The next Staple is one that not everyone thinks they’ll need. I’ve heard the gloating of plenty of men in more temperate climes who are enjoying their 85 degree weather while the rest of us are still freezing. But the odds are in favor of even these men having to spend some time – be it a business trip, vacation, or job change that forces you to move – in more wintery weather. You don’t want to be caught at the airport paying double for a coat that doesn’t work and looks cheap.
The end of winter/early spring is also the best time to purchase a solid coat. Most stores are clearing away their inventory to make room for their spring lines which means you get to take advantage of clearance sales and the like.
Now I personally like bombers and leather jackets. I also think a good parka is necessary for those crazy winter days. But if you’re only going to buy one coat, per usual, I recommend getting something that will function in both a casual and formal setting.
Enter the pea coat. I know these are ubiquitous amongst the hipsters and other equally effeminate males, but this is a timeless piece of clothing that will outlast any current trend.
One of the best things about the pea coat is how inherently masculine it looks. They were originally used by the Navy and were later picked up by the rest of the civilian world.
A pea coat is essentially a double-breasted overcoat. Just like with your suit, you want to get it in a fairly neutral color. You will want some pop during drab winter days, but it’s better to do this with a scarf or hat than the coat itself. I don’t like to wear black so I went with a grey herringbone that I found at Target for under a hundred bucks. It was cut a lot wider than I like but an extra $40 at the tailor took care of that.
With a winter coat you have a lot more leeway on the smaller details. It’s ok to not have a vent in the back, have larger lapels, or have the shoulders come out a bit past your natural shoulder.
The best way to get the sizing right is to wear your suit jacket with you when you go to try it on. The same rule you used when sizing your suit applies here: Keep trying on smaller and smaller sizes (with your suit jacket on) until it’s too small, then go one size back up and you’re good.
The one thing you have to be careful about with pea coats is the length of the coat itself. Since it’s considered a more casual coat, it’s likely to be cut a lot shorter than a traditional overcoat. This is fine and looks younger as long as it covers your suit jacket. You do not want you suit to hang out underneath your coat. Simple mistakes like that will ruin an entire look.
If you want to go with something a bit dressier, you can look at a single-breasted over coat.
Same rules apply here as they do with the pea coat, but you also want to make sure it’s not cut too long. You want it to hit mid-thigh. If it goes longer than that, you enter into Matrix/flasher/goth territory. The coat I have on cost a bit more but it didn’t require any tailoring.
Make sure you follow the same rule with buttoning as you do with any other jacket: never do up the bottom button.
As far as wearing either one of these options goes, they’re both great for the High/Low style you want to pull off. The pea coat will look a bit more casual over a suit but still appropriate and is perfect for a weekend out or even some time in the woods, while the traditional overcoat is better with a suit, passably good on the weekends and silly looking for anything that might require some manual labor.
Hang these up when you get home and make sure you have a brush that you can run over them before you head out. When it’s time for storage, fold them up and put them away in either a cedar chest or with some moth balls if the climate you’re in needs it.