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What to Look For in a Winter Coat

What to Look For in a Winter Coat

Still wearing that old peacoat that got you through college when the weather turns cold? It’s time for a versatile winter coat, one that can hold its own with your collection of fine custom suits and still work with more casual looks, an all-purpose coat known as the topcoat.

You know the kind of coat we’re talking about, right? They’re the kind of long, winter coats that you see on dapper men of all types in just about every kind of outfit you can think of (see these topcoat donning style mavens for reference).

Shop The New Topcoats

We can hear some of you thinking wait, isn’t that called an overcoat? Yes, you do hear them referred to as overcoats sometimes. If you’re wondering what’s the difference between a topcoat and an overcoat, we’ve broken it down here. If you don’t care what it’s called, as long as you’re called dapper when you wear it, scroll on down to the rest of this topcoat buyer’s guide.

Topcoat Buyer’s Guide

Okay, so you’ve made the smart choice and decided a topcoat is the way to go. How do you decide on one? What makes a great topcoat great? Below you’ll find a guide with everything you need to know to find the best coat for you.

What to look for in a topcoat

As with many decisions about clothes, there are as many opinions about what makes a quality topcoat as there are people wearing topcoats. Still, we find it useful to focus on the fundamentals, three C’s that make for quality clothes: Cloth, Cut and Construction.

Topcoat Cloth

We’ve covered fabric weight, but what about the cloth itself? What should your topcoat be made out of? There is one fabric that dominates the world of topcoats and overcoats and that is sheep’s wool. When woven well, you can’t beat wool for keeping you warm and looking good while doing it. The softness, insulatory power, and superior drapability of sheep’s wool make it the ideal fiber for a topcoat cloth.

Of course, there’s more than just wool. Cashmere, cloth made from the fibers of hair harvested from the undercoats of a Himalayan goat, makes a luxurious addition to any topcoat. The feel is superb and the warmth is outstanding. The down side is, it is no small feat to harvest the fibers of hair from the undercoats of goats who come from the Himalayas. Cashmere, as a result, is expensive and the cost of that fabric can outweigh the benefits.

On the flip side, you’ll find lower quality topcoats made with all sorts of synthetic fibers. These cloths can still get the job done (keeping you warm) but can’t match the look and feel of real wool.

What to Look For in a Winter Coat

Topcoat Cloth Considerations

  • Money’s no object? You can definitely tick off your “Luxury” checkbox with a 100% wool coat. If you’re looking for something a little more opulent, adding a bit of cashmere is nice step up.
  • Looking to break bad without breaking the bank? A topcoat made of worsted wool will give you a clean and polished look but it’s still durable enough to last you for many winters to come.
  • My clothes are disposable, my income ain’t. If you’re looking to keep the costs at a bare minimum, lower quality woolens and synthetic blends are the cheapest way to go. Just be forewarned that you may be in the market for another one next year when that cheap navy coat has more little blue pills than a bottle of Viagra.

Shop The New Topcoats

Topcoat Cut

The cut of a topcoat can make a huge difference. After all, the finest fabric in the world still won’t look good or feel comfortable if the fit doesn’t compliment your body.


Topcoat Cut Considerations

1. The shoulders should be able to accommodate a suit jacket but not so loose as to look like the coat is resting on a hanger.

2. Don’t expect the midsection to taper with your body like a suit. A little room can add versatility to your coat letting you wear it over slim fit suits and heavy sweaters alike.

3. Length varies in coats but the modern topcoat is cut a little shorter than they were in days past ending at the lower thigh.

Topcoat Construction

How a coat is constructed is a byproduct of smart design. Look for a coat that is constructed to suit your specific needs.


Topcoat Construction Considerations:

1. Can’t stand scarves? Look for a collar that stands up tall, and covers your neck when you turn it up.

2. Want a little extra coverage? Look for double-breasted coats that give you an added layer of protection against the elements where the front panels overlap.

3. Got a chronic case of lost glove syndrome? Look for a coat with easy access to warm pockets for cold hands.

4. Been hitting the gym? Look for coats with a working back strap to cinch in the stomach a bit.

Knowing Is Half The Battle

Congratulations, you’re now a topcoat connoisseur. Now that you know how to spot quality, it’s time to find the one that’s best for you. We’ve got you covered there too with our Topcoat Tutorial.

Ready to skip the tutorial and get yours? Check out the Custom Topcoats from Black Lapel.

Topcoat Gallery

Custom Single-Breasted Topcoats in (L-R) Tobacco Brown, Navy Blue, Charcoal Herringbone, and Blue Herringbone by Black Lapel.

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5 thoughts on “What to Look For in a Winter Coat”

  1. Adil says:

    Do u recommend the arm holes are cut low or high for top coats?
    In the pictures above the arm holes seem quite large.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      You need some room in the arm holes of a topcoat. That’s because, as its name suggests, a topcoat is a top layer. You’ll want to be able to wear it atop a suit jacket or blazer, or even a chunky sweater for that matter. The fuller cut of the sleeves allows for this.

      Also, it’s important to remember that all Black Lapel clothes are made to measure. So the coats above a made to fit the biceps of the models in the photos, one of whom is also an amateur boxer (in other words, dude’s got some guns). Your Black Lapel topcoat will be cut to fit your arms, whether they resemble a couple of pythons or just a couple of garter snakes.

  2. Billy says:

    How many size 40 do you have in stock??

    1. Black Lapel says:

      They’re all custom made to your exact measurements, Billy. So there are no sizes at Black Lapel and we don’t stock anything but fabric.

      FYI, the last time we put out topcoats we sold through the fabric in no time, so strike while the iron is hot. Click on the one you like and we’ll guide you through measurements and customization.

      If you have any questions or run into any trouble with your measurements or customizing, you can always get a hand from one of our stylists by emailing us at concierge@blacklapel.com.

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