Style / January 2018

A Rakish Guide to Outerwear

From the gallant double-breasted overcoat to the military-inspired trench coat, your outerwear can make or break a look. Here is The Rake’s guide to getting it right.

Well-dressed gentlemen from the 1930s, as illustrated by Laurence Fellows in Apparel Arts. They wear a variety of rakish coats, with fly-fronts, double-breasted closures, raglan sleeves and boutonnieres.

A good coat is perhaps the most important piece of clothing in one’s arsenal. Certainly, it is often the most expensive wardrobe investment one can make, and with good reason. If you live in a part of the world that experiences the cold, chances are you’ll be wearing a substantial piece of outerwear every day during winter, so it makes sense to indulge a little more than usual – your core body temperature will thank you for it. That being said, there are numerous styles available, each with their pros and cons, individual design traits and differing levels of warmth. Here are the coats to consider this season and beyond.

Single-Breasted Overcoat

An outerwear staple in notched lapel, three-button format, the single-breasted overcoat will act as the anchor for all your winter-time ensembles – it’s the finishing touch for tailored office-wear and smartens up the most casual attire. Single-breasted coats come in a range of subtly differing styles such as the Chesterfield (fly-front, velvet collar) or covert coat (defined by its covert cloth and slightly shorter length), but why not go for something a little more contemporary? Simeone makes a distinctly Italian style overcoat with soft shoulders and slim notch lapels crafted from a beautiful wool and alpaca-blend herringbone fabric, which is far more interesting than the ubiquitous navy wool.

Double-Breasted Overcoat

Similarly to the single-breasted coat, the double-breasted variety has a number of differing styles with small details that separate them. The ulster coat is long in length, has large notched lapels, patch pockets, gauntlet cuffs and a half-belted back, and the guards coat has peaked lapels, a 6x3 button stance and welted pockets. You get the drift. A trait that all double-breasted overcoat styles share though is formality. Perfect for wearing over tailoring due to its elegant length and usually generous lapels, the double-breasted overcoat works well whether softly constructed or sharply structured, the latter of which is the most formal.

Trench Coat

Few outerwear garments are as instantly recognisable as the trench coat. As its name suggests, it was designed to be worn in the trenches of WWI, with its long length and waterproof gabardine fabric preventing soldier’s heavy wool uniforms from getting wet. Whilst these are merely design traits now, every detail on the trench coat once had a purpose, from the D-rings on the belt which were used for hanging grenades, to the shoulder epaulettes which were utilised to signify rank. Every major fashion house has attempted to reproduce the trench coat, but iterations that remain faithful to the original design are best. You can’t go too far wrong with Burberry or Aquascutum, but for exemplary build quality and excellent value for money, turn to British heritage brands such as Grenfell.  

Pea Coat

The pea coat grew up on the other side of the military, at sea on the backs of British naval officers in the Royal Navy. Favoured for its warmth, the pea coat is double-breasted and of medium length, and would have originally been cut from a 30+ oz navy melton wool – a favourable cloth for keeping the biting ocean winds at bay. Similar to the trench, the pea coat’s design has altered very little through time, and is favoured more than ever for its simple silhouette, versatile mid-length finish and ability to pair well with casual and formal outfits alike. Where the pea coat has changed most is with the fit, which has been slimmed down through the waist and arms for a closer, more contemporary finish. There are a number of brands including Buzz Rickson and The Real McCoy’s that opt for originality however, creating reproduction coats that follow early 1900s patterns religiously. For something in-between, consider Private White V.C.’s Manchester pea coat, which is made from heavyweight melton fabric and features large flap pockets and slanted, jetted chest pockets, whilst boasting a refined, flattering fit.

Flight Jacket

The flight jacket comes in many forms. From leather to nylon and shearling to elastane, it has evolved through the decades, becoming more of a technical, lightweight, performance enhancing garment as opposed to the heavy-duty original leather incarnations built for open-air cockpits. But the latter are the most fun. The most recognisable models hail from the US and British Armies, with the American’s A-1, A-2, B-3, MA-1, and the UK’s Irving flight jacket being the most iconic – many brands offer top-tier reproductions of these today. Leather flight jackets offer a commanding look – with or without a fur collar – and naturally complement casual attire - the classic combination of denim jeans, a white T-shirt and work boots instantly comes to mind.

Raglan-Sleeve Overcoat

There isn’t a definitive raglan coat; rather, a number of styles often feature the distinctive sleeve-head rather than the more commonly found set-in sleeve – the trench being one of them. Raglan shoulders drape naturally over the wearer and feature diagonal seams that extend from the neck to the armpit, allowing the shoulder line to hang cleanly. This offers the wearer increased comfort and manoeuvrability and, thanks to the lack of structure, a less formal look than form-fitting, roped-shouldered coats – that is, the raglan shoulder only works if the coat drapes, so a looser cut is essential.


Field Jacket

Add the field jacket to the list of military-born coats that have been adopted by wider society and luxury fashion. Again, there are a number of deviations that have been issued to various armies through time but there are a few that stand out including the US Army’s M-1943 field jacket, which has been replicated and altered by designers for decades. The safari jacket is the latest variation to receive widespread attention from the fashion set and has been co-opted on the runway as well as with ready-to-wear tailors such as Thom Sweeney, who has recognised how the style’s inherent functionality is a coup for contemporary style aficionados. A field jacket in classic olive drab is a surprisingly easy-to-wear coat, and can provide a rugged contrast if worn over sharp tailoring underneath, or, simply wear with a roll neck and dark jeans for a cool weekend look.




Charlie Thomas

Charlie Thomas is a former staffer at The Rake.