You know those guys. The types who wear a wispy outer layer like a hoodie, a fleece, or a (gulp) gilet when it’s 40º, 30º, or 20º or even lower. They look like idiots. And don’t get me started on the morons who wear shorts as if to say “I’m a spring break party monster, bro. I don’t need outerwear. Aren’t I hilarious?” No, dude, you look like an asshole.

Maybe it’s some reductive expression of hyper virility when a guy thinks he doesn’t need a coat, telling the world that real men can hack extreme cold without one. (The same phenomenon happens with hats, but that’s a different article.) I can only speculate. What I do know is that blatantly underdressed men in cold weather – especially the extreme freeze we’ve been having – look ridiculous.

The N-3B Parka (in navy) from Alpha Industries.

The proper gear is key and it need not be expensive. My favorite casual winter coat is the snorkel parka. It’s warm, hooded, riddled with pockets and cut long enough to cover over the butt and crotch, which is a nice feature in a -10º wind chill. And it’s a classic. My favorite snorkel is the original N-3B Parka from Alpha Industries, a heavyweight that was originally designed in the 1950s for U.S. Air Force crews deployed in extremely cold climates. This durable workhorse comes packed with features in several color choices in a classic or slim fit for $250.

For dressy or business modes (though I’m no stranger to wearing my snorkel over a suit when it’s brutally cold), a man needs an overcoat or a topcoat, which are essentially the same thing in different lengths. Overcoats extend to the knee, where more popular modern topcoats typically hit at mid-thigh or a bit lower. There are many sources for these, and you can spend a lot of money if you want. My favorite reasonably priced options come from J.Crew and Suitsupply.

Wool/cashmere blend Ludlow topcoats from J.Crew.

J.Crew’s classic, handsome, trusty topcoats are well made with a soft wool-cashmere blend, and can be had for anywhere between $350 or $500, depending on the season and the sale.

Suitsupply navy topcoats in wool and cashmere.

Suitsupply’s elegant topcoats generally have a fuller lapel and come in wool or cashmere. They range from $499 to $899.

An extra nice thing about topcoats is that they are more versatile than people give them credit for. Yes, they’re a business/dress staple, but they also look great in casual modes, too, with just jeans and a t-shirt on cool (but not cold) fall and spring days.

If you can go bigger with price, look at Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, Brunello Cucinelli, or Paul Stuart. 

There are virtually limitless other options with outerwear, but these are my favorites. It’s cold out there. Be a man and wear a good winter coat.

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  1. Totally agree GH.. seeing young dudes in flip flops and shorts when it is ten degrees out and snowing here in New
    England – no coat, no gloves, etc., is idiotic. Frostbite, hypothermia and worse are real risks if one is over exposed
    in severe winter conditions. Man up and prepare yourself for it! I LOVE my winter coat choices and options.

  2. As a female coat whore, I completely subscribe to “the right coat for the right season and occasion;’ a glance out about our streets convinces me that many men and women need to learn the definition of both “occasion” and “season.”

    There’s a boatload of people who believe we’re headed toward mere functional, androgynous “new frontier” dress that in this season resembles some form of microfiber or quilted down outerwear that calls to mind athletic uses. Trust me, menfolk: you will have an “occasion” wherein a nice topcoat will pay off; whether it’s because you don’t want to look like you’re headed to Beaver Creek, or you want an object of affection to know you “clean up nice” is your choice.

    When the mister and I finally did the “seasonal closet flip” weeks back (New Yorkers with minimal closet space know what I’m talking about), up came a clutch of coats we greeted like old friends. As we packed for our holiday trip to see family in a colder clime, monsieur put what looked like a brand-new APC 3/4 topcoat on the “take” pile. Apparently, he’d bought it in the 90s during a flush moment, considered donating it when said androgynous dress kept looking like reality. I’m so thrilled he kept it, and it’s proven itself both an asset for “clean up nice” occasions, and adds a luxe and sexy polish to jeans and boots for less-critical occasions.

    Don’t get me wrong–a nicely-kept parka can get you and your biz look to the office in toasty style. But a nicely-cut topcoat makes ’em take a second look at your sexy self. A good wool or wool-cashmere blend coat will look nicer longer than a lot of “technical” fabrics out there. Food for thought, gents!

    Happy new year, George! Looking spiff, as always! xo

  3. Christopher R Fortunato

    George, I have an old Sulka topcoat that fits me beautifully, wears like iron, looks like it walked off the Mad Men set and is probably around 50 years old. I also have an old Rogers Peet topcoat that looks like the JCrew Ludlow one.

  4. Big fan of your well-priced options for staying warm, especially now that Canada Goose parkas have become ubiquitous, hitting the wallet for close to a thousand bucks. Big difference between being warm and flaunting a status symbol.

    I have a topcoat and like it because it’s flatteringly shaped like a well-tailored suit. For days in Chicago when it’s just too cold I’ll pull out my North Face Nuptse down coat to look like the Michelin man.

    • Thank you! And I completely agree about Canada Gross. And the real coyote fur thing does not work for me at all.

  5. Thanks for the tip. My N-3B parka arrived today and it is terrific. A friend just ordered one too. Take advantage of the 15% discount as a new customer.

  6. Ian Huckabee

    Thanks, George. Perfect taste, as always.

  7. Jay Hails

    Late to the conversation, I know, but quarantine gives us time to re-read old posts. Also, I’m shopping for one decent overcoat to replace a few cheap ones. I’m close to purchasing a single-breasted Suitsupply topcoat, and am stuck on the choice of navy or charcoal. Your opinion carries some weight with me, George. Navy or grey?

    • Thanks, Jay. Not knowing your color palette or style, I’d go with navy. It would be more versatile.

  8. I totally agree and can we talk about women who wear a short puffer jacket with a dress OMG looks horrible Invest in a grown up casual coat.