It’s that time of year again. Whether you’re braving the knife-sharp winds of the Great Lakes, digging your way out of the snow in the Midwest, or trying not to drown in the off-season rains in the Pacific Northwest, jackets and coats are currently (or about to become) a part of your everyday life. Keep in mind that if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere like San Diego or Miami, we’re all sharing a collective groan at your good fortune.
Like in every menswear category, there are many different types, styles, and functions of men’s outerwear. For some guys, just getting dressed is a confusing enough proposition, and then it gets more complicated when you add another layer on the outside to finish off the look. Having said that, nothing ruins a suit or a carefully planned outfit like a North Face puffer jacket.
Each jacket style has a specific use, and if we can use some industry jargon, design intent. Here are the basics of the most popular types, along with the best colors and times to use them. You can have one or all of them. Just remember — unless you’re climbing a mountain or shoveling snow off your driveway, the puffer jacket can cramp your style worse than the cold weather.
There’s a long list of coats that you can wear with a suit or other professional outfits. Top coats, overcoats, car coats, peacoats — whatever route you intend to go, the goal is to keep the look elevated while shielding your dressed-up look from the elements. The Chesterfield is the most basic, traditional, and versatile.
Make sure your Chesterfield is of heavy wool. While warmth is important, it’s not the only reason; heavier fabrics last longer, and you don’t want to have to continue buying these coats. The coat should be in the gray family, either the darker charcoal as pictured or the lighter shades. All of them will go with any color you wear underneath, from black to brown.
Flash it up: It may seem hard to make a coat look trendy, but that’s where accessories come in. Wear a scarf that brings some color; when possible, coordinate the scarf with your outfit underneath. Also consider wearing a matching hat and gloves made of genuine leather for a sophisticated look.
The raincoat has always been a necessity, sometimes an unfortunate one. There was no natural way to make the rubberized, waterproof fabric look great when the rain came pouring down. However, walking in the room dripping from the rain was always a motivator to suck it up and find a solution.
The trench coat, aptly named for its origins in the trenches of World War I, was made cool again thanks to Humphrey Bogart on the streets of Casablanca. From that point on, people tossed it on and wore it, proudly proclaiming, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
The Mackintosh is a more modern version of the trench coat, just a little shorter and without the belt. It’s also usually a tan or camel color. Don’t be afraid to wear it with anything from a suit to a T-shirt and jeans. It’s less about keeping you warm and more about keeping you dry. However, it doesn’t cover the head, so don’t be too proud to carry an umbrella. We’re talking to you, Portland locals.
Flash it up: If you’re going to go all Humphrey Bogart with the trench coat, don’t forget the fedora or the booze. With the Mackintosh, don’t be afraid to contrast the lighter color with blacks and dark blues underneath, and fold the sleeves back to show off your watch or shirt cuffs. Also, try to keep the color tan or camel, unless you’re aiming for the bright yellow Dick Tracy look.
The leather jacket
What is it about the bad boy that women continue to fall for? Is it the unpredictability, never knowing what will happen next? Is it the desire to nurture someone on the right path? Who knows? What we do know is that the leather jacket is a staple to the bad boy look, and we want women to continue to fall for us.
Typically, brown or black are the colors you’ll find for this jacket; pick whichever is better for you. If you find yourself in a lot of black and grey, wear a black jacket. If you wear more colors like blues, greens, reds, and browns, a brown jacket is right for you. Consider matching your jacket with the color of your casual shoes.
There are many types: moto jackets, single-breasted, or bomber. Do some research and try some on to see which ones fit your body type and personal style the best. If you dress formally more than you dress down, pick a nicer leather jacket with a collar. If you’re a jeans and T-shirt guy, then something distressed and more casual will get more wear.
Regardless of the way you want to look, it’s hard to go wrong with leather. Whether you’re Indiana Jones or Danny Zuko, zip up, jump on the bike, and ride off. Don’t forget to learn how to care for the jacket — they can be expensive.
The duffle coat
The first three jackets in this list had a specific purpose — the Chesterfield for dress, the Mackintosh for rain, and the leather jacket for casual. The duffle coat, also known as the toggle coat because of the toggle closures, is an excellent marriage between those three styles. If you so desire, you can wear this with a suit if you dress it up with a scarf, hat, and gloves. It also looks great with jeans. With that kind of versatility, this could be the first jacket to buy if you are starting over.
This coat should also be of heavier wool material in the interest of warmth and longevity. The fit should be similar to that of the Chesterfield: longer than the waist but shorter than the knees, with the sleeves extending past the shirt’s sleeves. What sets this coat apart is the toggle buttons. There’s a level of sophistication from these small details, making this coat a great way to elevate any look.
Flash it up: This jacket can look great in gray or tan. One trick is to pick a color opposite of your Chesterfield. For example, if your Chesterfield is a charcoal color, consider a tan duffle coat. However, if you want to sport a throwback to the British Royal Navy origins of this great piece, try a navy blue to put some color into your coats.
While looking great is always a noble endeavor, there’s a point where practicality has to win out. It’s great to have all the coats above and look great while heading to work or meeting friends downtown. However, nobody cares how good you look when you’re shoveling the driveway or climbing Mount Rainier.
This coat can be whatever color you want. Go wild! Bright orange, lime green, whatever your partner thinks brings out your eyes (and if that actually is bright orange, we want a picture for proof). The idea here is warmth and functionality. You want something waterproof and lined with fur or feathers. As for fit, if it keeps the wind out and you can do jumping jacks, it fits.
Flash it up: This one isn’t about fashion, but calmer colors (black, blue, gray) go with more outfits and make it easier to match snow pants and other accessories. However, no matter what color you decide on, make sure you don’t leave with frostbite when you scale that mountain.
For all of you that are braving the weather with us this winter, stay warm and look great doing it. For all of you in San Diego and Miami, until the sun returns and the flowers bloom again in the spring, we envy you.
- Why your wardrobe needs a waxed canvas jacket (and the best ones to get)
- These 4 men made the Oscars more stylish with the best looks of the night
- The best casual watches for men (to upgrade your everyday style)
- The 10 most expensive men’s watches in the world
- St. Patrick’s Day: What to wear (without looking like a leprechaun)