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Essential Winter Coat Guide

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Essential Winter Coats Guide

Note: This story was originally published in December of 2012 when Rihanna’s “Diamonds” was topping the Billboard charts. Ok, so in December of 2013 Rihanna was back on top of the charts, so not much has changed. You know what else hasn’t changed? The need to wear a coat when winter tries to slap you around like Chris Brown or like this. That’s when you fight back with one of the coats below or (spoiler alert) one from our upcoming look at more casual outerwear for winter.

For Black Lapel’s New York team, every winter feels a bit like a combination of standing guard on the Wall and training for Everest. Our concrete jungle transforms into concrete wind tunnels channeling subzero gusts of frostbite inducing cold. So while we enjoy giving our suits and shirts the spotlight, surviving a cold winter demands adding a layer or two.

Which brings us to the topic of winter coats. From pea coats to parkas to single- and double-breasted overcoats, the world of winter coats can be daunting for the uninitiated. In this post, we’ll zero in on a few of our classic favorites—coats that’ll not only be a timeless addition to your wardrobe, but look great with everything from that casual shawl lapel cardigan to your very own Black Lapel custom suit.

1. The Top Coat 

The top coat is an essential cold weather companion for any perfectly tailored suit. In our opinion, it’s the sexier cousin of the longer and heavier overcoat which ends below the knee. The top coat is all about that perfect marriage of simplicity and masculinity. With the right fit, it has an uncanny ability of framing a suit and adding even more charm and depth to it and its wearer, much like the way a proper vest might do for a three-piece.

(Pictured above: Top Coat by Banana Republic / Photo source: GQ) 

We Recommend: Banana Republic’s Top Coat / Burberry Prorsum Chesterfield 

2. The Pea Coat

While the exact origins of the pea coat are uncertain, the Oxford dictionary has the earliest uses of the term pea coat dating back to the early 18th century, from the term Pijjakker or pilot’s jacket in Dutch. One version of the current pea coat as we know it was adopted from the reefer jackets of the British Royal Navy. In this case, we are using the 2nd and less popular definition of reefer: a midshipmen engaged in sailing. Its coarse wool and shorter length was ideal for sailors looking for wind resistance, durability as well as mobility. And today, its coarse wool and shorter length is ideal for city dwellers looking for wind resistance, durability as well as mobility.

(Pictured above: Billy Reid’s Bond Pea Coat worn by 007 in Skyfall / Photo source: Billy Reid) 

We Recommend: Billy Reid’s Bond Pea Coat / Schott Naval Pea Coat (The Original)

3. The Duffle Coat

The duffle coat (or duffel coat) is a casual classic that’s also rich in naval history. They were first worn by Belgian fishermen, then popularized by the British Royal Navy when they were distributed to the public via surplus sales after WW I and II. Designed for practicality, the original duffle coats were cut larger to fit an additional waterproof jacket underneath and had large hoods to fit naval caps. They were also fastened with large wooden or horn toggles so they could be easily be done or undone with bulky gloves on, an early innovation made obsolete by these genius gloves that even let you text with them on. We still love the look and make this our go-to coat for a brisk weekend outing.

(Pictured above: Duffle Coat by Gloverall x JCrew / Photo source: JCrew) 

We Recommend: JCrew Toggle Jacket / Gloverall Duffle Coat (The Original)

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19 thoughts on “Essential Winter Coat Guide”

  1. OK. You have a point on the length regarding versatility. But if one can do it right, let’s do it right. Get them both.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Word, Terence! Here’s to doing it right.

  2. For a more comprehensive overview of overcoats take a look here.

  3. Longer coats are warmer. I agree with Jovan.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      You can’t get much warmer than the full overcoat length. They can be really classy too. The downside is versatility. A topcoat can be dressed down with jeans but an overcoat practically begs for a suit and fedora.

      Still, if you’ve got the room in your closet for a coat with a narrower window of use, we say “Why not get one?”

  4. Another suggestion for pea coats: Sterlingwear. They make the official U.S. issue pea coat. If you’re willing to spend a little more you can special request the ACTUAL spec coat over the phone.

    I think the classic overcoat deserves a little more love, though. It’ll keep you warmer when temps are under 30 due to the heavier wool and longer (below knee) length. A slim fitting, light weight, above knee coat will not do that.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Jovan, great suggestion on Sterlingwear. Their Navigator Pea Coat is the epitome of a beautifully crafted classic pea coat. As for leaving out overcoat in our guide, we decided to opt for the Top Coat instead and possibly dedicate an entire post around the classic overcoat in the future.

  5. This guide is really great. I just bought a new Winter Coat at Burlington Coat Factory. I love how warm it is, and the extra savings were really nice. It was about $60 less than I had seen it for anywhere else. It’s really a great trench style coat and the style is perfect.

  6. If you want an authentic navy issue pea coat, look for one with the DSCP Quaterdeck label. They are a little heavier that what you might find in a retail store, if you need or want the extra warmth.

    1. Great recommendation Bryan. That would have actually been our next pick!

  7. +1 Can’t wait for Black Lapel to tackle outerwear

    1. We’re just as excited to release them to you guys! Stay tuned!

  8. Can’t wait for my custom BlackLapel Top Coat! Also, love the Pea Coat, very Dean Keaton, a la The Usually Suspects. Plus those genius gloves are amazing!

  9. can’t wait—

  10. OMG Black Lapel outwear is going to be sex.

  11. Duffle coat image has “(Course Heavy Wool)”.

    I think you meant coarse? Unless it was evident that the material was wool, and it was ‘of course’ or something.

    1. Good eye Kyle! Thanks! All fixed. 😉

  12. Looking forward to outerwear offerings!

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