Your winter coat is often your biggest wardrobe investment. Which makes sense, since it does the toughest job: to fight foul weather while looking good. But price isn’t the only consideration. Balancing form and function can be tricky, with a lot of coats ending up either too technical or too fashionable: the former keeps you warm but looks odd anywhere but up a mountain; the latter means you’re stylish, but shivering.
It doesn’t help that there are so many styles to choose from, each built for a different job. Choose wrong and you’ll spend a lot of money on something you barely wear. To help you find a winter coat that looks good and keeps your comfortable, our three-question quiz will steer you to your perfect coat, whether you need it for work, play or both.
1. Do you already own a coat?
Yes – go to 2
No – get an overcoat
“If you only ever buy one coat, an overcoat is the style to go for,” says a stylist Brooke Philips. It’s been a style staple for more than a century because it goes with everything in your wardrobe. “It’s smart and looks great with a suit, because it’s long enough to cover the hem of the jacket. But recently guys have also worn it casually, so it works just as well with jeans and a sweatshirt or a hoodie.”
The most versatile version is single-breasted, navy and reaches to the mid-thigh. Look for one that has a couple of inches space in the chest, so that you can fit layers underneath.
2. How much of your day is spent outside?
Getting to and from work – go to 3
Almost all of it – get a down coat
“A down coat is designed to stop you being cold,” says Brooke. Down is a filling traditionally made from the super-soft feathers closest to a bird’s skin (although you can get equally good synthetic versions) which trap huge amounts of heat. “They’re incredibly warm but they can also be quite bulky, so they do make a bit of statement.”
Because they’re so practical, they’re considered quite outdoorsy. “It’s not generally something you can wear smart,” says Brooke. “Down coats are better with rugged clothes like jeans and boots. Unless you spend your life outside, it’s a good ‘option’ coat, rather than the one you wear every day.”
3. Do you ever wear a suit to work?
No – go to 4
Yes – get a trench coat or mac
“Trench coats and macs have traditionally been something businessmen wear, so they’re considered quite smart,” says Brooke. “Although as with lots of things in menswear, it’s now possible to wear them slightly more casually too.” They’re not the warmest coat – trenches are generally made of a treated cotton that’s completely rainproof, but isn’t lined. Which is ideal for commuting, as you’ll be protected outdoors, but won’t overheat on the bus or train.
“They also take colour really well,” says Brooke. Because of the way the fabric reflects the light, autumnal shades like burgundy, mustard or even deep blues catch the eye in a subtle, rather than obnoxious way. “Although the classic camel is always a good look, too.”
4. Get a pea coat
“This is a great first coat if you’ve always just worn ski coats,” says Brooke. The pea coat was designed to keep sailors warm and dry, so they’re functional, but the fabric and cut means they dress up too. “It’s smart, but not overly, and because it’s shorter it’s a bit more accessible than an overcoat.”
The best versions stick closely to the original – navy, in heavy wool. Which means that they’re neutral enough to work with a blazer and chinos, but also with jeans and boots. “They’re really warm and hardy,” says Brooke. Which makes a pea coat perfect for when you’re not sure what the weather is going to do.
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