A good coat is an essential part of any man’s wardrobe and may well be the biggest investment you make in a year, so you should be absolutely sure that you choose the style that is going to be fit for your particular purpose. Of course, a coat doesn’t just have to work well, it needs to look good too. After determining when and where you want to wear your coat, the next thing to consider is your body shape—the garment should fit you in the most flattering way.
Here are a few general rules before we get going. First, you will be wearing your coat during the colder months, so it shouldn’t be cut too close to your body. (It might end up looking uncomfortably tight when thick layers are added underneath.) Second, think about color. The more formal the style, the better it will work in conservative shades such as black, navy and gray. Third, bear in mind that off-the-rack coats, like off-the-rack suits, won’t always fit perfectly straight from, well, the rack, particularly in the sleeves. Ideally these should end just after your wrist, so you can see the entirety of your hand. Anything longer and your coat will start to look like a hand-me-down. Check out our guide to three popular styles below.
The Single-Breasted Overcoat
This is the simplest style and therefore also the easiest to wear, and suitable for all body shapes and heights. Technically speaking, an overcoat should end below the knee with a single vent at the back—any shorter and it should be referred to as a topcoat. Again, traditionally, a good overcoat should be in a heavier wool, but if you would rather go for a more lightweight feel, fabrics such as cashmere or a fine merino can be extremely comfortable as well as very luxurious. Whatever the fabric, avoid going for something too fitted.
The Double-Breasted Overcoat
The double-breasted coat is the most formal design. As with suits and blazers, shorter men are often advised to avoid this style as it can be broader in cut and actually make you feel shorter. For the same reason, it can also make you look wider around the middle. To avoid this, always look for coats that are well-tailored so that the lapels and shoulders balance out your top half and give your body a flattering V-shaped silhouette. Styles that are cut very low on the leg can swamp you. The classic trench coat is perhaps the most popular double-breasted style.
The Duffle Coat
The duffle was originally designed as military-wear, in particular the navy, and owes its popularity among students in the 1960s to a surfeit of them in army surplus stores. It is perhaps the most casual of coat styles, with a hood, buttoned neck strap, patch pockets, wood or horn toggles attached through leather or rope loops and usually ending just above the knee. Fit-wise, think about what you are intending to wear under it and allow the necessary space so that it doesn’t restrict you when it is done up. This isn’t supposed to be a tailored style, so it is perfect for hiding wider middles.