A guide to men's winter coats and jackets

Like the suit, the coat is an investment journey that takes time and money to get right. There are a few elements that must be taken into consideration, most notably the fit of the jacket.

As obvious as that sounds, it's the most forgotten with the general tendency among men to choose coats that are long in the sleeves and droopy on the shoulders.

Here's how to distinguish between key styles to find the right one that works for you. 

Duffle

The origins of the duffle coat can be traced to British designer, John Partridge, and the Polish 'frock' coat popular in the 1800s. But it was the British military that popularised it when they released surplus duffle coats to the public after WWII, and artists, students and intellectuals began to adopt them.

The duffle is a bit more roomy that other overcoats, and is best worn with jeans and chinos, under cashmere sweaters and cable knits. Footwear? The choice is varied: boots, brogues and sneakers. Keep it casual and avoid business or evening-related events with this navy-inspired gem.

Parka 

The parka is rumoured to find its origins in the Inuit people as a protective garment against freezing temperatures. Its snug fit and fur-lined hood gained prominence in the '50s in the US military, before variations such as the fishtail parka developed during the Korean War. It was the Mod sub-culture in '60s Britain that made the parka a fashion staple, as it was reworked by luxury brands with new silhouettes.

Today, the parka is strictly casual with its hooded capabilities perfect for wearing with trainers and jeans. Never to be seen over a tux or business suit.

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Mackintosh

Created by Scottish chemist Charles Macintosh in 1823, the 'mac' coat boasts a unique waterproof fabric that guards against the rain, sleet and snow, as well as winter cold.

Macs are lightweight enough to layer, tailored enough to wear to the office, and flexible enough to wear with trainers. Don't overlook this versatile seasonal classic.

Overcoat

The overcoat is a traditional piece of outerwear that has a certain designation, without being flashy. What is more important and distinguished than the business suit? The overcoat that holds it all together, as a parka or duffel would look clumsy here. 

And not just for winter, it's essential fashion property in autumn or spring too, depending on the fabric. A versatile investment, this business-savvy, luxurious piece will look just as good with a jumper and jeans as it will over of a three-piece suit.

Trench

During battle, the heavy greatcoats (long wool overcoats) typically used by the British forces were deemed impractical for the conditions of the trenches. The lighter, shorter, waterproof coat made by Burberry and Aquascutum was a perfect fit, and the trench coat was born.

Like the duffle, the military coat was popularised after the war, pioneered by Hollywood's Humphrey Bogart and other dapper gents on screen. Today, they can be thrown over thicker layering – shirt, cardigan and blazer combination; keeping things dry, warm and insulated.

Opt for darker neutral colours for evening while camel, stone or beige are great workplace and day wear options.

Pea

The pea is cut slightly longer than a regular jacket but it remains shorter than a greatcoat to accommodate movement. Originally designed for 'reefers' – sailors who climbed up the riggings of sailing ships – the classic pea coat is close fitting, has a slightly indented waist, and flares out slightly around the hips. 

The coat boasts broad lapels, is double-breasted, often with large wooden, metal or plastic buttons, and slash pockets for easy hand placement. The pea is sophisticated for office wear and looks dapper for smart casual weekends – especially in navy, grey and camel.

Finding your fit

First things first: choose a coat that fits snugly and squarely around the shoulders, in the same manner you would approach your suit jacket. To allow a little extra room for layers, go up half or a full size (depending on your sensitivity to the cold and therefore, layering needs).

The sleeve's length needs to be long enough to cover the sleeve of the button shirt, but not so long to impend on the hand as you'll probably want to show off those soft leather gloves below your watch.

Fabric

Cashmere is the warmest, but the most expensive. Its delicacy in heavy weather make it inferior to wool, too, in terms of durability.

Loden (used mostly in duffles) is a thick and heavy wool but still soft and durable. Made from mountain sheep wool, the cloth is watertight due to the coarse, rough and oily wool and is superbly windproof and warm.

Gabardine is a tightly woven, water-repellent cloth typically used in trench coats. It is waxy in touch and can be made from worsted wool, cotton, or polyester.

Parkas, due to their casual prerogative, come in polyester-cotton blends filled with feathers for extra warmth, or without in canvas for lighter layering.

This story was originally published on D'Marge.

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