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As menswear goes, few things in your wardrobe are more essential than the overcoat. If you only ever own one piece of outerwear, you should make it an overcoat. It goes with anything, it looks good on anyone and it sits bang in the bullseye of a protective v. stylish v. versatile Venn diagram.

Not that it was always thus. When the overcoat was first invented, in the late 18th century, it occupied a dressy slot in the wardrobes of military officers and aristocrats. The versions they wore aren't so different to the ones in modern wardrobes, but they've become far more adaptable as dressing's become looser and less regimented. So it speaks volumes about the garment’s versatility that still looks just as fresh and relevant in 2019.

As with anything, fit is obviously important,” says Thread stylist Toby Standing. “But I’d say overcoats are one of the more important ones to get right, as it’s worn as the outermost layer of an outfit, so will be most visible." The cardinal sin is going too small – you need space for layers – but there's also nothing flattering about an overcoat that hangs off your shoulders. But the more relaxed cut of contemporary overcoats means they can be dressed down as well as up; for a quick way to pull a look together, just throw one over jeans and trainers. Suddenly, it becomes an outfit.

Toby’s advice when it comes to picking an overcoat that suits your needs is to try it on over a typical day-to-day outfit. Then, try it with one of your thicker jumpers, “so you know it’s got the room to accommodate the chunkier stuff in your wardrobe."

Shoulders

The seam of the shoulder should sit on your shoulder,” says Toby. “This will give you the correct proportions across your back, while creating a strong shoulder shape.”

You want to avoid divots. Not the clumps of grass you have to stamp down on the fairway, but the little dent you get at the shoulders if the armhole of your coat isn't shaped appropriately for you. Now, this isn’t one to fudge, as shoulders are notoriously tricky for tailors to fix. So make sure the shoulders aren’t too tight or loose, and there are no bumps or wrinkles.

Sleeves

With your arms hanging by your side, check the length of your coat sleeves. “They should be about an inch longer than your blazer sleeve,” says Toby. “You don’t want anything poking out of the end.”

Another way to test this is to bend your wrist so that your palms are facing the ground. Do the sleeves just touch the top of your hand? That’s perfect. This length will cover anything you’re wearing underneath which, after all, is the point of a coat.

Body

Even if you usually prefer to wear your coat open for that dramatic, cape-like effect when you walk, try buttoning it to test the fit. If you feel like a sausage in its casing, or if you could fit another overcoat underneath when buttoned, then your coat isn’t fitting the way it should. Even over a suit or a blazer, the overcoat shouldn’t feel suffocating.

Length

“Length is more up to personal preference,” says Toby. “Below-the-knee overcoats can create a dynamic silhouette, but can also make you look shorter. If you want to appear taller, an overcoat that falls above the kneee is a good option.” Avoid going too short – an overcoat shouldn't look like a pea coat (at the very least, it needs to cover the jacket you're wearing underneath). If in doubt, mid-thigh suits everyone.


Words: Theresa Harold
Photography: Jon Cardwell
Styling: Millie Rich