When it gets really cold outside in Minneapolis, Minnesota (where I live), people start complainingbut for me, it is the other way around. I love wearing overcoats, because it allows me to add an additional layer to my cold weather outfits. Todays article is a tour of my collection!
Why Buy Vintage Overcoats?
My collection was built up over the years, primarily because I bought vintage. I really like vintage overcoats for 4 reasons.
- Most of the overcoats you can buy these days look boring. Usually, they come in plain black, charcoal, and navy. Sometimes, they have zippers and weird details, and I just do not like the look of them. That being said, black is one of the most overrated colors, and if you want to know why, check out this video.
- The weight of the fabric in modern overcoats doesnt suit me. In my opinion, they are way too light and while that is a popular trend among suits, for an overcoat, you want the fabric to be as heavy as possible so it keeps you warm. Overcoats made 50 or 60 years ago were a lot heavier and sometimes, they weigh up to 10 pounds or 5 kilograms or more. Honestly, these heavy overcoats keep you warmer than any Moncler jacket or Canada Goose jacket. I mean, if I were able to find modern heavyweight overcoats, I probably would buy thembut maybe that is something we can make for Fort Belvedere, so stay tuned!
- Vintage overcoats cost less. Not a lot of people wear them anymore, but they used to back in the day, so the supply and demand work in your favor. Oftentimes, you can find fantastic overcoats priced between $5 and $200, versus a new coat from Brooks Brothers. For example, one of their Polo coats will set you back $1700. I am sure it is a great coat if you wear it a lot; the cost per wear is good, but you can find something comparable for 5, 10, or 50 bucks, why not take that?
- Lastly, I prefer the variety of patterns, textures, and details of vintage overcoats. You just find classic paletots, half belts, full belts, and more. You can find raglan sleeves or regular sleeves, and also colors and details that you just do not find in most modern overcoats these days.
My Overcoat Collection
Well start todays tour with topcoats, specifically, my trench coats. Although they are not overcoats, I included them here, because in warmer areas of the world, you can wear trench coats during the winter. I have four trench coats, but I only wear three regularly, and these are the double-breasted ones. Why? I like the look of them and that is also the classic style.
Khaki Trench Coat
The first trench coat I bought had this typical khaki or sand color, it was from Jupiter Paris, it was made in Korea with a composition of 65% polyester and 35% cotton for the shell, as well as the lining. Overall, I think it was a good entry-level coat. It was not too long, and while it had some details, it definitely had fewer than other coats (such as the D-rings of the Burberry trench coat). The Jupiter Paris one cost me $25 and I bought it on eBay.
Black Burberry Trench Coat
The second trench coat I got was from Burberry. It is a black one and I bought it in 2007 from a store called Rudolf Beaufays in Hamburg which specializes in vintage British goods. I think, at the time, it cost about 200 and I bought it from the proceeds of the sale of a Goyard suitcase. The shell is made of 67% polyester and 33% cotton while the lining is 50% poly and 50% cotton.
Its made in England, it has the old label and it has regular sleeves, not raglan sleeves. That is not typical for a trench coat but I really like the look of it. Also, the buttons get slightly narrower to the bottom and its just very elegant, in my opinion. It also has a very slim cut, which is unlike most traditional trench coats which are cut a little more roomy. I like this trench coat for travel because its dark and it does not pick up dirt very quickly. That being said, if I could buy it all over again, Id probably get a charcoal color or maybe a dark navy, because it is more versatile than black.
Khaki Burberry Trench Coat
The other Burberry trench coat is in a classic khaki color. The buttons were replaced and it was a second-hand piece that I got from someone; I can not remember how much it cost. This one is the classic trench coat with all the bells and whistles and details such as epaulets, the belt with the D-ring, the hand warmer pockets, and rain flaps. What make this trench coat unique are two things; one, it has buttons that were replaced, they are brass buttons with a crest and they are kind of vintage looking. On top of that, it has a nice removable lining that is made out of wool which comes in really handy if you live in an area where it may get a little cooler in the winter but not super cold.
Single-Breasted Gray Trench Coat
Last but not the least, my fourth trench coat is a gray single-breasted one from Herno made for Max Dietl in Munchen. Herno is an Italian brand and they specialize in fur coats, so while the fit and look of this trench coat is not very appealing (in my opinion), I only bought it for its mink fur lining, which costs probably around $5000 new. I got this one for $200 from eBay and I am going to take out the liner with the zipper and put it into another overcoat that I need to be really warm, because mink, with its fine under-hair, is extremely warm.
With trench coats, you do not really need a scarf. I like to wear gloves with them, especially unlined gloves, because it is about the right weight and insulation that you need when you wear a trench coat. I like suede gloves in red or navy but I also like to wear my driving gloves maybe in green or petrol blue or red.
These are usually an option for people who do not live in a very cool climate, or who just do not like the look of a long traditional overcoat.
Mine is from the US Navy. It is an officers coat, and you can tell by the golden brass buttons. It is hard-wearing, made of 100% wool, and was very inexpensive. I got mine from eBay for under $100.The great thing about it is it comes in many different sizes, regular lengths, and short lengths. You just have to know your measurements and see that you get something that fits you, otherwise, they can be a bit roomy.
Most pea coats out there will have black anchor buttons. I like the gold officers buttonsbut from 1974 to 84, they also had ones with pewter buttons which I would like even more, its just a little harder to find. I combine my pea coat with contrasting gloves and scarves. That means nothing too dark. For example, a yellow cashmere herringbone scarf and pretty much anything else would work, too. Just avoid black, dark brown, or navy scarves or gloves.
Short Overcoat from Austin Reed
I bought it at a gigantic flea market in Brimfield, Massachusetts for $10. I would think it is from the 60s or 70s, as it has a bolder pattern and a nice, heavy weight so it is very easy and quick to put on, it has a little belt, and because the pattern is strong, I typically combine it with solid scarves and solid gloves. I try to tone down the colors, more neutrals, browns, or tans. You could maybe wear red gloves, but because the pattern of the coat is already so loud, I try to tone the accessories down. Sadly, this great 100% wool coat is no longer available because the brand Austin Reed does not really exist in its original shape anymore.
These are overcoats that I would wear with traditional charcoal or navy three-piece business suits. Typically, they are made out of finer materials, such as cashmere or higher twisted wool. More often than not, they are medium to lightweight because you just wear them to and from the office. Typically, you do not want something that is well suited for an Antarctic exhibition. Why? Well, if you wear it on top of a suit, chances are you may sweat and that is not desirable.
Midnight Blue DB 41 Coat from Chester Barrie
I like this coat because it is buttoned on the lower button and the 41 button configuration is unusual. It is 100% cashmere, it is a medium weight, Id say, and I bought it for $100 from eBay. Because it is dark, it could also be worn with a tuxedo, which is great if you do not have a separate evening overcoat. It looks great for business with, lets say, a gray pair of gloves or something darker like petrol.
For a more casual look, you can maybe wear brown gloves or chamois yellow gloves, orange gloves, or red gloves. In terms of scarves, I think a subtle pattern with a solid overcoat always looks good. If you want it to be true business, maybe you get it in dolphin gray so you have enough contrast, but its a traditional business color. If you want to be a little louder, you can maybe go with a yellow scarf, something orange, or maybe something green, or basically, any other contrasting color.
Single-Breasted Light Navy Cashmere Coat
Its made by Sidi GFT in Italy, and it uses 100% Loro Piana Cashmere. It is a little heavier than the double-breasted one but otherwise, you wear the same kind of accessories with it.
Black & White Herringbone Overcoat
My black and white herringbone overcoat is double-breasted. It is a vintage piece, it was made by Malcolm Kenneth. Its made from 100% Stonehenge cheviot wool. It has nice details such as oversized flap pockets and nice big ulster collar without any buttonhole and a half-belted back. The color pops up nicely which I like in the winter, because it protects my neck from the wind. It also has a decent length which allows me to stay warm. It was sold at Daytons (a local department store many years ago), and I bought it for $50 at a vintage store locally.
Barleycorn Pattern Overcoat by Chester Barrie
My last business overcoat is a special one from Chester Barrie which has this unusual fabric consisting of gray, blue, and black yarns. It has a barleycorn pattern and so from afar, it looks like a solid color, when you come more up close, you can see the pattern. Because it contains all the traditional business colors, it is very easy to combine it with any kind of business suit. The cut is a typical double-breasted paletot coat, and you can learn more about the details in our paletot guide. What makes it special is the contrasting black velvet collar. That collar definitely makes you stand out from the crown in a very debonair way.
I think this coat looks great with black gloves or gray gloves, because it is a very business-like color. For scarves, Id say go with something that has a light pattern such as our wool silk scarves which have classic paisleys. Of course, a pattern like herringbone will work too. When you want to increase the formality of this overcoat, add a fedora hat to it, like a dark one, for example, with maybe a printed burgundy scarf and petrol gloves. Just like with the other business overcoats, you can pair it with lighter accessories but the brighter they get, the more casual your overall look becomes.
I like to wear flannel suits in unusual colors and patterns or tweed jackets or cardigans. For these, a traditional business overcoat is not the right option. Instead, you want to go with something that is a little more casual in terms of the details and the fabrics.
The first one I bought was a from Gieves & Hawkes. It cost me about $200-$250 and I bought it from eBay in the UK. It is very heavy, it has leather buttons, it has a smaller peak lapel and epaulets that shows there is a military heritage to that coat. The shoulders a little wide for me, but its really heavy and so I love to wear it in the winter, especially with a brown fedora hat and brown gloves and a darker patterned scarf. You can see, you always want your accessories to be slightly contrasting to your overcoat. This one can be worn with a pocket square or alternatively, you can just put your gloves in there when you dont wear them, lets say, when you are inside.
Bright Green Overcoat
The original Montgomery in a very bright greenis made in England, its a size L and it is 90% wool and 10% polyamide which is nylon. It wasnt super expensive, it cost less than $100, it was on sale directly on their website yet I have not worn this coat really more than the single time when I took videos of it. Why? Well, it is quite bold and it is not subtle. It was my first duffle coat and it is quite casual, it has these wooden toggles, as well as a hood so you do not need an extra hat. That being said, it is such a loud color that if you wear it, you have to really tone down your accessories and go with something darker or brown otherwise, it becomes too clownish.
DB Navy Overcoat
Another recent addition is a great double-breasted navy overcoat which is made out of a boiled wool. I bought it at Bobby from Boston for about $200, but it is a bespoke coat from a tailor in Sheffield. It is really heavy, has a nice ulster collar, and it keeps me really warm, especially when I put on the belt. It does not have typical flap pockets of a business overcoatinstead, these are more like hand warmer pockets. Just like the other navy overcoats, its really fantastic with colorful accessories and because its more casual, the sky is really the limit, whether its orange, red, yellow, green, a turquoise, you can wear everything with it.
Donegal Tweed Overcoats
Ive had the Donegal tweed overcoat pictured above for a long time. It was made by Marshall Fields. I suspect it is from the 80s or 90s. The tweed is not super heavy, but it has these rich colorful flecks which allows you to wear pretty much anything in terms of color. Because its such a bold pattern with all the colors, you better stick with solid gloves and scarves. I bought it on eBay for under $100. It has a half belt as well as turnups/cuffs and a seam on the outside sleeve. Normally, you would expect the coat of this kind to have an ulster collar just like this, but this one has a peak lapel which makes it more formal which is kind of funny, because it is in contrast to the patch pockets with the flaps which are more casual.
Similarly, the next overcoat is a Donegal tweed overcoat but I bought it in Germany in 2015 at a flea market for 5 when it was 90 or 30 Celsius outside, so no one else was interested in overcoats so I picked it up. It was made in Germany and I really like it because it has bold flecks in a bold pattern, but its overly neutral; shades of brown, black, off-white, and because of that, any accessories in that color palette will work and look really well without being over the top. It has beautiful patch pockets, a nice ulster collar, and it is double-breasted but it has a very slim button stance which is different than other coats I have. It features a belt which I like to use, and it has a little detail on the sleeves too. Again, because the pattern of the overcoat is so bold, I keep it mostly with accessories that are in a solid color.
Cavalry Twill Overcoats
Another casual piece is this cavalry twill overcoat. It comes from a big department store with clothing in Munich, Germany which is called Loden Frey. Its pretty lightweight for a woolen overcoat, but it is a very tightly woven twill that has a diagonal pattern on the overcoat. it has hand-warmer pockets, epaulets, a back belt, and leather buttons in brown. I like the pockets because they are very easy to reach in and out of. The belt in the back makes it a little more unique, and the epaulets just highlight the military heritage.
Like Ive said many times before, overcoats are great when they are double-breasted, because it means you have two layers of fabric over the center of your body which will keep you warmer when it is colder outside. Because it is a solid overcoat in a neutral or natural tone similar to that of a trench coat, you really look best in it if you pair it with patterned scarves and contrasting gloves in a color. It can be gray, but you can also go with a dark burgundy, for example.
I have another cavalry twill overcoat that is a little heavier, and it is a bespoke piece from Heinz Becker in Munich. I also got it second hand and I like it a lot. It has a bunch of special details; well start with the buttons, which are metal. It has, of course, some epaulets and a half belt in the back. What makes it special are the flap pockets, which are angled, and the big turnups on the side. It is heavily military-inspired, and on top of that, the most unique detail is probably the chest pocket, which has a flap; you can tell its a bespoke piece because of that. I have never seen something like that off the rack. I typically wear it with contrasting gloves and scarves.
My first fur coat, in nutria, is double-breasted. I bought it many years ago on eBay, and I think it did not cost me more than $300. While fur coats are not very popular for men these days, they used to be extremely popular in the 1930s. Yes, even in the US, men would wear fur when they would go and watch football games, for example. The fur of the nutria is not as good as that of beaver, but its a large rodent that is similar to beaver. Because of the fine under-hair, it is really warm when you wear it, but the look is best if you pair it with a fedora hat. Honestly, a fur coat would keep you really warm even if it is terribly cold outside, and if a fur on the outside is too much for you, maybe consider a fur lining like beaver or mink.
The other fur coat I own, I bought at a flea market in Hamburg, Germany. I am not 100% sure, but I think it is rabbit, because it does not have that fine under-hair. That being said, its a very soft coat and it is still plenty warm. Unfortunately, it sheds a little bit since it is old, but I do not mind that. Since both my fur coats are dark, I like to pair them with lighter or neutral accessories such as red gloves, green gloves, and a matching patterned scarf.
Last but not the least, probably my favorite overcoat is my evening overcoat. Its very rare these daysto the extent that most people do not even know what an evening overcoat is, let alone have one. The only way to get them now is to have them made bespoke. This one was made by Hermann Vohrahlik in Germany, and it is probably 60 or 70 years old. I bought it on eBay years ago, because I saw that the lapels were silk-faced and very contrasting from the black wool fabric. The interior is lined with high-quality black silk from edge to edge, and it just turns over onto the lapel. It has a single closing button and a very deep V.
Its actually made to be worn just over the top of your tuxedo, and its more a decorative piece that is supposed to keep a black-tie outfit protected from the harshest elements. In other words, it is all about the looks and not necessarily about keeping you 100% warm. That being said, it is a heavy, old fabric, and with just one closing button, you can take it off very easily. Typically, it is worn with a homburg for a black tie tuxedo, or a top hat if its a white tie ensemble. It is also combined with an evening scarf, either in white silk or black-and-white silk, and you can wear it with a white linen pocket square and white evening gloves.