Winter is the season, so you need an overcoat — a cold-weather coat to wear over your suit, to keep you warm and protect you from the elements (wind, rain, and snow).
Unfortunately, your puffy down parka or ski jacket won’t cut it for a business setting, nor are they suitable when you attend high-end social functions.
The topcoat dilemma is: which material should you select? What color? What length? What style? After all, you only buy a winter coat every few years…
The simple answer: men who want a functional winter coat to keep them warm yet set them apart style-wise from the masses of guys in their beige raincoats and shapeless microfiber topcoats should choose a wool herringbone coat.
Wool is the material of choice because it protects you from winter’s elements better than just about any other fabric. In addition, a well-tailored men’s wool coat expresses a richness and classic style that’s appropriate for any setting.
Herringbone is the recommended pattern for an overcoat because it is less common, edgier, yet has been used so long for top-quality men’s winter coats that it will never become unfashionable.
A well-constructed wool herringbone coat will last you for years.
Herringbone Design History and Clothing Quality
The herringbone pattern has provided a distinctive design for men’s clothing for hundreds of years. Originally, herringbone patterns in masonry, wood flooring, tile, and paving appeared in ancient Roman times.
There’s just something visually arresting about that repeating chevron pattern, which echoes the back-swept pattern of bones in the skeleton of a herring (hence the name).
When it comes to the tailoring of a man’s herringbone coat, it is difficult to sew the herringbone pattern so that it lines up evenly across the garment. Only the most skilled craftsmen and tailors have consistently used herringbone cloth (which is a type of twill) to construct men’s clothing. In other words, herringbone clothes must be well-made or they will look shoddy.
That’s why a herringbone weave sets men’s garments — and thus the man wearing them — apart from other patterns. It is almost exclusively employed in men’s clothes that signify distinction, high quality, and authority. That’s the reason you see it used mostly for suits and topcoats.
This winter, when you want to stand out from the gray and chilled crowd as you’re heading to work, meeting your significant other for drinks, attending a concert or charity ball, or walking your dog in the park on a chilly morning (because you never know who’s noticing), a herringbone coat fits the bill. You will exude an air of self-possession. Plus it will protect you.
Ted Baker Normac Herringbone Wool Coat from Zappos
When shopping for a herringbone coat, you should look for the most well-tailored brands you can find. I will list several here that fit the bill and will satisfy a range of preferences and styles.
The first coat that I recommend is the Ted Baker Normac Herringbone Coat from Zappos (pictured above). Its form-fitting design distinguishes it from run-of-the-mill herringbone coats. Made from a combination of 60% wool and 40% polyester, it is warm, stylish, and well-made. Fully lined, with shoulder epaulets, adjustable belts on the cuffs, and a double-breasted front. It’s got a removable belt, which accentuates the slim, modern fit. It embodies the design heritage of herringbone wool coats with a contemporary flair.
UK designer Ted Baker’s clothing line has earned the description “No Ordinary Designer Label.” Employing quirky and creative touches in all his clothing for men and women from the very start, he even has his own sizing designations. See the “Ted Baker Size Guide” on Zappos to learn more about it and make sure you order the size that’s right for you.
Be aware that Ted Baker’s first and last objective in designing menswear is quality that stands out.
The same goes for Zappos when it comes to serving their customers. For example, you get free overnight shipping on all apparel orders at Zappos, plus free returns. So you can order your Ted Baker Normac Herringbone Coat and be confident that it will all work out well.
Andrew Marc Holbrook Coat
When it comes to distinctive style for men, you can’t go wrong with herringbone wool fabric and you certainly can’t go wrong by pairing it with a peacoat style. So you get the best of both worlds with the Holbrook Coat by Marc New York.
Andrew Marc has designed a herringbone coat that is functional and flattering. Made of a durable blend of wool and poly, it includes double-breasted closure, shoulder epaulets, and tab button detailing at the cuffs. Fully lined and insulated, it also has an unusual feature: an attached zipped moleskin bib with a knit standup collar so you don’t need to wear a scarf with this coat.
You can get the Marc New York Holbrook Coat from Zappos. Take a look at the photos of the Holbrook Coat there and you’ll note that it has a flattering cut, with a number of classic tailoring details. This is a go-anywhere, do-anything herringbone wool pea coat that is definitely not a run-of-the-mill winter coat.
If you’re interested in delving into many other styles of pea coats, see my post that covers this staple of masculine apparel.
Another Herringbone Coat to Consider: the Bomber Duffle Herringbone Jacket from Paul Fredrick
In certain situations you don’t necessarily want to go with overly serious attire but still want to wear a more individualistic, well-styled coat — and the conditions may not call for quite as warm a coat as a full-length herringbone topcoat. In that case, go with the flattering Bomber Duffle Herringbone Jacket from Paul Fredrick (that’s it to the left).
A distinctly masculine design, it is also luxurious in execution (100% wool, fully lined), and quite stylish, with a blend of elements from the bomber jacket, the duffle coat, and the herringbone weave. Yet it is eminently practical. In slightly less formal situations, it will set you apart without “trying” too hard. Plus it will keep you warm. And the price is surprisingly reasonable.
Check the glowing customer reviews for this jacket on the Paul Fredrick site. You can get discounts and free shipping on certain purchases, too.
Herringbone Tweed Frock Coat from Pretty Green
Sometimes when you’re watching a flamboyant rock band, you might wonder: where do rock musicians get their clothes? Well, one place is Pretty Green, the UK design shop founded by Liam Gallagher, former frontman for the band “Oasis.”
Which brings us to our next herringbone coat design: the Charcoal Herringbone Tweed Frock Coat from Pretty Green.
If you want a distinctive herringbone coat that will help set you apart from the crowd, this is it. It features a cutaway front hem and full back hem panels to create a classic frock-coat silhouette.
It’s got many notable design touches — too many to describe here, but suffice it to say that this is a well-made, 100% wool herringbone coat in a design so traditional that it’s hard to find anywhere these days (though you would have had no trouble in the Edwardian era). Which has again made it cool.
Plus it’s got that rocker style vibe.
The Herringbone Tweed Frock Coat is pictured at left in charcoal. You can also get it in navy and green from the Pretty Green site. This coat is part of their Black Label collection.
Pretty Green has two parallel collections of men’s clothing. The Green Label is focused on more casual pieces — a range of everyday signature garments from T-shirts to denim. The Black Label collection is dedicated to classic British tailoring utilizing fine fabrics and innovative design details.
Another kickass herringbone coat choice among the Black Label collection at Pretty Green is the Charcoal Herringbone Fool On the Hill Overcoat (not pictured — click the preceding link to see it). This is a more classic design made of wool and cashmere, with top-quality tailoring.
If you enjoy well-made, unusual, yet completely functional men’s clothing, you’ll want to explore the many design options at Pretty Green. This is a brand that will help you dress with memorable style.
They ship all over the world. Shipping charges to the US are only about $20.
A Weather-resistant Herringbone Topcoat: the Grey Herringbone Rain Mac from T.M. Lewin
Like the other men’s overcoats reviewed here, here is one that is distinctive in style yet practical in function: the Grey Herringbone Rain Mac, available from British clothier T.M. Lewin.
As you’ll note from the photo, the Grey Herringbone Rain Mac is lighter in color than the other herringbone winter coats listed above. This makes it suitable for both casual and more formal wear. It is a coat the exudes British style, and would be at home on Fleet Street, yet help you stand out from the hordes of Brooks-Brothers-clad American businessmen on the streets of New York.
This is the kind of coat you might expect Sherlock Holmes to wear.
The Grey Herringbone Rain Mac is made of 100% wool, treated with a film to make it water-resistant. It has a removable quilted lining, making it a versatile coat you can wear in both fall and winter. (Add a scarf to enhance the warmth and style.) Normally priced at $800, this coat is now available from T.M. Lewin for $220.
T.M. Lewin has been making some of the finest business-wear in the world since 1898 — men’s clothing noted for its excellent craftsmanship and quality, as well as design details that set it apart from the competition. Beyond top-quality winter coats, browse their site for some of the best shirts, suits, ties, and accessories you can find anywhere. They are so confident of the quality of their products that they offer a 90-day “No Quibble” Guarantee. They want you to be fully satisfied with the clothing you buy from them. (BTW, shipping to the US runs$15 – $40 and takes 5 – 7 business days. Not bad when you live, say, in Indianapolis and want to shop in London.)
So, to summarize, I’ll answer the questions listed in the third paragraph of this post regarding what overcoat to choose that will not only protect you but help you stand out this winter:
What material? Wool.
What color? A color suitable to the style, fabric, and use of the individual coat you prefer — anything from charcoal to light gray is good.
What length? From hip length to knee length, depending on the weather conditions when you wear the coat. Longer coverage equals greater protection and warmth.
What style? Herringbone weave. Look for finely-tailored details in whatever coat you select. Remember that the ability to successfully execute herringbone designs in a wool overcoat is itself an indicator of generally superior quality.