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Coats & Jackets

What is an overcoat?

What is an overcoat?

Photographed: MVP Greenwood overcoat (£90); Hardy Amies wool overcoat (£450)

In a nutshell

The most versatile coat in a man’s wardrobe. Most commonly made from wool and, these days, single-breasted, it’s long been the traditional coat to wear with a suit but is now as often seen with jeans and a hoodie. If you were to only ever buy one winter coat, this would be the best investment.

Backstory

A version of the overcoat has existed for centuries – like so much in menswear, it originated in the military, as a form of cold-weather battle dress that was worn ‘over’ an ordinary uniform. The overcoat was originally tailored close to the body but became looser in the 19th century, when it became popular with civilians too. “Black, grey and navy are the most traditional colours,” says Thread stylist Millie Rich. “But in autumn, a camel style looks great with a white tee and light denim, for a casual weekend vibe.”

How to wear it

“If you get one with minimal style details, it works with anything,” says Millie, “from a suit to a t-shirt. Just pay close attention to the fit – you should have around two inches of room around your waist when you button it up. As the name suggests, it goes ‘over’ a jacket, so you need to make sure there’s space for a suit, or even a hoodie or denim jacket.

“If you work somewhere smart, then an overcoat will always look great with tailoring. For casual offices, or when you’re off-duty, try raw denim and an Oxford shirt, then add a chunky knit when it gets a bit colder. With the right layering, you’ll find that you can wear an overcoat for nine months of the year. Which makes it one of the hardest-working things in your wardrobe.”