thanks for an interesting article. I’m interested to see how it compares with the Whitcomb after the buttons were added, but I can’t seem to find a picture. Can you point me to one- sorry if I’ve missed it.

On another note, have you thought about an article on how to combine dressing properly with cycling (without just having to change completely on arrival)?

Thomas Zr3rs

While I could not provide an article about clothes and cycling, I can provide a few tips, as I regularly use the bike to work.
First thing is to ensure that your saddle is not abrasive (I use a smooth leather saddle by Brooks, almost everything else will kill your trousers quickly) and that you are sitting reasonably relaxed. Fenders help.
Second thing is fit. I already check at the tailor whether I can move into biking position. Skinny trousers are a no-go, but you will be surprised how comfortable slightly wider trousers can be, tapered somewhat to not interfere with the chain.
Third is layering (over your suit). Coats will have to be short. Pea coats and car coats work well, as do down jackets. I often wear a thin down vest with a high collar under the jacket (have had it made for me) that I can remove at the office. Add knitted headwear and scarf.
And finally: slow down (or use an ebike) and enjoy your ride.

hugh

W&S posted on on their instagram

https://www.instagram.com/p/CFro5Kisr42/

Chancellor

Do the two pleats down the back play a role in allowing the coat to transition better between wearing a jacket underneath or not? Or is it purely to ease movement?

William Nixon

I’m so jealous of you overcoat collection at this point! I wonder if there is one that you tend to wear more than the others?
Coincidentally, I made myself a overcoat over lockdown in linen that I have been able to wear on even the hottest days, which has stretched even into October. In a heavy enough weight, I’ve found it to be useful if you are looking for one to wear in the spring/summer?

Marco

Dear Simon

Speaking about the cloth: Can you compare it with Fox Brothers Fox Geat Coat C217 R2048/3.11, which was produced for the soldiers in WW1?

Best, Marco

Ollie E

Hi Simon, wonderful coat. Maybe even nicer than your Liverano in my eyes.
You mentioned that you had the collar raised to accommodate your neck height. Is this quite a straight forward thing to do & communicate with a tailor? I can imagine it on a jacket or SB/DB coat, but I struggle to visualise how it would work on an ulster due to how it travels further down at the back/sides of the neck.

Ollie E

Oh good, so it’s not as complex as I thought.

Which coat do you personally prefer out of your Liverano & Ciardi design-wise?

robert

Beautiful coat. Great detailing at the sleeve cuffs, waist pockets, back vent. Just lovely. Any lining or not required for such a coat ?

Pat

So are those jeans from Boncuore or Drake’s?

Ryotaro

I believe it’s Boncoura, a play on the French “bon courage” and the Japanese “bonkura” (simpleton).

Kingstonian

There are plenty of quality overcoats on eBay.

Just get a traditional British Warm in Crombie cloth from somewhere like Dunn&co. Peaked lapel versions are best.

Then with the money you save you can maybe buy something like a good used motor car or just put the cash away for a rainy day.

JBW

Hi Simon,

Much like your suit series, could you do a breakdown or comparison piece for all the overcoats that you have commissioned over the years?

MB

Nice coat! I wouldn’t have picked taupe but it looks lovely.

I’m interested in how you’d compare this to your Liverano. This looks more relaxed in structure but that could easily be the result of the multiple pictures with it being worn open over a crew neck and t-shirt.

Either way, this is a lovely coat and the colour gives me some thoughts for a future order, so many thanks!

Ian A

I love everything about this coat apart from the price obviously (as it out of my league) Great colour, weight for British winter, chic, subtlety different without being too shouty, great length and its reminds me of this Instagramer’s coat https://www.instagram.com/p/BPdgW5XAmEq/?igshid=uoxritadm8pe

Percy Pickelthwaite

Simon,
Why would you not go with Solito for this?
Probably a little cheaper and you get to liaise with the great Luigi…

Hugh

Can you comment on the differences in construction between this and the W&S coat and how those affect the levels of formality they can sit on top of?

And how would I describe the ciardi type construction to a tailor? Extremely soft, natural shoulder with set in shoulder?

Josh

It’s interesting to note that my immediate reaction to the collar-down shot was ‘ah, now that looks less flattering’, only to then find your acknowledgement of this in the following paragraph. I’m sure with a shirt as you say – and have long preached – it would look excellent in the collar down mode. Incidentally, pretty much every collared piece of RTW outerwear I own looks better with the collar popped, to the point that it sometimes feels a little restrictive…
In any case, a lovely piece and wonderfully styled here. Is this your first overcoat with a Neapolitan shoulder? I feel like I haven’t seen a proper discussion of this kind of construction for outerwear on Permanent Style – maybe I missed an early piece on the subject? – at least not in the same depth as for sports jackets and suits. Would be interesting to read where this fits on the spectrum of coat styles, and whether it could/should be the default choice as for jackets.

For the record, I think the Whitcomb & Shaftesbury belted coat was a thing of absolute beauty, and I’m willing to start a movement in recognition of this. Justice for W&SBC! Yeah the slogan needs work…

Ben

It’s a great coat, of course, but worn without a jacket, it kind of swallows up the rest of the outfit. Part of it is just the unfulfilled expectation of an intermediary layer between the heavy coat and the light sweater. Part of it’s the generous cut. Part of it’s the coat’s stateliness contrasting the sweater’s nonchalance. Without a jacket, a trimmer single-breasted cut above the knee would be my go-to: something like your Vergallo loden.

KONSTANTINOS BOIS

Do you think that such a fabric or the FOX’S GREAT COAT
CODE: C217 R2048/3.11 , would be suitable for a a trimmer single-breasted cut above the knee coat ? Thanks.

Kostas

Thank you for your reply. Do you think such a heavy fabric could word for a mild winter or would it be unwearable and too heavy heavy ? Thanks.

Malcolm

Hi
I really like the crew neck with t shirt. Crew neck looks great, both colour and fit. Have you gone with small or medium? I can’t see the dark grey colour on Colhay’s current offering unfortunately. Any other recommendations for a high neck T-shirt other than warehouse?
Thanks malcolm

Peter Hall

I am always comfortable with a good quality Henley under a crew. Ralph Lauren have a version which buttons high and is snug against the neck(although I have a prop forwards neck)

Adam

I’ve been looking forward to overcoat season for a while. Personal opinion but I seem to enjoy your overcoat posts the most – and I’m especially pleased that this overcoat has a lot in common with mine. Despite all the fashion blogs universally saying that double breasted coats look better when buttoned, I think a properly fitted double breasted coat can look very good when worn open – more so than a single breasted coat, even.
The one thing I really agree with you on is how a bespoke overcoat is in many ways more practical than a bespoke suit. I get far more wear out of my overcoat than suits or sport jackets – partly because of the climate and because I don’t get many chances to wear a suit. A long overcoat feels like the last remnant of formal clothing (ie white tie or morning dress) that doesn’t look anachronistic.

RT

Hi Simon,

I share your appreciation of the bespoke coat, although at the moment I have only one – an Ulster by W&S in a navy herringbone that is, I think, my favourite bespoke item. I absolutely love it. I have every intention of commissioning another when I’m finally able to travel and arrange an appointment. Coincidentally, this cloth is a major contender, along with a taupe herringbone by Fox, so it’s good to see it made up like this. I dislike camel; for me it’s too showy especially as a polo coat (though I dislike the style of polo coats, anyway). Taupe is a favourite colour of mine and, I think, very flexible.
I like the t-shirt with crew necked pullover look and employ it myself occasionally, when I feel very casual and don’t want to wear a shirt. It definitely requires an appropriately high necked t-shirt, though. The jury is out as to whether or not it works with this coat, for me. I keep changing my mind! I think that it would certainly work with something slightly more casual, like a pea coat or a Raglan, but the Ulster is just the wrong side of the smart/casual line, perhaps.
I’ve really struggled to find suitable t-shirts, with a sufficiently high neck, for quite a while, so I’m keen to try the Warehouse ones. Herring shoes (in Devon) used to sell quite good own-branded ones, but last time I looked seemed to have discontinued them.
I also find it difficult to find crew necked pullovers with a good neckline. Most are too low for my liking (Trunk’s shetlands are an exception). Any suggestions for other makers gratefully received!

Timofey

I think this coat is too long for wearing it in such casual style .

Clive Smithers

Nice coat. What alternative colour would you choose for this commission Simon if it wasn’t taupe?

Robert M

I must agree that this coat would look much better with a shirt or a scarf. And I’m not a big fan of the postbox pockets, they look slightly gimmicky to me, a bit too much going on there.

But a very nice coat overall and I certainly envy you the ability to wear it with a sweater when there’s 16 degrees outside. In that temperature, anything more than a shirt and a jacket and I’m boiling.

Justin

Beautiful coat, Simon. I’m an attorney in the US and my ‘smart’ suits in the winter primarily consist of more textured fabrics like flannels and heavier high twists, mostly worn with suede shoes or tassels and cashmere or grenadine ties (the more informal end of suiting with no sleek worsteds). I already have a charcoal wool/cashmere great coat and have been looking toward another bespoke option to add to the rotation for business trips to the US east coast. This fabric looks very subtle and muted, do you think it would hold up to those more informal suiting scenarios? Thanks.

Puff

Wouldnt you get more wear outside (easier to match) if it was dark/ chocolate brown?

Clive

Navy would be good but its more a business colour.
Do you really think a dark brown coat like this wouldnt go with brown suede boots?

Feurich

I stopped putting belts on the back of my coats. I liked the look but when I was seated against a chair, or if in a car driving with the coat on, I found I could feel the belt and buttons and it was uncomfortable. Of course you can take the coat off when seated, but when it is cold I want to keep my coat on especially when driving. Has anyone else noticed this issue?

Scott

Simon, That fabric is fantastic and I like the double breasted look. However, I’ve never liked the belted design with the pleats etc in the back. Would a simpler design for the back without the pleats and belt work well in your opinion?

Rups

Simon on wearing undershirts beneath knitwear, what do you suggest wearing beneath a turtleneck? I assume that you’d agree wearing a shirt is impossible? I have seen it done with the collars upturned and sticking out, usually in fashion type photo shoots, but I think its most odd, so we are left with either wearing nothing or a T shirt? I assume there is nothing you can do about abrasion with facial and neck hair and the top of the turtle neck which is always going to be against bare skin?

Tim

Hey Simon,
Beautiful overcoat. I must say that I like the whole outfit and find that in winter this type of combination is what I find myself wearing more often than not.
I have been toying with the idea of buying some cream jeans for a while and love Blackhorse Lane’s E5 cut. I know they do a version in ecru denim, but being based in Australia I can’t visit them and get a sense of where these jeans sit on the cream / white spectrum. Can you please help and can you also comment on the versatility of lighter shades of denim?

Tim

Thanks Simon… no, you answered perfectly. Very helpful and keep up the good work. I’ve very much enjoyed reading your posts during our 16 weeks of lockdown.

Anonymous

I wonder if you might oblige me, Simon. What is the name of the triangle-shaped sewing pattern visible where the centre reverse pleat begins? And, does it have a purpose or is it merely ornamental?

From these pictures, that figure appears to be significantly less “polished” that on your other overcoats that have it (Cifonelli and Liverano). Would you say this is correct? If so, does that reflects a broader step-down in attention to detail between those makers and Ciardi? Thanks.

Rob

Nice coat. Those pockets are hideous though.

Ilija

Now we just need some winter. -20 celsius,al least.
I think I’m going for Siberia this weekend.

Peter Radford

Simon
A beautiful coat in every way.

george blumfield

Very nice coat, and thanks for the post. I once had a “made to measure” with similar style/camel hair color when I lived in Montana where it once was minus 61 below zero in 1954.

Ravi Singh

Simon – from the image of the back of the coat it appears that there are only 2 buttons on the belt.. how does one tighten it if this is the case or is it purely aesthetic? In which case would a fixed belt make more sense?

Peter Hall.

Never being particularly happy with the tee under crew neckline, I’ve decided to go with the high neckline-I think it used to be called the mandarin collar. I have sourced a couple(rtw, here in the Netherlands ), if successful. I will ask a tailor to copy them.

Anonymous

I purchased a similar overcoat (double breasted with martingale back). I feel that the half-belt digs a little into my back and can be mildly uncomfortable, especially when I button up the coat and shove my hands in the pockets.

Do your coats put that kind of mild pressure on your back where the belt sits? I wasn’t sure if that was normal or required for this style of coat, or if it means I should have mine altered.

Warren

Spotted you in Drakes store on Saville Row on Wednesday week and must say I thought the coat fitted extremely well due to your height and allowed for the slope of your collarbones, the colour is a taupe even in electric light. The details of the coat were faultless such as lapel, button positioning, pockets and buttoned vent. If only all coat makers were to create to such a standard!

TM

In reading some of the comments on the WW Chan blazer curious how you find this fabric comparing it to your brown tweed ulster (or other brown coats)

TM

Sorry, that wasn’t clear. Wondering how this fabric stacks up with these other coats (or other browns you might have in outwear):
1) https://www.permanentstyle.com/2020/02/grey-and-lilac-ralph-lauren-style-in-cifonelli.html
2) https://www.permanentstyle.com/2018/01/liverano-liverano-ulster-coat-review.html

Dave D

Awesome coat. I recently had a coat made for me by Oxxford using many of your posts as inspiration. One detail that I’m not sure we got quite right was the buttoned back vent. Would you mind describing how that was done for your vent? For example, is the outer edge stitched down? My vent includes the buttons and looks almost identical to your picture but the folds in my vent are just pressed down and when worn the back does not drape cleanly.

Adam Rigoli

Beautiful Coat! Would love it in a light Camel color. Just my preference.

jmehpg

Hi Simon,

I am currently looking to have my first bespoke overcoat made. The current overcoats are RTW navy and camel (find the latter difficult to wear tbh).

What are your musings on the colours that are the most versatile? I think taupe would certainly be more useful than camelhair but are there other colours that are more versatile? I did think a darker brown, although my preference would be something in cashmere so not sure on suitability.

I am not a huge fan of herringbone, so I think tweeds for my first one are probably going to be ruled out. My general ‘uniform’ is towards odd trousers and jackets/knitwear, as opposed to worsted suits.

Thank you.

jmehpg

Hi Simon,

Don’t know why, just not a fan of herringbone on anything. Mid grey is the only time I seem to like it.

Do you think a brown similar shade to your Cifonelli? https://www.permanentstyle.com/2020/02/grey-and-lilac-ralph-lauren-style-in-cifonelli.html

Would that have enough texture?