What do you look for in an outerwear purchase?

As I look in my own closet, the realization that I don’t own a proper winter coat begins to set in as the temperature begins to get colder.  Sure, I have some jackets but a waxed cotton field coat just doesn’t keep me warm enough, and that Mountain Hardwear fleece from college lets the wind cut right through (and it’s super un-bloggerific), and that really old peacoat that’s too big just won’t do.  So while my life so far in the South hasn’t necessitated too much warmth in past winters, I will be spending more time in colder climates this year.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I should take the plunge into the proper outerwear world.  Right now, I’m trying to decide between something like a classic (proper fitting) peacoat or a down-filled parka.  The problem is that I’m not sure if one is better than the other.  So what are the things I should look for in a warm jacket?

What do you look for in the perfect winter coat?

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11 responses

  1. Paul,
    We miss you here in Nashville. Of the two, I dig the parka. The peacoat is great, just too ubiquitous these days. Yeah it’s classic, the parka just seems more versatile.
    Don’t forget about a wool top coat…

  2. Anything with down or Primaloft is the way to go if you’re looking for true warmth. You often sacrifice style, but it’s often worth the trade off. I actually have a Barbour with a little fill that does quite well in the winter months as long as I have a hat/scarf.

    Where is that peacoat from?

  3. Ted- Thanks, more and more folks say down is the way to go (through Twitter at least)…

    The peacoat is Billy Reid… that photo comes from Park & Bond’s website.

  4. I’m in the same boat right now: updating ill-fitting or unappealing winter coats. I think I’ve settled on a duffle coat because I think it toes the casual line perfectly. It can be worn over a suit or with jeans. Now which one to buy?

    In your case I would recommend the pea coat as I think it is more versatile

  5. Don’t underestimate a peacoat if it’s made out of heavy duty melton wool. It won’t let a single bit of air through and will keep you warm, especially with a sweater and a scarf. That being said, if you’re going to be in temps in the single digits and down/primaloft is going to retain heat better.

  6. Probably the worst guy to weigh in (as I live in FL and the main place I travel is CA) but I’ve never been a huge fan of the plain navy peacoat. It always seems too dull and drab. The dark navy and full front button up seems to drown out anything else a man has on when wearing one.

    Just look at the image you posted… nothing distinct or interesting at all about that jacket. The way it hangs, unfitting against his torso… it could be from Billy Reid, Bloomingdales, or Target… no one knows and no one cares. It somehow claims a man’s identity in its bulky, restrained, wooly darkness. Simply put, just too plain and restrained.

    I’d opt for something like the LBM 1911 Glen Plaid Overcoat or even the Herringbone Overcoat that’s on Gilt right now. Not necessarily wild or ostentatious, but the distinct design details give the jackets the right amount of extravagance. Even with something like the navy herringbone, the small pattern action is just enough to give the coat some sort of identity. I also love the clean lines, slimmer fit and the minimal but substantial considerations like the buttons and the lapel pin give something like these the clear advantage.

    My doctoral thesis on not buying a nondescript navy peacoat is now complete.

  7. New York City winters get pretty cold, and sometimes wet. I like coats that don’t let in any air. Something that has a collar button so I can cover my neck, and use my scarf on my face. I also like coats that are lightweight, and can fold up easily for travel. I have a Johnston & Murphy nylon coat that I bought a few years ago that has held up well. I wear it in bad winter weather, and also for travel. It works well over a suit, and just as well with a sweater & jeans. I don’t feel the need to get too fancy looking with a coat as they always come off inside. That’s my two cents.

  8. That’s a tough call, both are good looking. The down-filled parka is really stylish and probably very warm, but for me I would have to go with a well-fitted peacoat. I really can’t wait for it to get cold enough for me to wear mine. They are a pretty classic look so they won’t go out of style in a few years. In my opinion, they are more flexible too, as they can be dressed down with jeans or dressed up over a suit. Both of those are good choices though so you can’t go wrong with either.

  9. as a fellow Southerner I, like you, have what some may call Gaping Holes in my winter wardrobe. but year-in-and-year-out my dad’s old pea coat has gotten me through some tough winters: D.C., New York, Chicago. And while I agree with the comment that it can seem a little drab, color-wise, when you’re walking down a sidewalk with your nose down and your collar up, no one’ll even notice. At least, not until you end up where you’re headed, but then the coat comes off; what you’ve got on underneath is a whole ‘nother issue.

  10. I think that the coat will be considerably more stylish, consider looking also at a thin down layering piece by Patagonia or other technical wear brand, for use in extreme cold.

    Also consider looking for something a bit longer, the extra length will keep you warmer and makes a big difference when sitting waiting for a bus and literally not freezing your butt off.

    One of these is much, much thinner than a regular down parka and almost as warm, but can be used as a layer. It’s also available as a vest.
    http://www.rei.com/search?search=down+patagonia&cat=4500008&hist=query%2Cdown+patagonia%5Ecat%2C4500008%3AMen%27s

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