A Topcoat Tailored to Your Lifestyle
March 8th, 2011
There are only a few things that I think “every man should own”. A topcoat is one of them.
No piece of outerwear speaks “grown” or “mature” more than a proper-fitting topcoat. Boys don’t wear them, so in a sense, it marks your arrival as a “man”.
Regardless of your personal aesthetic, background or lifestyle, there is a style of topcoat for you.
Here, four different topcoats for four different impressions.
1. The Tough Guy – Moleskin
Moleskin (brushed cotton – think corduroy without the velvety “ribs”) is one of those tough and rugged fabrics that doesn’t necessarily look tough and rugged. It gives a sort of “contemporary cowboy in the city” vibe. It’s stiff, sturdy and breaks in well – just like a pair of my father’s original Levis or my brother’s leather cowboy boots.
I’ve had this coat for several years and I like it more now than ever. It gets softer with age, works with just about anything from a shirt & tie to a t-shirt & jeans, and always remains sharp and “put together” without feeling stuffy or too “dressed up”.
Where I wore this: grocery shopping at the fish market in Chinatown
Bonus Tip: for best versatility, go with a 3/4 length that hits at mid-thigh (like all of these).
Bonus Tip II: a Canadian tuxedo (denim on denim) is much easier to carry when you top-it-off with a rugged outerwear piece in a neutral color.
Bonus Tip III: I recommend having two sets of topcoats – one to be worn over jackets/blazers/suits, and the other for more streamlined looks over lighter layers. A middle ground does exist, although it’s very hard to find – more than likely it will be too restricting over a jacket or not sharp-fitting enough without one.
- Brown moleskin topcoat by Banana Republic
- Brown leather belt by JCrew
- Denim shirt by RRL
- “New Standard” Raw denim jeans by APC
- Brown leather boots by Red Wing
- Olive fingerless wool gloves from Army/Navy supply store
2. The Old Money – Cashmere & Fur
Sometimes you want to feel like a boss. Sometimes you want to feel like a boss’s boss. A topcoat this luxurious not only demands attention but also, in a way, demands respect.
A cashmere topcoat is a dressy outerwear piece (especially if it’s an authoritative double breasted one with a fur collar). It should be worn over a suit or a very sharp casual look (think dark slim jeans, sleek leather lace-up, button-down shirt and lightweight sweater, for example).
Where I wore this: to a design consulting appointment with a tailored clothier
Bonus Tip: a removable fur collar is an innovative detail – not only does it bring a coat to the next level stylistically, its also functional as a built-in scarf (especially when you pop the collar).
Bonus Tip II: Even more innovative? Removing it and wearing it with different looks. Coming soon”¦
Bonus Tup III: Speaking of popped peak lapels, it can be a very chic detail to compliment a style-forward look (as Clark shows us here in his 3rd look).
3. The Young Money – Camel Hair
A great alternative to cashmere is camel hair. It can be just as soft and luxurious, but has a little more edge (and texture) to it. Keep in mind it comes in more colors than the standard beige camel, like this dyed navy version for example.
Where I wore this: lunch with a friend at the Soho House (a high-end member’s only club)
Bonus Tip: navy is the most versatile color for outerwear. You can wear it over just about any suit (other than black – but you shouldn’t be wearing black suits anyway unless you’re hitting the club or attending a funeral).
Bonus Tip II: even though there are several elements of this look that are unexpected and “aggressive” in their styling (the grey/ivory/burnt orange windowpane suit, navy camel hair coat, gold buttons, 4″ wide silk knit tie, oxblood boots) because the base colors are conservative and neutral – navy, grey, light blue – it’s a young and expressive look that doesn’t scream “loud”.
- Navy camel hair topcoat by Brooks Brothers Black Fleece
- Gray Windowpane Suit
- Blue oxford cloth shirt by Thom Browne
- Knit tie Vintage
- Oxblood captoe dress boots by Scarpe di Bianco
4. The Easy Goer – Cotton
Looking for a 3/4 length layer to throw over just about anything?
Just like an unconstructed blazer, an unlined cotton topcoat is lightweight, laid-back, and super versatile. It’s especially great for layering with casual looks (of course it can be dressed-up too). I’ll wear this thing with a shirt and tie to a midday meeting, then wear it with sweats to the gym later the same night.
Where I wore this: menswear pattern-making class at the Fashion Institute of Technology, NYC
Bonus Tip: pocket square in a topcoat? If it fits as well as a blazer, why not? (once in a while).
Bonus Tip II: tortoiseshell shades are cool and classic, but everyone is wearing them. Woodgrain (preferably on actual wood) is a cool organic change of pace. The good people at Shwood sent me these, and I’ve been wearing the hell out of them on those surprisingly-sunny winter days.
Thanks for reading.
Yours in style,
Photography by Alex Crawford.