The styles of overcoat (and how to design one)
Anyone interested in buying or commissioning a new coat will be thinking about styles right now - what they are, what they’re called, what their relative advantages are.
In this piece I’m going to set out the basic options, and my brief opinions on them. On formality, warmth, and other aspects of practicality.
It will focus on tailored coats - so nothing more casual like a trench coat, blouson or duffle. Those are usually best bought ready-to-wear (though a future article on an outerwear capsule will include them).
And it will not go into detail about cloth. There is a much more comprehensive article on that here.
The first thing to say about names of coats is, don’t assume everyone uses the same ones, or indeed has heard of the names used in online discussions.
Different countries have different cultural references, and hence different names. Tailors know the styles they make and the styles they were taught. Their frame of reference is often no wider than that.
Names are useful, because they put a label on the image you have in your head. They collect together a bunch of characteristics under a single term.
But don’t assume that everyone knows what a guard’s coat is. If you stride into a tailor and request a paletot, you might be met with looks of confusion, even bemusement.
So, I recommend focusing on the constituent parts of these styles. Break down what you want into its characteristics: single or double breasted, peak or notch lapel, length and cloth and buttons and so on.
This article will be organised along those lines, with the styles being mentioned more as examples.
Length: Overcoat or topcoat
The first decision with an overcoat is what weather you want it for. How cold does it get where you live, and when during the year do you want to wear it?
This affects several things, including cloth and double vs single-breasted. But the first thing it determines is length. A shorter coat is - all other things being equal - less warm than a longer coat. As a result, coats intended for warmer weather are traditionally shorter - usually on or just above the knee.
A coat of this type is usually referred to as a topcoat. It’s usually in a lighter weight cloth, but can be single or double breasted. The example above was made by Michael Browne.
Other types of topcoat include a covert coat (above), which is defined by the covert cloth it is made from - a tightly woven twill that is also great for trousers (though it can be a little shiny, so fairly formal).
This cloth makes the covert coat very hardy, harking back to its country origins. It is often in colours like fawn and olive too, and has multiple lines of stitching on the cuffs and hem, intended to prevent rips getting out of hand.
The coat often has a fly front, and sometimes has velvet on the collar (another practical addition - as the velvet could easily be replaced).
Double breasted or single breasted
The second choice to make is whether the coat will be single or double-breasted.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of double-breasted coats. This is because DB tailoring is so flattering and stylish (particularly if made bespoke) yet a coat is one of the last ways it can be worn. Anyone can wear a DB coat to the office; not everyone can wear a DB suit.
A double-breasted coat will always be a little smarter and more formal than a single, but not as much as with a jacket. It will also be warmer, and easier to add style details to (such as a belt or cuffs).
It is often thought that a double-breasted coat must be longer as well - an overcoat rather than a topcoat. But that isn’t necessarily the case, as you can see with my DB topcoat from Ettore de Cesare, above.
Peak lapel or notch lapel
As with a jacket, a double-breasted coat will always have a peak lapel. But a single-breasted coat can have a peak or a notch - and it is perhaps more common to see a peak lapel on an SB coat than on a jacket.
The only real factor to consider in that choice is that a peak lapel is more formal and a little more rakish. If you want something more stylised, a peak lapel is a good way to do it. If not, a notch should be the default.
And a notch can be more or less stylised too - compare the Vergallo coat on me above, with the Michael Browne one further up.
There is also an important difference between peaked lapels on a DB coat: many styles have a peak which points horizontally across the body, if not slightly downwards.
(You could argue that this is not really a peaked lapel, but it does have the peak’s lack of space - or notch - between the lapel and collar. So it probably belongs in the same group.)
The reason this lapel is more horizontal, was originally so that it could be fastened across the chest, creating a double layer of cloth in the same manner as a pea coat. And even if the coat is not cut to do this, the lapel does allow the collar to be worn up against the wind, without the peaks poking the wearer in the neck.
The best-known style featuring this lapel is probably the Ulster coat - an example of which I’m wearing in the image above, made by Sartoria Ciardi. Originally a Victorian coat with a cape, often in casual wools like tweed, the Ulster has come to mean this style of DB overcoat, often with a belt and turn-back cuffs.
Double-breasted coats with a more standard, upward-pointing peaked lapel are given various names, including a guard’s coat (above) and a paletot. Personally I don’t think the styles are that relevant, given how divorced they are from their origins, and the fact that a main difference was how fitted they were - which is rarely a factor today.
However, what they all have in common is that they are more formal, and as a result tend to have no belt on the back, flapped pockets, a 6x2 button arrangement (so the top row does not fasten) and no cuffs on the sleeves.
It is this formality that should be your first consideration when designing a coat. It would be incongruous to have a smart, peak-lapel coat from the front that was cinched and belted at the back, no matter what the original styles might have been called.
This is a brief section, necessitated by the existence of the raglan coat.
While all other overcoats will have a regular, or set-in, sleeve, a raglan sleeve runs right up to the collar, with no shoulder section between the two. An example is shown above.
It shouldn’t surprise you to know that the raglan is more casual, and suited to coats that are worn with just knitwear, as well as tailoring. It’s also a style that there’s less point having made by a tailor - because its lack of shape means the tailor has less to add, and because it’s surprisingly tricky to do.
There are also variations, such as a half raglan (which looks like it has a set-in sleeve on the front) and designs with a slimmer sleeve at the top, almost like a saddle shoulder on knitwear.
Now we get into design details. Pockets are an obvious one, and there are three basic options: flapped (straight or slanted), patch (with flap or not) and postbox (a combination of flap and patch).
Flaps are smarter and go with smarter coats; patches are more casual and go with more casual coats. A postbox pocket (pictured above) is pretty bulky and so belongs in the casual category.
I rather like postbox pockets on casual coats such as an Ulster, because a patch can seem rather too simple for something made bespoke. But I would have flaps on most smart coats.
Ticket pockets on coats look a little out of place to me, though they are rather practical. And although some leave them off, I would usually have a welted breast pocket on an overcoat. It’s very useful for gloves.
It is often said that the back of an overcoat is where the sexy stuff goes on. I think the front should look good too, but there are certainly more design options on the back.
The first is the belt. A smart overcoat, as mentioned, should have no belt at all on the waist. But most others have a half belt: one or two strips of cloth, either stitched to the material or left loose, and if loose then fastened with buttons.
The style of belt is not a big decision - it’s unlikely to look out of place whichever you choose. So pick the one you like the most, and if you’re unsure go with the classic ‘Martingale’ of two strips and two buttons (shown above). It’s also not a hard thing to change later.
There are ways for this belt to be functional, with extra buttons and buttonholes, but having done that a couple of times on my coats, I no longer request it. I just find that little cinching doesn’t make a big enough difference to what I can fit underneath.
Pleats and vents
Above and below that belt there will often be pleats, as a way to put more room into the back and seat, and therefore give you greater freedom of movement.
A box pleat in the middle of the back is attractive, as are pleats either side of it - radiating from the belt - that look like actual folds made by the tightness of the belt (though they will probably actually be sewn down).
Again, as with belts, there is minimal difference in terms of formality between these options, but I would say that if in doubt, go for the simplest style that you like. An overcoat is a big piece of tailoring to get wrong (as I have found to my cost in the past).
At the bottom of the coat, there will then usually be a single vent that runs all the way down, making it easier to walk. There are different ways in which the coat can be pleated here, but the major choice is whether to have buttons enabling the vent to to be fastened, or not. In general, a smart coat would not have buttons, and a more casual one could.
Cuffs and swelled edges
Other design elements on coats include turn-back cuffs on the ends of the sleeves. These would seem to be a casual choice, but have been included on a surprisingly large number of formal tailoring styles over the years, including evening wear.
Personally, I wouldn’t have turn-back cuffs on a really smart coat though - nicer to leave it clean.
The same goes for swelled edges, where there is a row of stitching a few millimetres back from the edge of the coat. This can be an aesthetic detail, though it was also seen as practical in terms of stopping fraying or rips running too far.
As you’d expect, this is a more casual detail, and most often seen on Ulster coats or Polo coats. The latter is an interesting case in terms of style definitions, given how many different versions there have been over the years. In the end, it was a garment for a purpose (keeping warm after sport) rather than a defined design.
This list, for me, is the best way to break down the styles of a tailored overcoat, rather than getting into paddock coats, chesterfields, great coats and surtouts.
Such references can be useful, but they’re just as likely to get in the way.
Often they can make a good starting point, rather than a clean definition. Edward Sexton and I referred to the coat we made in 2016 (below) as a great coat, for example, because of its intended length and warmth. But the pleats and seams on the back wouldn’t have been seen on any traditional great coat.
Hopefully running through all these sections will help define exactly what you want, in a similar way.
(I can also do more detailed posts in the future, if people want. Eg illustrations of all the pocket options, or pleat options in the back. There isn't really room for that here.)
Over the years I have owned overcoats in several different styles; double breasted, single breasted with a fly front and covert coat. In the end the only style that I wear these days is raglan and I apply this to raincoats as well. I find the raglan cut the most practical to use and comfortable to wear. A raglan is designed to be buttoned to the neck in inclement weather without changing the cut or line of the coat in a way which cannot be found in other types of overcoat with the exception of a traditional ‘trench coat’ style raincoat, but in this latter example buttoning up the coat is more complex and alters the shape of the coat over the chest. A raglan is also the easiest coat to slip on and off and looks good with both casual clothing and tailoring, provided the coat is well cut.
I’m in the similar opinion and found myself commissioning raglans everytime for bespoke coats due the convenience of buttoning up at the neck. They also work best with any kind of clothes and look cleaner as well.
Another great article, Simon! I’d love to read more articles about overcoat details! I’ve found there aren’t an awful lot of sites out there that discuss the finer points (pleats and vents in particular) so it’s always nice to read about, though maybe it has more to do with my love of overcoats!!
Thanks William, and OK noted on the pleats and vents
+1 on pleats. I had trouble explaining to the tailor the kind of pleat / vent I wanted below the belt, so an article about them would be useful.
Incidentally, I’d say the buttons on the vent on the PS Donegal coat make it easier to sit down as the cost is likely to stay still. A minor point perhaps.
Pretty much what Jonathan said. The coat of choice for me would be casual raglan in a shade of charcoal, brown or green. I don’t wear suits at all, mostly casual or sportcoats with cotton trousers or jeans. And I find navy quite a sharp colour, which doesn’t always fit the rest of my wardrobe. While the same could be said for charcoal, I love how it works with earth colours elsewhere. It also plays much better with more striking coloured sweaters, such as burgundy, bottle green or mustard yellow.
Thank you for this. One thing I’ve noticed in the last few years or so is the popularity of the camel overcoat with many rtw brands. I don’t know why but a camel overcoat just screams new york celebrity to me, it would stick out too much in a largely grey urban setting such as london hence I’ve been reluctant to purchase. What kind of climates/settings would camel suit?
Yes, camel and polo coats in general have been quite a fashion thing in the past few years.
It’s interesting, it shows how much our feeling for these things is driven by what others wear – as I don’t have that association at all.
Being such a light and unusual colour, camel isn’t really great for business, but it suits a lot of more casual settings, and I think that’s why people like it a lot. It does look good with both jeans and a sweatshirt, and flannels and a blazer
Hello Simon. Another very useful article. Thank you.
Just a couple of questions for clarification, if you will. So, a half-belt like a ‘Martingale’ is more casual than no belt at all? If so, where do you place your beloved Cifonelli cashmere navy piece on the sliding scale of coat smartness/formality?
It’s slightly more casual, yes, but the belt doesn’t make that much difference to the overall formality really. The shoulder, buttoning style, cloth etc all make a much bigger difference. So the fact the belt on the Cifonelli coat is laid-on makes it a bit smarter, but only a bit
I hunk there is an argument to be made for regular welted pockets you can plunge your hands into, like on a pea coat. Less aesthetic, maybe, but if bespoke, in the exact right spot
Thanks Hugh. Personally I think angled pockets like that look OK on a raglan coat, but less so on a DB overcoat
Yet another reason why a raglan is the perfect cut.
Hi Simon, would you wear a navy ulster with jeans and chinos?
If it was from an Italian maker and, more significantly, had a fairly casual texture/pattern – eg a herringbone wool, rather than a plain cashmere.
Interesting how turn back (‘gauntlet’?) cuffs feel more formal on a jacket but more casual on an overcoat. Any reason for that do you think? (In fact, is a turn back cuff the only example of extra features/detail increasing rather than decreasing formality?)
Yes, it’s interesting isn’t it? I think it’s because the turn-back cuff has origins in formal wear, but really I don’t think anyone knows or realises that today. The bulk/detail created by it is more intuitive a reason to think it less formal, I think.
You write: “ It’s also a style that there’s less point having made by a tailor – because its lack of shape means the tailor has less to add, and because it’s surprisingly tricky to do.”
I have two questions: 1) Aren’t there other valid reasons for asking a tailor to make a raglan coat? 2) Why is it tricky to let a tailor make a raglan coat?
1) Yes, there are other reasons, such as the quality of handwork, the quality of interlining and so on. That’s why I said there’s less point, rather than no point. There’s far more point with a DB ulster or similar
2) The shoulders, basically. It’s not an easy pattern to cut and fit
Hello Simon. Great article as always.
Would you recommend Cordings Follifoot coat for casual wear?
May i ask what size is yours?
Well, to a certain extent I would recommend it, yes, but there are several things I don’t like so much about it – hence the ways our donegal coat is different
Mine is a 38
In terms of strikingness, Michael Browne’s piece just blows the others out of the water. Looks almost architectural.
i think the edward sexton one does. that last shot could be straight from the matrix..
As always an very informative article. Do follow up with a more detailed post please and if I may suggest one thing also please touch on the subject of good combinations of such details and what combinations that wouldn’t necessarily go well together.
Simon, I am thinking about a classic navy Martingale which I believe is typically a double breasted coat. Being 5’ 8’’ what do you think?
I think that sounds great. Are you worried the style won’t suit you, being slightly smaller than average?
Not Simon, but I’d advise you to consider all of the well-dressed Japanese men who wear coats like you describe (just check Instagram). Many or most of those men will be no taller than you and have to trouble pulling off any type of coat.
I really enjoy the overcoat posts so thanks for this. A navy DB ulster coat was my first piece of bespoke tailoring and I wear it as much as I can throughout the winter. I didn’t even know the term ulster coat when I went into the tailors, but I wanted a double breasted overcoat and the staff guided me in the right direction. The buttons are in a 6×3 arrangement but can be buttoned as a 6×2 just as easily. The top buttons being closer together works better for my slender frame. I also think it helps keep the coat a bit more casual (and most importantly, my girlfriend likes it).
If I can add my opinion to the jeans question, I do wear mine with jeans – but I find it’s better suited to very dark indigo denim rather than blue or faded denim.
Great article as usual. I thought there was one missing possibility in terms of lapels and buttoning, which is a coat that buttons all the way up with just a collar stitched on at the top and no lapels. I do not know the name for such a coat but I find them quite elegant, especially when the buttonholes are hidden, such that only the top button shows when buttoned. Perhaps you consider this style too informal?
No, I don’t think that would be too informal. I think that simple fly-front style is often seen with top coats and covert coats – and of course simple rain coats as well. Something more like this style of mine?
Yes. Apologies for not being clear Simon. I am not sure it would suit me given how tall I am.
I wouldn’t worry about that, to be honest – and yes, as commented above, the Japanese example is a good one. You could always take off the belt later with a tailor if you wanted to
Interesting article as usual. Simon, how much difference would there normally be in dimensions between coats intended to be worn over tailoring and coats that you’d wear over only a shirt/jumper? Would you say it is essential to decide what will be worn underneath before purchasing a coat?
Also, what would you say the main differences are between an Ulster and a polo coat? They look essentially the same to me. (Which I know is why you’re saying not to get hung-up on names).
I used to be fairly obsessed over getting that fit between going over a jacket and over knitwear, but I don’t think it actually matters that much. I’d just say that if you are going to often wear it over both, then bear that in mind when fitting with the tailor, and try it over knitwear too, so the fit is somewhere in between.
A polo coat can be similar to an ulster, but it’s design varies far more (some with belts, some with peak lapels, some with a split sleeve, some even single breasted). Really it’s more defined by the camel colour, a general casualness and some details like the swelled edges. Then most of the details are often similar to an ulster, but not necessarily.
Yet another great guide, Simon!
I’ve recently been playing with the idea of drawing up a very casual looking top coat, to be worn over knitwear and jeans/cotton trousers. I’ve been thinking a wool herringbone, or perhaps a donegal with a nice texture, in a green-brown tone. Not overly heavy – mostly geared towards a mild fall/spring But in particular I was contemplating a four-pocket design, like an oversized safari jacket, to really accentuate its casual nature.
I’m not sure if a four-pocket design like a safari would work at a topcoat length though (or even at mid thigh), as I haven’t seen much like it before. The idea may seem too niche, but if it worked well I feel like I might reach for this more often than other tailored options, since I frequently put on what I think feels most appropriate warmth/weather wise, but then abandon it for something less suitable (e.g. shorter) but which looks more relaxed.
Personally, James, I think that might look a little too much between styles. I’d suggest a donegal raglan coat might be better – just as easy and casual to wear, but not as odd
You gotta share with me what the brand/style the very first (brown) coat is!
I own three tailored coats that are put to shame by that very beautiful onr!!
It’s made bespoke by Liverano, an ulster coat – see full post on it here.
Overcoats and outerwear are arguably the most fun part of the male wardrobe.
While I haven’t ventured into bespoke yet, I have a few mtm ones that I really like. There’s something reassuring about a great overcoat. It goes with virtually anything and it adds a bit of dramatic flair. I love it.
For me, being 6.3, somewhere between lower knee and mid-low calf is the perfect length., and I’ve always preferred a clean back even on casual coats.
Given the understandable love for raglan above and the relative lack of good options out there (the PS raglan being a notable exception of course!) I wonder if anyone is doing some kind of simple MTM service on raglan coats? Pick your cloth, standard shape (which you can alter by going up or down a size), adjustable sleeve and coat length. Done.
I think Stoffa and Saman Amel have their offerings but any other recommendations would be great!
John Simons are doing one that’s nice, though with the default length being rather shorter, more car-coat length
So this style, peak lapel on the front, belt at the back is “incongruous”?
In other words: if you want a cinched back with a belt, you would want an Ulster collar in the front? But the ulster collar could still be called a special form of a peak lapel (?).
No, because that’s not a smart coat – it’s short and mid-blue. The one on Prince Charles shown is rather smarter.
Yes, the ulster collar could be called a special form of peak lapel, but that’s a little misleading. When people say peak lapel, they mean one pointing upwards
Simon, apologies I am not sure where the right place for this to go is. But, whenever I try to “view all active threads” on the main PS page, I get a note about a critical WordPress failure (“There has been a critical error on your website. Learn more about debugging in WordPress.”) This is unfortunate, as I enjoy following conversations in various places on here, as I imagine do other readers, so I thought I would bring this to your attention.
Oh dear. Thank you very much for letting me know, I’ll get that fixed now. And post here when it’s done
In future you can always email me if you spot anything – [email protected]. Cheers
Simon, I’m like to hear your thoughts on shawl collars on coats.
In my mind they seem to fit perfectly with fairly unstructured, drapey coats with a belt and raglan sleeves in a soft hand fabric like cashmere/flannel/camel, but that doesn’t seem to exist in the market, so I’m wondering whether I’m missing something.
I think you’re right that a shawl collar goes best with that style of coat, but it’s still unusual enough on a coat, I think, to be a little dandy and showy. It will look a little like a dressing gown or velvet jacket
I guess there’s louche, and then there’s looking like you had to jump out of the shower to sign for a package.
On the question of not sweating the sweater or suit fit, would you say a raglan sleeve gives you the best of both worlds in that it doesn’t matter so much if there’s a bit more or a bit less shoulder inside it?
That is certainly an advantage of a donegal, yes. The only downside is that if you have a very strong shoulder underneath, or rather square shoulders, the point of the shoulder can create a corner underneath the sleeve, distorting that line
Great article! Does a velvet collar add to the formality? My gut feeling says it does but usually adding practical features reduce the formality?
How about combining velvet collar and a belt/half belt, potentially elegant or clash of formalities?
A velvet collar is probably a little more formal, and its practical nature doesn’t make much difference (more akin, perhaps, to white collar and cuffs on shirts, which was also originally practical)
A much bigger consideration with the velvet collar is its style – that it looks a little dandy, perhaps a little old-fashioned. Remember formality is important, but never the only factor.
A velvet collar and a belt might be a bit of a clash, but a sewn-on or one-piece half belt might be OK
A bespoke overcoat has got to be one of the best things a man can commission. It is much more than something handsome, practical. When, for example, you wear your Edward Sexton long coat, Simon, do you not feel you could tramp through the Balkans in winter? A man in a Loden coat is seen on a street in Vienna, headed for a dinner of schnitzel and the opera. A man in a British warm signs treaties.
I got my first bespoke overcoat this year. Mine is quite similar to Daniel Day-Lewis’ overcoat in Phantom Thread. Single-breasted, buttons showing, turn-back cuffs, but it is not a raglan coat like his. It is fitted and the shoulders are tailored. The cloth is a great Harris Tweed, from the same Holland and Sherry book that I believe your Liverano Ulster is from, the swatch one tick off yours. Mine is No. 892021, the same reddish brown as your Ulster, but with a black and amber overcheck. I wondered how it would make up, as the cloth is only 16 or 18 ounces, but it made up into a heavy, robust coat that is impenetrable to wind and weather. I obsessed about all of these choices–the possibilities are endless in designing an overcoat–but my guess is that whatever style and cloth someone chooses, the pleasure of wearing it will be the same.
Does anyone know where to find a classic minimalistic raincoat, single breast, impregnated cotton or such like, in dark navy, the kind you wear over suit. All I keep seeing is car coats, raincoats that look too heavy and raincoats trying to be different. Officine Generale had one I liked last year but by the time I decided to pull the trigger it was sold out and is no longer available.
I haven’t looked, but the places I’d go to would be Mackintosh, Private White, Grenfell
Great Article! Thanks, Simon. I really like Overcoats, always smart and stylish
What about epaulettes? How does it affect its formality?
It’s a fairly minor thing – perhaps less formal, but other things rather more important
Great article again!. Any thoughts on shawl collars on overcoats? Something like a longish coat in dark navy with a wide shawl collar (possibly velvet covered) with the idea of being able to flip up and wrap the collar around the neck when it’s very cold, ideally so it can be used both for quite formal occasions like over a black or white tie outfit and more casually with jeans and a sweater. Length along the lines of your Sexton coat. A bit like a more formal tailored version of a traditional thick silk dressing gown with its wide velvet collar. a number of questions then arise: whether it should be single or double breasted, normal or raglan shoulder, how to button or belt it, etc.. Any ideas/images/suggestions? Or is it a totally mad idea that is unlikely to work well?
I wouldn’t say it’s mad, but it’s certainly risky. I wouldn’t attempt it unless you already have two or three good overcoats, and at least one normal navy. There’s just too big a chance you don’t like the result, or find it too showy to wear often.
With velvet it would certainly be too smart for any casual clothing, and even without it, it will look unusual and a little dramatic – fine if only worn occasionally, but not as a regular everyday coat.
Many thanks for your comments. I have a few normal coats so taking a chance is OK, as is being a “little” dramatic (your Sexton coat is also somewhat dramatic), but doing something obviously mad is not the intention. I have seen a few pictures from the 1920’s showing some coats with shawl collars, and was wondering if you have some images in your library that might give mo inspiration, or some thoughts on design ideas.
Not especially James, sorry. I would just say that shawls can vary quite a lot, in terms of width and shape. Personally I tend to prefer shapes which are wider at the bottom, as many RL ones area.
I would suggest making sure you have a picture of a shape you like, and show that to the tailor, rather than trying to tweak something they have cut
Lovely blog-post as ever and very informative!
I am very much in love with that oversized grey herringbone overcoat from Connolly (https://www.permanentstyle.com/2019/04/a-connolly-tonal-outfit-cream-grey-and-brown.html), which unfortunately is no longer available. I am thinking of having it replicated by my tailor but I would say that given its loose style it might be better bought as a RTW item, which given the fact that it is no longer available is a bit of a problem. I would be interested to know what you would do.
Thank you and best regards
p.s. No chance you would ever sell yours I suppose?! 🙂
What top coat styles offer neck protection? I get cold easily and have both the charcoal and dark brown PS Donegal Overcoat. I find the throat strap to be a game changer.
That being said, the peacock and double breasted coats all look so tempting but I am not sure how that would work in terms of neck protection. Would love your thoughts, thanks!
To be honest Bernie, I think you’re better off just wearing a scarf. It is possible to have an overcoat button up to the neck, and coats like our Bridge Coat do that too. But a scarf will always be easier to wear, more versatile, and warmer
Makes sense, thank you!
I enjoy your posts very much and find them informative and entertaining. I was disturbed therefore to come across an eBay seller using your photos to advertise their knockoff merchandise. Perhaps they have your permission. In any case, I thought you and your lawyers should know. Here’s the link:
Oh dear. This does happen a fair bit John. It’s weird – you’d think the coat the customer would actually get would be so substantially different, that they’d just return it.
Anyway, thanks for the alert and I’ll ask them to take that down.
Hi Simon. Do you know of anyone making full-length coats that are shearling lined? I’ve often felt this would be an enjoyable, very warm option, with a rustic but appealing look. There are probably true leather coats from fur along these lines (e.g. an entire bearskin or the like), but that seems a bit much…
You don’t really get shearling lined ones, as that would defeat the point of shearling a little – it’s appeal is that it’s the whole sheepskin, so you get the benefits of outer and inner. But you certainly get fur-lined ones, or similar materials, and synthetics if you want that. Personally, I think re-using old fur or wool as a removable liner is a great option.
Hi simon , how are you ? I have a fabric from Lovat Ettrick bunch . It is a beautiful Russel Glenhurt. I have taken it to my tailor asking him to make it a balmaacan coat . He is strongly insist that it would look better in a double breasted coat. It is an idea that i like , but i don’t know if such a pattern is sutable for a double breasted project. Do you think that such a pattern would look good in a double breasted coat ? My daily attire is prety casual. Thanks
I think it would be pretty bold as a double-breasted. If you’re unsure at all, I’d stick with the single breasted
Thank you for your reply. You think as single breasted would be ok ? Thanks.
Well, it’s not the kind of coat I would have made, but it’s mostly personal style. I would go for something more understated than that
Good evening Mr. Crompton, thank you for the article. Searching online for an overcoat I found a double breasted vintage one, made in Czechoslovakia. Its cloth is patterned with thin diagonal stripes in charcoal and light grey colours. Some time ago I used to have a SB made with the same cloth, and as you take more distance from the garment, It seems to be solid charcoal grey. What are your thoughts on this pattern (and colour) for an overcoat? Thanks in advance.
The colour would be nice – smart but nice. If that’s actually a pattern you’re taking about, though, rather than just a twill weave, then it sounds a bit unusual to give an opinion on remotely. I’d be cautious though – that sounds like it might look like wearing old-fashioned clothing
Hi Simon, I am thinking of commissioning and overcoat, however given the circumstances I want to focus on London tailors. I have scrolled through various instagram pages and my impression was that stylistically London tailors were less consistent with overcoats than with jackets. I also get the impression that they are more focused on standard db peak lapel coats than ulster coats. The latter they tend to cut with razor sharp lapels and I prefer softer, more rounded lapels like you Liverano. These were just general thoughts from about 1 hour of research so I am not claiming to have a comprehensive view on the matter. I suppose the question is if you were to commission a navy overcoat in London who would you turn to?
I think your impressions are generally right Nick. The tendency is towards sharpness, structure, and smaller collars too, to be worn down over a jacket and tie.
If that’s not the style you want, I might look at Whitcomb & Shaftesbury. Not because their house style is different, but because they’ve quite successfully mimicked the style of some others in Europe, such as Cifonelli.
Could you elaborate on that, Simon? Did they mimic Cifonelli on your wrap coat, or are you thinking of something else?
Yes, they looked at images of Cifonelli coats when they wanted to find a style for that wrap coat. Obviously the fronts are all different though.
Hi Simon, what advice do you have for dressing a formal navy wool coat down (like sneaker level down)? I’ve seen one or two pictures of Akamine Yukio doing it. It’d be super helpful if you could even write an article about this, especially for people starting to build a wardrobe slowly and only have one coat!
Personally I wouldn’t wear a formal navy coat with sneakers. Sorry. If it was very soft shouldered, in a more casual material like a textured wool or tweed, then I might wear it with a white oxford shirt, navy crewneck, brown or beige chinos and tennis shoes. But only then.
hi Simon, i am looking for my first coat after a long time wearing only sport jackets. Im leaning to a raglan cause i read that its the easisest to wear but would you have any suggestion on the brand and color ?
Well, my favourites are the ones we’ve designed Georgios, which includes discussion of colour. See here and here.
Hi Simon, I’m getting my first coat (and indeed, first bespoke item) made. I’ve had a read of the above and have a fairly clear idea of what I want. I’d very much value your view on whether I’m getting something wrong in your opinion, or if you have any suggestions.
I’m broadly looking for a coat that is generally to wear with smart casual, but can be worn over a suit in a pinch. Definitely DB. Therefore I’m thinking of a Ulster-like coat: 6×2, horizontal peak lapels, turnback cuffs, half belt, and flapped patch pockets. Cloth wise I’m thinking a Dugdale 25 oz charcoal herringbone. Length wise to the widest part of my calf (so 4 inches or so below the knee). I think I’m avoiding any pleats and just going for a split below the waist on the back (no buttons).
Any tips? I’m hoping this works with chinos/chelsea boots, as well as a navy suit and black shoes (likely loafers as I tend not to wear Oxfords) in a business environment. As always, your time is appreciated. Thanks!
Sounds like you’ve thought this through well. A few thoughts:
– You might find charcoal is a big dark to go with more casual clothing. If you have a choice between a couple of greys, I’d err towards to lighter one.
– You might later one find you want to change some of the design details, like the length or turnback cuffs, but those can both easily be changed later, so no problems there.
– On the buttoning, that sounds good as long as you mean that, like most of mine, it looks like the bottom four of the set of six buttons can be fastened, rather than just the bottom two. Usually that’s what people mean by 6×2, but sometimes it’s called 6×4
Fantastic, thanks Simon! It’s a relatively light charcoal so I think probably already within your recommendation but I’ll take another look. And yes, that’s what I meant on the buttons. As always, thanks for your time.
No problem Sam, pleased I could help
I had my tailor removed all the half belts and tightened the waist up a bit if necessary. A lot cleaner look without the belt breaking up the heightening illusion.
True Veda. I’d recommend keeping the half belt just in case you ever want to put it back on. Just because I once made a coat without the half belt, and while the back looked very clean and probably elegant, I felt it looked a little odd over time, perhaps too dressy or effeminate.
You probably won’t feel like that, but worth keeping just in case. It might be impossible to get exactly the same cloth at a later date.
Hi Simon. Which fabric is the brown herringbone raglan coat made of? Do you have an article on this coat?
It’s wool, an old one from Cordings.
I haven’t written about it in detail, but you can see it on this article, where that shot came from.
Would you usually recommend a formal overcoat (eg a DB navy wool) should have a canvas?
Yes. It can be a nice style to have one without, but it will be much floppier and have less formal sharpness, which is not normally what you want from a DB navy coat
Could you please sum up your thoughts on the possibility of buttoning the top button on a DB coat? I think you started mentioning this with your cifonelli DB some years ago. But looking at your Liverano or your Ciardi ulster, it seems to me like they cannot be buttoned at the top button. How important is this? Thank you!
I think it’s largely a personal thing Alexander. I do appreciate this possibility on my Cifonelli, and on the polo coat I designed with The Anthology. But I also don’t really miss it on the Ciardi or Liverano.
So I guess I’d say go with whichever style you want, but don’t sweat it too much either way. I know a lot of readers will tend towards that obsessive side!
Thanks for this article Simon. I wanted to ask if you could recommend some tailors (UK and/or Italy) as I’m thinking of getting my first overcoat made. Knowing at least a few of your tried-and-tested tailors would give me a great starting point. If there is another article of yours on this already and I’ve missed it, please do redirect me there. Thanks, David
There are two articles that collect together my experiences with tailors, and then provide links to detailed reviews of each of them. They are:
– The bespoke tailors I have known
– The MTM tailors I have known
I am going to recreate coat Daniel Craig wore in his Knives Out movie.. Looking at the pictures – I don’t see any lining. Its a tweed coat. Is it possible it is made of 2 layers of tweed without lining?
It’s unlikely to be two layers throughout – more likely it’s unlined and just self-lined in the front.
Thank you. This shows the front inner side. I am sure there are 2 layers of cloth on the front – is that what you mean by self-lined?
Yes, just self-lined in the front. It’s fairly common on unstructured jackets and coats.
See today’s jacket review for example
I’m headed to London and plan to commission an overcoat, but I’m wondering about the shoulder style. Do you find any advantage / disadvantage between a more structured shoulder from the likes of Sexton vs a softer shoulder/drapier cut, from Steven Hitchcock or Anderson Sheppard. I’m leaning toward the latter out of preference for range of motion/comfort but I certainly think these things can be accomplished even in a more structured coat. Any thoughts on this?
Also, would you still consider W&S as good choice for such an overcoat?
Yes I would.
The shoulders are really a question of which style you prefer. The Sexton is more dramatic, and would be more unusual, but that should be your main concern I think.
Would you still standby this statement?
“It is this formality that should be your first consideration when designing a coat. It would be incongruous to have a smart, peak-lapel coat from the front that was cinched and belted at the back, no matter what the original styles might have been called.”
For example if you want a pleated back with a belt, then you can’t have peak lapels?
I think it looks a little mismatched, yes. Peak lapels on a DB coat, sure, but a peaked SB coat is quite a formal, sharp piece of clothing, is usually better without lots of bells and whistles elsewhere, at least to my eye
Thanks Simon. Maybe we were talking across purposes.
I was thinking of a doublebreasted “guards coat” style overcoat with peaked lapels, and pleated back with a belt (fastened, no buttons) and I think that is something that is actually rather traditional?
Aha, then yes that’s absolutely fine. I meant more an SB
Hi Simon, I’m about to commission a bespoke overcoat and I would love to get your thoughts. I made the mistake of previously commissioning a below the knee navy Ulster in a 16oz cloth. It only really looks the part when it’s very cold outside but by then I’m craving something with a bit more heft and warmth. It’s also very formal. So for the new coat I’m looking for warmth, less formality (but still good with a suit) and just on or above the knee. My idea is a single breasted, belted car coat that buttons to the collar like a raglan but instead with regular shoulders, in a herringbone or small check tweed cloth weighing between 22-25 Oz. I’d like it to be reasonably fitted. Do you think that would work and justify a bespoke commission? Many thanks as always!
I think that sounds nice, but I’d still keep it just below the knee (you can always shorten later) and you may well not need bespoke. Something like that can be RTW or MTM, especially if it’s belted. Have a look at my Saman one for example
Thanks Simon, that’s great advice. I think therefore I am going switch to something – still single breasted – but unbelted and with a broad but proportioned Ulster style lapel to give it a little more character. Hopefully that won’t be mixing too many styles!
I would be cautious about that mixing Damian – I would highly recommend going for an existing, more classic style unless you’ve already seen that style made up somewhere else, or it’s not a problem if this doesn’t work out (in terms of budget or wardrobe size). I’d made that mistake several times before – tried to invent something new and ended up with a mish-mash
I wish budget and wardrobe was not a consideration! I’ve seen a photo of what I have in mind as a trench coat. It looks like a very classic style, but just one that you see every day, anymore. I’ll proceed with caution but my thinking is that it should hopefully work in wool as well as it does in cotton. Here goes….
OK Damian. My advice would still be to go with something more classic, but I think you’re aware of all the risks
I have an idea of a proper bespoke overcoat but im a bit stumped in one aspect. I Wear both padded and non padded jackets and i want the overcoat to work with both.
Will a padded ovecoat do that or should i go with raglan shoulders? Im leaning towards padded shoulders.
I also walk a lot and want a lot of comfort.
Best regards Fredrik
Yes, padded shoulders would be fine over both. You might want to have a little less padding in the coat just so that combine with the suit isn’t too square, but that’s about it
Hi, Simon, if i have to choose one bespoke coat between Huntsman or G&H(Davide Taub)，any advice for me?
Both would be great. Personally I think Davide is superlative and I’d go to him, but it is personal. The styles wouldn’t be that different
I’m revisiting this article on designing a coat again as it is an excellent post.
I would have liked to have seen a section specifically on cloth weight. I’m an amateur on cloth weight for coating fabrics. What are lightweights,medium weights and heavyweights in coating fabrics?
Of course a tailor can advise on that but it would have been helpful to include another section on cloth weight.
There’s a chapter on overcoating cloth in the Guide to Cloth, Lindsay
I’ve found that
Many thanks again
A single breasted coat can have the buttons showing or hidden under a flap. I’m wondering what the relative merits of each style are?
When they’re hidden it’s called a fly front, Ian. Theoretically a bit smarter, but best known on the covert coat and that’s not that smart.
Personally I think best just to do as part of a particular coat style, such as the covert
I recently bought a light beige notch – lapel overcoat and I wanted to ask you can it be worn under a shirt and a jumper with sneakers either in white or cognac if you want to dress it down?
Possibly. Depends a lot on the style and structure of the coat. It’s not a look I would wear personally
It is definitely not structured with soft shoulders (minimal to no roping at all), that’s why I thought It would be looking good dressed down with sneakers. But i I wanted to hear your opinion about it.
I have actually right now only one good wintercoat, a navy double breasted ulster coat. What is your opinion about to wear a navy overcoat to black clothes Simon? I have lately start to wear more black clothes than before, black/grey jeans and black loafers and black blazer (think saman amel black outfit for example). Of course I understand that perhaps a grey coat should be better suited for those clothes, but I don’t buy several coats each year.
If it’s a dark navy that could still be lovely Steph
I wish I had read this article sooner… Oh boy, I have recently commissioned a DB peaked lapel overcoat and, basing myself on a similar polo coat I saw, added a martingale to the back… Being a newbie, I didn’t know better. Is that too much of a sacrilege? I really hope it’s sort of okay… it’s not worsted, it’s a heavy alpaca and wool blend with a good bit of texture… I’m hoping it ends up having enough of casual accent in order to get by (not meant for very formal occasions either). Did I create a frankenstein coat?
I wouldn’t think so Pedro, no, that’s not a huge clash. Maybe buy an extra piece of fabric, just so you can replace the Martingale belt with something simpler and laid on later, if you find you would prefer that
Thank you for your answer Simon, it’s frankly a relief. I rather like the martingale, but then again I’m very new at this, so I’ll definitely buy extra fabric for safekeeping.
Thanks for that nice idea!
Pleasure Pedro, pleased I could help
I understand three button fronts are fairly standard for single-breasted topcoats. For taller men (> 6’5″), would a four-button front be appropriate for a single-breasted overcoat?
I think you might sacrifice something to style Albert. Perhaps (if having it made) the buttons could be a touch further apart? I’d look at that option first, anyway
In the section about pockets, you discuss flapped, patch, and postbox pockets. What about slant pockets (without a flap)? I just find them so much more practical for putting my hands in. Would it be weird to have slant pockets on an Ulster coat? I’m having one made and am mulling over the details.
I think it would be, yes. Better on a single breasted coat like a covert.
Also, personally I think slanted pockets without a flap look a little strange. At the least, I would have them with flaps and then tuck the flaps if I didn’t need them. On a well-made pocket, you don’t notice the flap when it’s tucked in, even with your hands
The bridge coats issued to US Navy officers have slanted welted pockets, so you can at least see an example of how it looks
Good point Hugh. I guess not really as smart as these coats are generally, but you can certainly see the practicality
Actually, I think I misspoke. Maybe what I’m talking about is called a “slash” pocket? It’s the same pocket used on the PS Overcoat. Is this style of pocket better suited for single breasted coats? I feel like most DB overcoats seem to have patch or postbox pockets (not as convenient for the hands, but perhaps they look smarter).
Aha, I see. This is a welted pocket and I wouldn’t have it on a dressier thing like a DB overcoat, it’s more on things like coverts, balmacaans etc