I regret to inform you that it’s that time of year again: the nights are drawing in, the temperature is dropping and people have begun sharing Michael Buble memes. ‘Big Coat’ season is upon us.
First, a short definition for the uninitiated. A ‘Big Coat’ is a particular type of winter coat worn by those who have learned that looking good and staying warm during the winter are not mutually exclusive. Often over-engineered, occasionally brightly coloured, always well insulated, the Big Coat is a one-item outfit. To own one is to know that whatever else you’re wearing when it’s frosty, the Big Coat will pull it all together.
The real beauty of the Big Coat though, is that it allows you not to think about what you’re wearing. Like a dressing gown for the outdoors, it will quickly become your default option when leaving the house. Unlike sweatshirts, T-shirts and underwear, people don’t tend to judge you for wearing the same coat for three-months at a time. Personal experience has taught me that removing this seemingly small piece of decision making from your day makes life infinitely easier. You start to leave the house on time because you’ve already decided what to wear. You always know where your wallet and keys are because you left them in the same pockets. And, most importantly, you’re always warm. “How about last Sunday?!” your friends will exclaim. “It was freezing!” But you won’t know what they’re on about, because you had a Big Coat on.
Big Coats come in two forms. The purest expression of the form is a down-filled parka with arctic exploration or skiwear heritage. These are the types of coat that will have men of a certain age scouring internet discussion boards and parting with eye-watering sums of money to own. Still, it could be argued that you get what you pay for. Designed to be worn in the most extreme climates on Earth, these overcoats will laugh in the face of the bleak British midwinter. Think of them like a diving watch for your torso: you’ll likely never test its limits, but it’s the peace of mind that you’re investing in. So warm are these jackets that you’ll often find yourself wearing just a T-shirt underneath. Great examples can be found at Matches Fashion, Browns and Adidas. Bright colours tend to come as standard here, so that you’ll stand out in the snow-covered tundra, but there are also plenty available in navy blue and black. Whatever you choose, the ‘Big Coat’ is versatile. Wear it with denim, chinos or joggers of any colour.
The only thing this type of Big Coat can’t cope with is formal occasions. So, if you spend your weekdays in a suit, a different version is required. Thankfully, it’s still entirely possible to exude Big Coat energy in something more traditional. A thick, wool coat can make just as strong a statement as a bright, Arctic parka, and will keep you (almost) as warm. You just need to seek one out in an unusual style, colour or pattern. Let’s begin with the style. Broadly speaking this covers the shape of the lapels (perhaps they’re wider than usual), the coat’s length (a floor-length number), whether or not it’s belted, even the material used. This example from Sandro ticks several boxes. Its lapel is high and straight and the pattern adds detail without being too wacky. Where colour and pattern are concerned, start with a base colour that suits your skin tone and your practical needs. A bright orange base or wacky pattern might not be the most suitable if you work in, say, private security. In short, try to look for something one step beyond a plain, single-breasted navy overcoat.
Once that’s taken care of you just need to put it on and forget that winter even exists.