A winter’s coat tale

17 Nov

Gents, do you own a winter coat? I know it’s a funny question, but I’m on my fourth client almost in a row who doesn’t have a proper winter coat and I’m astounded. We live in Canada and our winters are cold, so why wouldn’t these men have the proper gear for winter weather?

One of the clients never “got around” to getting one as an adult, so he shivered his way through each winter in a short cloth and leather baseball-type jacket  that was miles too big for him. Thinking about it, I dated a guy several years ago who wore an unlined trench coat all winter because he refused to admit that he lived in a cold country (bizarre logic – I didn’t date him for long).

Gentlemen, I know you are realistic and practical, so let’s talk about winter outerwear. It’s cold and it’s going to get colder, but it’s also easy to keep warm and dress stylishly, so really, why wouldn’t you?

Winter outerwear

As opposed to a winter jacket which is short, ending at the waist (i.e. bomber style), a winter coat (known as a parka or an anorak if it’s hooded) is longer and keeps your thighs and your buns warm. There are different lengths of winter coats from “car length” which ends mid-thigh and makes moving around easier, and there are full length winter coats, a little more luxurious, often dressier. Some longer coats can fit over your suit jacket and are known as top coats. Here are some examples of coat styles you may or may not be familiar with:

Mid-length wool duffle coat.

Top coat

Pea coat (navy issue)


Because we’re looking to keep warm, coats can be made of different materials designed to keep our body heat in. Our examples above are made of varying qualities of wool. Wool can be woven or felted and sometimes you will find coats in fine wools like cashmere – these will be found in dressy top coats or other high-end coat designs. TIP – if you have a wool winter coat, keep a lint brush handy and brush your coat every once in a while – wool tends to attract fuzzies and you want to keep neat.

Winter coats can also be made of synthetics like nylon or polyester (wind breaker materials). Canada Goose coats, like the Banff Parka, is made of Arctic-Tech: 85% polyester,15% cotton blend with a DWR finish (durable water-repellent). Sportier outerwear made by companies like The North Face is made from light, breathable high-tech materials, specifically for outdoor sport like snowboarding, for example, where heavy, bulky outerwear would not be practical.

Many coats, like the Canada Goose coats, are filled with duck or goose down. Down is extremely light and warm and these excellent properties make it quite popular. I don’t own one, but I expect it would be like wearing a down-filled duvet. There are different styles of down-filled coats, some puffier than others (think Michelin Man), but none of them are cheap. Buying a  good quality down-filled coat is a great investment that will last you for years, but it will set you back $500+.

Some coats can be filled with polyester which is not as warm as down but is much less expensive. One of my coatless clients bought a thigh-length puffy polyester-filled coat with a hood and lots of pockets. I was amazed at how excited he was to have his very first adult winter coat! I expect that he’ll spend more time outside because of it and enjoy it thoroughly.


Coat lining is just as important as the outside material and the cozier, the better – it’s next to your body after all. Instead of a satiny lining that you would find on the inside of your suit jackets, you may want something a little more plush inside of your winter coat.

A lot of designers are giving their customers more choices when it comes to winter outerwear and it is common to find coats with zip-out linings. These coats are very practical and can double as lighter fall coats without the lining  (= more bang for your buck), and you can find whole or partial zip-out linings. Another coatless client recently bought a beautiful Italian wool coat with a zip-out front lining that for the winter, adds an extra layer of wool to his chest.

A good choice in coat lining is quilting, faux fur (if you can find it – very warm), flannel or brushed cotton, or fleece (also very warm and very cozy). I have a cool vintage coat that I took apart a couple of years ago and relined with a brushed cotton-backed heavy satin – this made an enormous difference in warmth to the plush exterior that looks warmer than it actually is.

Coat features

Stretchy ribbed storm cuff hidden under the coat sleeve.

There are some great features to be aware of when you’re looking for winter coats. Things like hoods are nice, also extra pockets, extra fasteners to get you all done up and protected from the wind, and the best of all, storm cuffs.

What is a storm cuff? Remember your winter coats as a kid? Often, your coat had a ribbed cuff on the inside or perhaps on the outside of the sleeve – this is a storm cuff. A storm cuff keeps the sleeve secured to your wrist and keeps the wind out. To me, there is no feeling as secure as a storm cuff in the winter!

Coat colour

I suppose it’s the psychological aspect of the dark days of winter that keeps us in dark colours. I’ve said before that as soon as the temperature dips, Toronto reaches for black. Being a Caucasian, I know that black doesn’t actually suit most white people, as it drains us of colour and makes our skin look shadowy and splotchy.

Since we only have so many colour choices in coats during this dark season, try wearing a coloured scarf around your neck that reflects good light onto your face to counteract the draining black.

Theory of warm

The theory about keeping warm is that the little spaces in the weave of your fabric hold air that is warmed by your body, so the more little spaces there are, the warmer you will be.

With this in mind, I’ve started building my own winter coat: the outside is copper-coloured quilted nylon (with a polyester back) that will be water-resistant and with any luck, wind-resistant. Under this is a full layer of fine wool, and the inside is a satin lining so I can easily slide it on and off.  This coat will have a substantial but not too heavy weight to it. I find a feeling of security in a weighty coat and that is what works for me.

If you’re purchasing a new coat this year, gents, be practical and think about the style and material that will suit you and your lifestyle best.  For more information about winter dressing, please read this post.


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