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How To Wear A Topcoat – 5 Tips

image with text saying how to wear a topcoat and what is a topcoat

You spend hours picking out the perfect suit, agonizing over every customizable detail, from the lining to the lapels to the vent style that shows off all of those grueling hours at the squat rack. Finally, you have a suit you love and you look damn good wearing it.

Then, the hell-freezes-over weather starts rolling in, and you quickly realize that the suit alone won’t be enough to keep you warm. You need some outerwear that will complement your suit, and have you looking (but not feeling) cool as ice. You reach into your winter stash and pull out a puffy parka that looks like it just returned from summiting Mount Everest…

…wait, what? No, that’s not gonna fly.

Save the Michelin Man vibes for off-duty days and learn how to wear a topcoat for when you want to look smart during the depth of winter.

What Is a Topcoat?

two men wearing topcoats side by side

When it comes to outerwear, there can sometimes be some confusion, particularly with the question of topcoats vs. overcoats. We outlined the differences previously here, but we can still give you the low-down. The difference between the two isn’t always visible (though overcoats can sometimes be lengthier), rather, it’s found in their weights. Although topcoats and overcoats are both cold weather ready formal coats, topcoats are slightly lighter in weight which means they offer a bit less in heat retention in favor of a less heavy and cumbersome feel. Since you’re laying up with a suit underneath anyways, we like topcoats for their comparative lightweight feel and versatility.

Now that we’re on the same page, here’s what you need to know about staying stylish and warm in a topcoat this season.

5 Tips on How to Wear a Topcoat

1. Mix In Some Color

three men showing how to wear topcoats

Winter can be a bleak time for everyone, but that’s no excuse to let your topcoat look just as dreary. You have a great opportunity to liven up your look by adding some color and texture to your outerwear. For instance, you can rejuvenate your surroundings with an olive green, turn heads with a pepper blue, and use eye-catching patterns like herringbone to keep winter interesting.

2. Invest In Quality Materials

two men side by side wearing topcoats

Pictured here: Pepper Gray Topcoat and Camel Topcoat by Black Lapel.

Like finding the right partner in a significant other, the right topcoat is a relationship you’ll have for many years to come. Choose wisely. When you’re out on the prowl, look for natural fabrics that look sophisticated and durable, and vow to insulate well and age gracefully. The right topcoat should promise maximum versatility, so, 100% wool, a wool-cashmere blend, or camel hair is the way to go. These nature yarns drape well and are woven to endure years of faithful wear.

3. Don’t Succumb To Trends

how to wear a topcoat and ignore the trends

A leather coat covered in studs and zippers looks great on a Ramone, but we doubt your boss will be impressed. Opt for a timeless design that will get you the most bang for your buck and won’t turn heads for the wrong reasons. A single-breasted style with three buttons and notched lapels is an easy win. A double-breasted topcoat version is also an option if single-breasted is too tame for your tastes and has the added benefit of a bit more fabric for that extra warmth in the torso.

4. Know How a Topcoat Should Fit

image showing the various ways topcoats should fit

Now that you’ve tackled the aesthetics of design and fabric, you’re ready to leap the final sartorial hurdle: how should a topcoat fit? The short answer: impeccably. The long answer below:


how to wear a topcoat in the shoulder

A topcoat (or any item of clothing, for that matter) shouldn’t restrict your arm movements. Make sure to always look for something that fits squarely on your shoulders and is just big enough to fit over layers. At the same time, make certain that your coat’s shoulders aren’t too big, as that can throw off your proportions and make you look like a square.

The Collar

how to wear a topcoat in the collar

When propped, the collar on your topcoat is meant to be a barrier for the back of your neck against frigid winds. However, it also serves as an integral part of your topcoats overall suave sophistication. When you’re buying a topcoat, you have to make sure that collar is going to stay at attention, be sure to test out the collar to ensure it has enough structural support to not sag or fall, as that will both look bad and leave your neck feeling bitter.


how to wear a topcoat in the body

When it comes to how a topcoat should fit in the torso, your inner Goldilocks should be your guide. A topcoat can’t be too baggy or its heat retention qualities will be compromised with large pockets of cold air seeping in. Nor can it be too tight leaving you with insufficient room to layer on really cold days or over-accentuating an hourglass figure. It must be just right. Fitted enough to be flattering to your silhouette, but roomy enough so you can wear your topcoat over a suit or shawl cardigan sweater underneath. You should see no pulling or creasing along the button closures when the coat is buttoned.


how to wear a topcoat in the sleeves

Remember two rules when it comes to sleeves. One, they must be wide enough to accommodate a suit or sweater underneath without constantly pulling at the topcoat sleeve lining fabric or having your suit sleeves always catch. Two, they must be long enough that your wrists and suit jacket cuffs are covered. If they cover any portion of your thumbs, you’ve gone too far.

Topcoat Length

how to wear a topcoat and what is a topcoat length

The modern interpretation for the ideal topcoat length has migrated upwards over the years. Knee-length or calf-length coats can look outdated and stuffy. Hip-length cuts make your body boxy and tread too close to peacoat (aka casual) territory. The sweet spot for a correctly fitted topcoat is when it ends below the midpoint of the thigh and above the top of the knee. This is generally referred to as three-quarter length.

If you’re worried you will never, ever find a topcoat that meets all of these fit criteria, well, you’re in for a treat.

5. Invest in Made-To-Measure

We’re not saying off-the-rack topcoats aren’t a good option, but, they aren’t a great option. With an investment piece like a topcoat — something you want to make last — you should treat it just like you would your favorite suit. It should fit you impeccably and it should last longer than one Nor’easter. At Black Lapel, we offer made-to-measure topcoats that fit all of these criteria so you can rest assured that your investment was a wise move.

Ready For Winter

how to wear a topcoat

Congratulations, you outerwear connoisseur. You now know how to wear a topcoat. If you’re ready to warm up to your next topcoat for the coming winter, we have some fresh new options for you to consider here.

Now you know how to wear a topcoat. Have any outerwear questions you need to run by us? Drop a comment below and we’ll get back to you with an answer!

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2 thoughts on “How To Wear A Topcoat – 5 Tips”

  1. Shawn says:

    Hi Team,

    I’ve been searching for a well made top coat for the last 3 years in retail stores and yet they look huge on me or have long arms or terrible front designs so I’m a little choosey with my jacket as I want it to look great and reflect how well I present myself instead of picking any top coat off the shelf at a store and looking like an idiot in one. I live in Australia and I understand your taylor made store in in New York USA.
    Have you taylor made any top coats for international buyers and is it risky for measurements to ensure the correct fit to the individual?

    Thanks for reading this, love your business products!

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Hey Shawn!

      Take it from us, we understand what it means to be picky about clothing. So much so that we buy everything custom made, just the way we like it. Off-the-rack topcoats are especially tough to take a gamble at, so you’re on the right track. To answer your questions, yes, we absolutely make tailor-made topcoats for international buyers, we’re all humans after all! This page here has our FAQs if you want to take a look. To answer your second question, no, it is not risky. It’s actually quite the opposite. Risky is buying an off the rack topcoat with hard earned money and it doesn’t even fit you. Safe is having yourself measured and ordering a custom-made topcoat that is going to fit you like a glove. Safe is also our flawless fit promise, so if there is something slightly off with your order, or you just want something altered, we can pick up some of the tab for you. Our store is here in New York, yes, but we’re an online custom-clothing company, and most of our happy customers don’t ever come through our showroom!

      If you have any other questions, feel free to email our concierge team, concierge@blacklapel.com, they’d be happy to help.

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