Trying to level up your cold-weather style? An overcoat is an essential piece that deserves a place in your winter wardrobe.
A wool overcoat is one of the most timeless pieces of clothing a man can own. It is also one of the most versatile.
Depending on the style, overcoats can be worn with hoodies and joggers, or overtop a tuxedo. Perhaps no other garment can work with such a wide range of formalities!
In this article, we’ll cover practically everything you could want to know about overcoats and conclude with 20 ways to wear an overcoat.
How To Wear an Overcoat? (20 Ways)
Overcoats can be worn with sweatpants and a hoodie, or with formalwear.
Check out the examples below for inspiration. They’re arranged from casual to formal outfits.
Overcoat With Joggers and a Hoodie
An overcoat can be worn in even the most casual of situations.
Worn with joggers, Vans, and a hoodie, an overcoat lets everyone know that your dressed-down vibe is intentional.
Overcoat With a T-shirt and Jeans
Elevate your everyday t-shirt and jeans uniform by adding an overcoat.
Besides making you look a little more put-together, a nice coat will create a flattering silhouette.
Overcoat With a Cardigan, Chinos, and a Beanie
When the mercury drops, an overcoat becomes even more practical.
Add warm accessories like a beanie and a scarf to keep cozy on chilly late fall days. Scarves are especially handy because overcoats typically leave your upper chest area exposed.
Double-breasted Overcoat Worn Open
This outfit is similar, but a double-breasted coat elevates the look.
In this case, popping the collar can help add some structure to an otherwise floppy unbuttoned overcoat.
Overcoat With Layered Sweaters and Earmuffs
Instead of wearing a beanie, substitute in a pair of earmuffs to save yourself the hassle of hat hair.
Layering a patterned cardigan on top of a lightweight turtleneck will help you keep a streamlined profile despite the cold.
Overcoat With a Scarf, Boots, and a Sweater
Dark denim and brown Chelsea boots are a perfect match for a dark grey single-breasted overcoat.
A scarf and a great pair of shades complete the ensemble.
Overcoat With a Smart Casual Look
A button-up and creased dress pants are right at home with a classy wool coat.
Dark-colored Chelseas and subtly-patterned socks keep things interesting.
Overcoat With a Button-Up and V-Neck Sweater
Fall commutes to the office have never looked better. A camel-colored coat breaks up an otherwise monochromatic outfit.
Toting an umbrella could come in handy on your return trip home.
Light Overcoat With Black
As a general rule, it’s best to have your darkest colors on your outermost layers, with lighter shades underneath.
This is an excellent example of breaking the rules gone right. It’s an incredible look that really stands out.
Overcoat With a Light-Colored Turtleneck
The next three examples include a turtleneck sweater. This first example is the most casual of the trio.
Patterned odd trousers, a scarf, a bold coat lining, and boots make for a whimsical, hard to imitate style.
Light-colored Overcoat With a Suit and a Turtleneck
Here Brock is wearing a dark turtleneck underneath a dark grey suit.
In this case, lighter-colored outerwear makes this outfit slightly more casual-feeling.
Elevated Monochromatic Overcoat Style
The most formal turtleneck/overcoat combo is completely monochromatic.
Dark colors all around here, with dark glasses adding to the intrigue.
Overcoat With a Striped Dress Shirt and Tie
A blue striped dress shirt with a maroon knit tie makes an interesting pair.
Black Oxfords, charcoal grey dress pants, and a black overcoat temper the unusual color combination.
Overcoat With a White Long-Sleeve Polo
While looking like a dress shirt at first glance, a white long-sleeve polo shirt breaks up the monotony in an otherwise plain outfit.
An open double-breasted overcoat and grey suede chukkas add further interest.
Overcoat With a Vest and Hat
It takes a certain confidence to be able to pull off a classic brimmed hat.
Here Eric does it effortlessly with a mature “off-duty” vibe.
Overcoat With a Bright-Colored Business Look
It can be difficult to combine bold colors without looking clown-ish. This is an excellent example of doing it right.
Red trousers with a camel-colored coat over a double-breasted suit jacket — with a hat to top it all off. It’s almost too much, but somehow it all works.
Popped-Collar Overcoat With a Suit and Tie
A three-piece suit worn with a classic coat is timeless.
A popped collar only adds flair.
Open Double-Breasted Overcoat With a Suit
Every man should own a dark two-piece business suit. In cold weather, an overcoat is the best option to wear on top.
If you have a formal winter job interview, this is how you should show up.
Overcoat With a Tuxedo
A classic overcoat is the only option when it comes to wearing a coat over a tux.
This is the same coat as in the previous example — showing how easily a dark wool coat can be dressed up.
Formal Evening Overcoat
An evening overcoat is the most formal coat out there. They’re very rare, but if you find one, know that it can only really be worn with formal attire (i.e. black or white tie).
Here our friend Raphael from the Gentleman’s Gazette shows off his formal coat.
What Is an Overcoat?
An overcoat is a long winter coat, traditionally made out of wool and sometimes fur. Variations of this garment have been worn for centuries in Europe.
Topcoat vs. Overcoat
Many people use the terms “overcoat” and “topcoat” interchangeably. However, typically “topcoat” refers to a somewhat thinner and shorter coat that is worn over a suit. Overcoats, on the other hand, are traditionally longer and warmer.
Some people in the fashion industry say that any coat shorter than knee-length cannot be classified as an overcoat.
There are many other names for types of classic wool winter coats for men, with each variation having its own name, such as the car coat, the greatcoat, Chesterfield, the Ulster, and the Paletot.
I tend to use the term “overcoat” more frequently than “topcoat.” In my mind, if a coat can be sufficient in extreme conditions, even if only when layered, it’s an overcoat. An overcoat, as I see it, is more rugged and versatile.
In this article, I’ve used “overcoat” as a catch-all term for long, traditionally-styled men’s wool winter coats.
How Should an Overcoat Fit?
When fitting an overcoat, the same general principles apply as proper suit fit, with a few variations.
An overcoat’s main function is protection. That means the sleeves should be long enough to completely cover your shirt sleeves and the body of the coat should be long enough to cover your suit coat (assuming you want to be able to wear it with a suit).
If you know you’ll only want to wear your wool coat without laying a suit or thick layers underneath, then you can opt for a closer fit in the chest and shoulders.
The majority of men will want to leave extra room for layering. Consequently, the overcoat’s shoulders should extend a little bit past where your suit shoulders should fit (i.e. the end of your shoulder bone).
In fact, you’ll want a little more room all over, but especially in the shoulder, chest, and hip areas.
If you’re buying off-the-rack, I’d suggest wearing a suit while you’re shopping. That way, you know right off the bat how the overcoat fits with layers underneath.
The same goes for your measurements. It can be difficult or even impossible to make some kinds of adjustments to overcoats after they’ve been cut and sewn.
Recently, I had a custom (made-to-measure) overcoat created for me as part of a brand review. The fit is pretty much perfect, but that’s partly because I had well over a dozen emails back and forth with the brand representative discussing possible features and making sure my measurements were as perfect as possible.
If you’re going custom, be very deliberate in communicating exactly what you want to the tailor or brand representative.
Tips for Buying an Overcoat
A quality overcoat may be one of the biggest investments you make in your wardrobe. Wool coats aren’t cheap, so it’s important to get a long-lasting coat that you love.
Shorter, lighter-colored overcoats are generally going to be more casual than darker overcoats that are on the long side.
If I were buying my first overcoat, I’d opt for either charcoal grey or dark navy.
These colors are more versatile than black. Black can provide a little bit too stark of contrast, especially on light-skinned men. However, a black overcoat isn’t a bad option.
I have a black coat, and I really like it. While it doesn’t really work with some colors in my wardrobe, I tend to wear a lot of dark monochromatic clothes in the winter
Lighter-colored overcoats can also work well. Camel is a classic color, as is light grey.
Don’t be afraid to try out coats made out of fabrics with subtle patterns such as herringbone or nailhead styles.
Some lapel styles, such as peak or shawl lapels will be more formal.
Notch lapels should be reserved for single-breasted coats as they look out of place on double-breasted garments.
The ulster lapel is a great choice for overcoats. It’s kind of like a broader, more substantial version of the notch lapel.
Generally, you’ll want wider lapels with double-breasted coats, while you can get away with narrower lapels on single-breasted business overcoats.
Double-Breasted or Single-Breasted?
Double-breasted overcoats are quite common, perhaps even more so than DB suit coats.
The advantage of going double-breasted is that there’s an added overlapping layer of fabric which provides just a little bit more warmth in cold weather.
Also, many men prefer the martial look that the double row of buttons provides.
That said, a double-breasted coat will be somewhat more difficult to wear casually than its single-breasted counterpart.
Also, DB coats can be too warm for some climates, and, since they don’t look very good unbuttoned when you’re moving around, many men don’t bother trying out the style and stick to single-breasted coats.
I’d recommend staying away from overcoat styles that incorporate a full belt. These are more difficult to pull off well because they can kind of make you look like you’re wearing a bathrobe, especially from a distance.
However, having a half-belt on the back of your coat is a great look.
Tips For Added Warmth
If you’re buying an overcoat to wear in very cold winters. Consider getting a coat with a zip-in insert for more warmth. These layers can be faux fur-lined and even provide extra insulation in the sleeves.
A less-effective alternative is to look for coats that have a quilted lining.
Additionally, while a hood isn’t a classic feature, depending on how and where you’ll wear your coat environments, it can be a necessary compromise.
The hood of my black overcoat has quite literally saved my ears from frostbite on more than one occasion when I’ve forgotten a hat or have been caught in a cold snap.
Finally, a funnel neck collar can help add warmth. This feature allows you to button the coat all the way up. While funnel neck collars often make for less visually impressive lapels, the added function is arguably worth it.
Where To Buy an Overcoat?
You can find overcoats in practically every menswear shop. This includes many big-box retailers such as Banana Republic and J. Crew.
Look for a coat made out of good materials with classic details and that fits you well. Nail these three components and it’s hard to go wrong.
If you’re a hard-to-fit man, like I am, it may be worth looking at getting a made-to-measure overcoat. Depending on where you shop, going custom might not be much more than off-the-rack.
Contributors to The Modest Man have had good results with Suitsupply and Hockerty’s custom overcoats.
Be sure to check out used options. EBay can be a good source if you know your measurements. (Make sure you have the option to return).
Thrift stores are excellent places to check too. Usually, vintage coats will be made of thicker materials than modern ones, but the styles you come across may be outdated for your tastes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here’s what people are asking on the web about overcoats:
Are an Overcoat and a Topcoat the Same Thing?
Technically, no. A topcoat is usually thinner and shorter than an overcoat. However, people often use the terms interchangeably.
When To Wear an Overcoat?
When it’s cold! You can wear an overcoat with practically everything in your wardrobe.
How Is an Overcoat Supposed To Fit?
An overcoat is supposed to fit pretty much like a suit. However, there should generally be some extra room for layering.
How Long Is an Overcoat?
An overcoat should definitely be long enough to cover your suit jacket. Overcoats can extend well past your knees, but it’s a hard look to pull off well.
For the majority of men, shoot for above the knee but longer than the hem of your suit coat. The longer, the warmer you’ll be.
How Warm Is an Overcoat?
It depends! I’ve worn one of my overcoats when it was -40 degrees (factoring in windchill). With layering, overcoats can keep you very warm.
It all depends on the fabric and construction of the coat. (Note: Most off-the-rack overcoats today won’t be warm enough for extreme temperatures).
Overcoats are probably my favorite articles of clothing that I own. They are incredibly useful for staying warm, they look great, and they go with just about everything.
If you live in a place that gets even mild winters, I recommend you get one — I know you’ll love it.
Questions? Comments? Leave them below!
Andrew Billek says
I know your site is for the modest man but I find lots of useful information on it and I’m about 6 feet tall. Regarding overcoats, I enjoy long, below-the-knee coats. They have a vintage, nostalgia look and while they do have a visually shortening effect they also lend an air of extravagance to your appearance. And there’s nothing wrong with that!
Johnny D says
I love the dark turtlenecks in the monochromatic pic and the one with Brock. Any thoughts on the designer/brand?