The Best Affordable Outerwear – Fall/Winter 2011

Coats that look so good you'll welcome the cold.

Your coat is important.  Since it’s the outermost layer and you only have one or two for cold and wet weather, it’s going to see a lot of work.  You’ll want to make a bit of an investment here if possible.  We’re all used to seeing men mail it in when it comes to their outerwear.  Ski jackets, shin length overcoats two sizes too big… a bad coat is like a bad suit.  It can make a guy look unfairly off.

Find the right coat though, and you’re likely to hear plenty of unsolicited compliments.  Usually that’s a great thing.  Sometimes it’s not.  For example, I had this conversation last week with a pretty, young cashier at a nicer retail store, who took notice of my favorite trench:

Her:  I have to say, I really like your coat.
Me:  Thank you.  Some people call it my Inspector Gadget coat.
Her:  (confused look on her face.)
Me:  Wow.  This is going to be the first time I’ve ever told someone that they might be too young to remember something from my childhood, but… you might be too young to remember Inspector Gadget.
Her:  (eyes widen up) Oh!  No, I was just a kid, but I remember.
Me:  Ah good, because I was about to feel really old…
Her:  Yeah, Matthew Broderick was great.
Me:  …..

You want your coat to look good but also be plenty functional.  It needs to keep you warm, dry, and repel snow, rain, and the occasional unintentional ageist slam that makes you feel like a pile of dinosaur bones.  Any of these should fulfill those requirements, all while looking sharp and coming in at a decent price:
.

Schott Slim Fit Wool Peacoat – $250.00

Also comes in black and the all but sold out khaki.

An annual favorite.  Standby for a full in person on this one.  A legendary name that’s synonymous with quality and made in the USA (even though their slim fit is made in Canada.)  Also available in black, but one of the advantages a blue or grey coat will have over a black, is that brown shoes look equally as good as black shoes with a grey or blue coat.  Also comes in a standard fit that’s made in the USA.

 

Indochino Camel Coat – $349.00

Custom and less than J. Crew.

For $50 less than J. Crew’s Mayfair Topcoat, Indochino will build you a coat to your custom specs, ship it to you for free, and pick up the tab on up to $75 in final tailoring costs in case you want to get it extra dialed in on it’s arrival.  You also get to pick the color of the lining and the lapel style.  Ticket pocket is also up to you.  It’s an investment, but with a lack of camel coats so far this year, the Indochino delivers all the extras.

 

Express Water Resistant Wool Blend Peacoat – $278 (but can be had for $203)

Wait for a tiered sale and you can get it for $75 off.

Every year Express makes one or two simple coats.  This one hasn’t found its way into all of the brick and mortars yet, so an in-person hasn’t happened yet.  But, it sure looks like they nailed the mid-thigh length.  Double breasted and 60% wool with the rest of the synthetic blend offering some water resistance.  Button belted cuffs but no epaulets, which is actually a nice bit of detail restraint on the part of Express, since epaulets might have been a little much.

 

INC Double Breasted Glen Plaid – $79.60* ($99.50)

It's a Macy's house brand, so wait for a sale.

This one has potential, but needs some work.  It’s cotton so it won’t be all that warm, but there’s some good weight to it.  It fits a little boxy off the rack and could use some tapering by your tailor.  There’s a lot of details on it (too many?) between the epaulets and buttons on the front pockets.  Might be a great option for the shorter guys since it’s pretty short in the drop for those of us who are average height or taller.  *Use the code PRESIDENT for this price.  Ships free too since the code gets you free shipping over $75 (as well as 20% off) through 10/20

 

J. Crew Authentic Bayswater Peacoat – $255.00 – $295.00

No surprise, it's good.

It’s almost a cliche to praise a peacoat from J. Crew, but between the fabric, the tan lining, and the high armholes, this one is a step farther than pretty nice.  Couple of drawbacks:  It’s not going to be all that much longer than your sportcoat or suit jacket length, and it’s expensive.  Good news for the tall guys since they do offer this in tall sizes.  Great arms and shoulders.  Accentuates your V shape without going overboard.

 

Gap Wool Jacket – $98.00

I need to start bringing Windex.

If you’re set on a longer coat like a mid-thigh peacoat or topcoat, but want something shorter and more casual for after work and running around town on the weekends, it’ll be hard to beat this option from Gap.  The fit is surprisingly good.  Trim but not tight, and doesn’t look boxy.  There’s this odd ribbed back neck bib thing, but once you put the coat on it doesn’t look bad or feel bad.  The material is oddly nice for a jacket that can be had for $70 on sale.  A bargain bomber-style option for those that don’t want to shell out for a J. Crew University coat.

 

Nautica Wool Mix Peacoat – $119.99* ($250)

Was listed at one point for $100.

Hold out for a One Day Sale or another Men’s Wardrobe Sale, since this was listed in a catalog for $99.  Up close view here.  A 52% wool, 40% polyester, 5% rayon, 3% “other” blend.  Your guess is as good as mine as to what the “other” is.  Plutonium?  Mid-weight fabric, quilted interior, and a perfect length.  Made in the not so wintery Dominican Republic.  A solid budget option if you can get it for around $100.  *Use the code PRESIDENT for this price.  Ships free too since the code gets you free shipping over $75 (as well as 20% off) through 10/20
UPDATE:  These are over at Overstock for around $90.  Credit to Perry for sending in the style tip.

 

Tommy Hilfiger Performance Rain Trench – $119.99* ($250.00)

Size down in these. Size shown: Small.

Two things:  #1 SIZE DOWN.  I’m wearing a small in these pics and I would have been swimming in a Medium.  Hilfiger stuff is still, for the most part, running big.  And #2 DON’T PAY RETAIL.  It’s Macy’s, so always buy on sale.  A coat mainly for the guys in warmer climates who just won’t see snow, but maybe some rain and want to stay warm and dry.  Comes with a removable plaid lining.  It’s a single breasted mac that fits a little boxy, but doesn’t poof out too bad through the middle.  All poly, but leans much closer to waxed cotton then windbreaker nylon in texture.  *Use the code PRESIDENT for this price.  Ships free too.

 

Topman Light Grey Wool Mix Trench – $200.00

Authentic looking.

A love hate coat.  Not for everyone and requires more panache than most of us care to outwardly display in public.  Without the neck buttoned all the way up and, say, the belt tie at the back, it’ll just look like a longer light grey wool coat.  But certainly isn’t a standard peacoat.  63% wool and ships free.

 


Banana Republic Black Wool Top Coat – $187.50*
($250.00)

$175 when 30% off. Looks like a million bucks.

The best of the lot so far.  To put it in perspective, I’ve never been a fan of single breasted longer coats on myself.  I like my winter coats double breasted as much as I like my suits single breasted.  But this coat is nails.  Here’s why:

  • It’s distinguished without being stuck up.
  • It’s simple without being boring thanks to the angled chest pocket, slick ticket pocket, and striped lining.
  • It has a good length without looking like you’re wearing a blanket.
  • It’s fitted through the sides but has room to layer under.
  • There aren’t any superfluous details like epaulets or zippers.

The covered placket means you don’t see the buttons when it’s closed, which makes a surprisingly big difference for its looks.  The open V dips lower than a peacoat, but that means you’ll get to wear a scarf all the time.  80% wool, 20% poly, and can be had for a song on sale.  *Use code BROCT25 for 25% off to get this price.
.

Post Coat Purchase Final Thoughts
  • Get a wide shouldered suit jacket hanger - Don’t just hang your new coat on a hook.  When possible, hang it on a wide shouldered hanger so the neck of your jacket doesn’t get messed up over time.
  • Buy some lint rollers - With winter comes static & lint.  You’ll want to roll off before heading out for a big date.
  • Make sure you have room – It has to be slightly bigger to accomodate your layered clothes underneath.  Most jackets are cut slightly larger for this purpose, so when possible avoid going a full size up.  Wear a blazer to the store.  You’ll need some space, but don’t want to look like a linebacker.
  • When in doubt, go mid-thigh – Not covering your knees, but more than an inch past your blazer.
  • Store it Properly in Spring - When spring comes back around, you’ll want to have your coat professionally cleaned, then store it an a moth-proof area with some cedar around it just in case.

It’s still somewhat early for heavy coats, but additions to the list are certainly welcome in the comments section .