If you want a well-rounded but minimal outerwear collection, this guide is for you.
About This Series
This article is from a series of Minimalist Menswear Collections. Feel free to check out the other guides in this series:
How many pieces of outerwear do you really need? 10? 5? Maybe just 1 or 2?
Obviously, this depends on where you live. If you’re in southern California and don’t travel much, a couple of lightweight jackets might suffice.
On the other hand, if you live in New York City and travel frequently, you probably need a more substantial coat collection.
In this guide, we’ll try to determine the bare minimum number of outerwear pieces you really need to be covered (pun intended) for every season and occasion.
What do you really need?
Remember: minimalism is not a competition. It’s not about owning the fewest number of things. It’s about not owning things you don’t actually need.
So, in this case, we’re trying to whittle our outerwear collection down to the pieces that actually get worn regularly.
For the sake of this article, I’m going to assume that you:
- Experience winter, spring, summer and fall
- Travel 2-3 times per year
- Dress in business casual during the week
- Dress casually on weekends
In other words, you’re the typical 20-, 30-, 40- or 50-something middle-class man. At a minimum, I think you need the following outerwear:
- Lightweight jacket
- Medium weight jacket – casual
- Medium weight jacket – smart
- Heavy winter coat – casual
- Heavy winter coat – smart
Let’s look at some options for each type of outerwear…
First up, you need something that will keep you warm on cool summer nights, and warm spring and fall days.
This sort of jacket can also be used when you’re going to be indoors but still want some extra warmth (think movie theaters or airplanes).
Here are some solid options:
- Overshirts (a.k.a., Shackets or Work Shirts)
- Windbreakers (or Shells)
- Denim Jackets
- Lightweight Vests
You probably only need one or two pieces of lightweight outerwear, and the specific pieces will depend on your style.
For example, a Levi’s denim jacket produces a totally different vibe than an Arc’tyrex windbreaker, but they both serve the same purpose.
The medium weight jacket is probably the most versatile piece of outerwear you’ll ever own (if not one of the most important pieces in your wardrobe, in general).
A solid mid weight jacket will carry you from late winter through early spring, then from late summer and all the way through fall.
If you layer up properly, a mid weight coat can even keep you warm enough on mild winter days.
Here are some medium weight jackets to consider:
- Leather Jackets
- Field Jackets
- Bomber Jackets
- Light Down Jacket
Personally, I get just as much use out of my light down jacket and as I do from my leather and field jackets, so I’m happy having both in my collection.
If you’re more of a rugged or preppy guy, you can probably skip the down jacket.
If you’re more minimal, you can probably skip the field jacket in favor of a bomber.
Finally, to round out your outerwear collection, you’ll need a heavy coat to keep you warm and dry during winter.
These coats offer enough insulation to keep you warm with just one or two layers underneath, and they typically have other cold-weather protective features like:
- Tall collars
- Handwarmer pockets
- Lined hoods
- Fastening sleeves
- Water-resistant fabric
I don’t think everyone needs all the bells and whistles, but these details can be game-changers if you live in an extremely cold environment.
Let’s look at your options for heavy winter coats:
Depending on where you live, you may need a true winter parka. These are available with different “fill” levels and weather ratings, so be sure to do your research before buying anything, as real down parkas can be very pricey.
Most fashion brands sell some sort of parka, and most guys can get by with something from Uniqlo, Abercrombie, Everlane, J. Crew, etc.
These are designed with an emphasis on form over function (although they’ll be plenty warm for most climates).
You can also look at specialty brands like Canada Goose, Patagonia, The North Face, Columbia, REI, Fjallraven, KUHL and Arc’teryx (to name a few). Just keep in mind, many of these brands emphasize function over form.
Wool Topcoats (a.k.a. Overcoats)
The winter parka is typically a more casual jacket, so if you dress up often, I’d consider adding a wool overcoat to your collection.
Look for a topcoat that’s 100% wool or a wool-cashmere blend. Some wool-poly blends are okay, but try to stay away from 100% synthetic overcoats.
This type of coat should stop above your knees, preferably around mid-thigh. No matter how tall or heavy you are, the mid-thigh length will look great.
If you’ve got your basics covered and want to round out your outerwear collection with a couple of extra pieces, try these:
I think the most obvious “extra” piece of outerwear is the raincoat, but this really depends on where you live.
Many guys would an outerwear collection to be incomplete without a peacoat in it, which goes to show that this stuff is largely subjective.
The Best Colors for Outerwear
The best colors for any type of outerwear are charcoal, navy, olive and tan. Dark green, dark brown, burgundy and lighter shades of blue are also nice hues, but they won’t be quite as easy to match with the rest of your wardrobe.
If you prefer the monochromatic/streetwear aesthetic, go with black, white or grey instead.
When in doubt, dark grey or navy are always great choices.
Example Outerwear Collections
Now that we’ve covered each type of outerwear in a well-rounded wardrobe, and which colors are most versatile, let’s look at some example collections.
#1: Prep School Cool
If you carpool to school in a Volvo wagon driven by your friend and captain of the lacrosse team, Landon, this collection is for you.
(Just kidding…the preppy aesthetic is great for all kinds of people, not just Landons.)
This preppy outerwear collection is great starting place if you’re not really sure what your personal style aesthetic is.
These coats are way to wear and go with anything in your closet (even that old OCBD your mom got from Abercrombie).
#2: Modern Minimalist
Here’s an outerwear collection that’s perfectly suited for modern day gents who prefer unbranded clothing and clean aesthetics.
This collection is more neutral and understated than the Prep School Cool collection, sort of like a blank slate.
If you’re the kind of guy who is happy to spend an afternoon on cable management to achieve a nice minimal desk setup, this collection is for you.
#3: Slightly Street
Moving in a slightly more, how do you say, edgy direction…here’s an outerwear collection that lends itself nicely to monochromatic or even streetwear fits.
If your closet is full of black, grey and white, and your worst nightmare is getting a pair of Bean Boots for Christmas, this collection is for you.
These pieces will go well with white
#4: Avid Adventurer
Do you love hiking? Have you renewed your REI Co-op membership? Are you a card-carrying member of your local bouldering gym?
This collection is for you!
These pieces are built for heavy outdoor use. They’re made with mostly synthetic materials that will keep you dry, warm and well-ventilated as you navigate the great outdoors (even if it’s just getting in the car to go to Whole Foods…sometimes the heat takes a minute to kick in).
None of these coats are particularly dressy, so it may still be a good idea to add a nice overcoat to your collection if you plan on dressing up during the winter.
The Choice Is Yours…
No matter what your aesthetic is, I hope this guide helps you build a minimal outerwear collection that keeps you warm and stylish all year around.
If you have any questions or feedback, leave a comment below!