Topcoat Tutorial: How to keep your outerwear from killing your style
If you’ve been picking up what we’ve been putting down at The Compass and taking our advice about how to look your best, you’re ahead of the crowd when it comes to style. You’ve discovered the wonders of a sharply tailored suit and uncovered some of the secrets of dressing well that separate the stylish from the scrubs. But when the temperatures start to dip, does your style quotient begin to slip?
How Your Outerwear Ruins Your Style
There are tons of ways men sacrifice style when fall brings cooler temps, but poorly fitting, inappropriate coats are the chief offenders.
This is especially true of outerwear because a coat has a long season. A pair of cheap looking gloves or a heavy woolen hat may wreak havoc on your look in the bitter cold of January, but a coat first makes its appearance way sooner and stays in your daily clothing rotation for months. If you want to look your best, your coat should be as stylish as what’s under it.
So, as the temps drop and we see men committing style suicide by putting on coats that are more appropriate for an expedition to Antarctica than a commute to a downtown office building, we feel obliged to step in. Basically, we looked around and thought “There’s got to be a better way,” and here it is:
How to Look Cool When it Gets Cool
For a coat that you can wear daily throughout the cooler months, nothing beats a topcoat. A great topcoat should be a workhorse. Great outerwear looks just as good atop a suit as it does over your best pair of jeans and a cable knit sweater. Start with the fabric. There are three keys to making sure your topcoat is as sharp as the the rest of your wardrobe.
Avoid trendy styles (if you want to punch up your look do it with timeless choices like a double-breasted front). Stick with subtle patterns like tone-on-tone herringbones in neutral colors that won’t clash with the more unique items in your closet.
Save the synthetic stuff for playing sports. When it comes to a workhorse topcoat to wear to work, stick with natural fabric. We love wool for this job since it retains warmth and drapes well.
When you add layers, you invariably add bulk. A visual trick to look trim and slim is to keep your coats dark. Wearing dark colors can make you appear slimmer and the slimming effect will counterbalance the added layer and keep you looking sleek.
Outerwear the Black Lapel Way
When we went in search of a topcoat that hit all of the notes above, we came up empty-handed. Why? Because, fabric isn’t the only thing that makes for a great topcoat. Calvin Saunders, head of product development here at Black Lapel and frequent contributor to The Compass, breaks down what’s wrong with the fit of most outerwear and what to look for in yours:
“You see a lot of guys out there with coats that are just too big. Some salesperson in the store told them to size up so that they would have room for heavier clothes underneath but that’s really a misunderstanding of how to fit a garment and choose a size. A topcoat should fit in the shoulders just like a suit jacket. You see way too many guys out there with wide shoulders and they’re just swimming in their coats. As a result, the drape is all thrown off and their coat hangs on them like it’s on a wire hanger. A well made topcoat should follow your shoulders like a great suit. It shouldn’t have the waist suppression of your suits, though. There should be room in your torso for layers underneath. Then it should cut off just above the knee.”
So when we turned our attention to crafting the ultimate coat, Calvin set us on the right path to make ours a topcoat that would keep us warm, wouldn’t go out of style, and would look great atop one of our made-to-measure suits. The result? Well, if you act fast you can see for yourself.
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