Photo by Salt Water New England

Monday, November 22, 2021

Classic/Preppy Coats

All Photographs by Salt Water New England
A reader question:

Muffy, you are the last authentic source on all things preppy.  I have a question for you and the community.  What have been the most classic preppy coats traditionally, and which of those coats are still useful today?     

 Here is a list of some of the classic coats. All black and white photographs, and the color photograph of Arthur Miller, taken by my father:

Camel Hair Polo Overcoat

Duffle Coat/Toggle Coat

Loden Coat

The header picture, above.

Pea Coat

Tweed Coat and Overcoat


Chesterfields may be the most classic example.

Sheepskin Coat

Pile Lined Coats

With Trench Coats in Background

Balmacaan and Burberry (Style) Trench Coat


Usefulness Today

More so than other items of clothing, many of these coats are "of their time," and finding the most traditional versions of them today are not necessarily the most enabling.  They hail from a more formal time and when worn today may distract; what made sense in the commuter train from Westchester County to New York in 1960 may not make sense today. Those who travel will additionally find most classic coats prohibitively heavy.  

And a note of caution.  Most old pictures shown today on the various fan sites have been "borrowed" (stolen, in legal terms) from magazines and PR sources.  These are far from slice of life.  Many fans online "dressing up" for photographs look closer to steampunk cosplay and serve as cautionary tales.  

But in other ways, as technology has made vast improvements in so many parts of our lives, clothing has made more lateral strides.  The best of the classic coats still set the bar for materials, designs, and functionality today.  And less formal and heavy classic coats, such as those designed for wearing en route to the club or for the field feel the most relevant and functional today.  

Here are scores (1-10) of the classic coats' usefulness today for day to day (and your milage may vary).

  • Camel Hair Polo Overcoat:  Modern use index (out of ten): 5
  • Duffle Coat/Toggle Coat: Modern use index (out of ten): 7
  • Loden Coat: Modern use index (out of ten): 5
  • Pea Coats: Modern use index (out of ten): 9
  • Chesterfield Tweed Overcoat: Modern use index (out of ten): 4
  • More Casual Tweed Overcoat: Modern use index (out of ten): 10
  • Sheepskin Coat: Modern use index (out of ten): 7
  • Pile Lined Coats: Modern use index (out of ten): 4
  • Burberry Trench Coat: Modern use index (out of ten): 5
For comparison:
  • Tweed Shooting Coats: Modern use index (out of ten): 10
  • Barbour Waxed Cotton Jackets: Modern use index (out of ten): 10
  • Paddock Jackets: Modern use index (out of ten): 10 

Gallery of Coat and Jacket Photographs

Here are some other coats of note from the archives, including past and present.




 
 
















24 comments:

  1. Nice list, but I would not have labeled the Burberry style as a trench coat. As a useful coat, I prefer what you showed to a trench. A trench is a bit of a hassle to wear, in my view, unless you buckle the belt at the back. Too many modern trench coats are too short to keep you dry. With those few thoughts, I believe you covered everything very well. The pile loaned coat brought back a happy memory of a Mighty Mac from B. Altman circa 1959.

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  2. These photos were a real pleasure to see, especially as we look forward to seeing our family this week for Thanksgiving. Thanks.

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  3. There is al lot to be said in 2021 for not resembling most of society when it comes to overcoats or other attire. Wearing a polo coat, school scarf, and classic fur felt fedora over my suit today in fact. Out of step? Certainly. But that's not necessarily a bad thing in 2021

    Kind Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich

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  4. I loved these photographs, Muffy, and I do agree with you re: the issues of practicality of more traditional overcoats. I have a beautiful herringbone tweed overcoat of my mother's, Brooks Brothers circa 1988, and while I love it and its beautiful craftsmanship (silk lining, velvet collar), it's far too heavy for everyday wear any longer. I do love its elegance, however!

    For everyday, I wear my Burberry trench coat (also my mother's) when in the city; for around town, and occasional city wear, my mother's Barbour Bedale.

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  5. These photos were such a joy to look at! My mother wore an early 80s LL Bean wool peacoat for my entire childhood. I ended up with it in undergrad (early 00's) and wore it until it fell apart. I wish I still had it for everyday wear.

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  6. OK, this may sound crazy, but one of the things that first attracted me to the love of my life was his long winter coat. He is from Connecticut and I am from Atlanta so I had never seen a man wear a long winter coat. It really set him apart from the other men I knew and I thought it was incredibly attractive.

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  7. i feel like it depends to some degree on how urban and formal one's life is. Things have gone more casual lately, hence the 'usefulness assessment' makes sense. However, the more urban and 'dressed up' i am, the more likely i am to reach for a long trench coat, i prefer light olive to tan. The belt lives on a hanger in a closet.

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  8. Marvelous, definitive post. Depressing, though, that many of the best coats are the longer ones that no one wears much anymore. Regrettably my closet is full of them. That said, you can still see them in NYC where the walk to the office is much longer than across a parking lot.

    Curious that you did not include the barn jacket as paradigmatic. I have never worn one but it seems to me that it is a sort of preppy classic.

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  9. Smashing photos and informative, well-written text. One can't help but discern a sharp contrast between this site and That Other Blog. The new proprietor over there is one weird dude.

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  10. I would argue that a Burberry or similar (mine is an Aquascutum) would garner a 10 on the scale. They are very functional and perfect for winter here in the Deep South.

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  11. Standing on the commuter train, Elia Kazan looks pensive.

    Perhaps he's regretting having ratted out and blacklisting his friends and colleagues before Senator Joseph McCarthy's House Committee on Un-American Activities?

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    1. Nah. That kind never regrets anything. They just rationalize.

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    2. Or we could stick to the issue of overcoats ?

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    3. Maybe he's thinking about the blacklisting efforts in academia and Hollywood targeted at American intellectuals who broke with the Communist party. These pre-dated McCarthy and also caused the loss of jobs and livelihoods.

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  12. Well, some people still wear overcoats, people who work where there is no casual Friday. However, I'm no longer part of the working world, aside from what my wife makes me do, so I don't keep up.

    One thing that makes overcoats, trench coats, macintoshes and other long coats is they're inconvenient for sitting and for driving. I imagine that's when car coats became popular. Personally, I've found that a windproof, waterproof parka or outer jacket to be the most practical garment, especially when it fits over a suit jacket. A waxed cotton jacket like a Barbour is in that category, except that waxed jackets need regular attention and refinishing.

    There are also heavy wool cruiser jackets from the likes of Filson and Johnson Woolen Mills. Not common around here but someone is wearing one in one of the photos, the gentleman with the riding cap. It looks like a hunting coat from Johnson Woolen Mills, still available.

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  13. What wonderful photos! I would also nominate the classic L.L.Bean Field Jacket as well! Thank you so very much! Cheers!

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  14. Thank you for your addition of the 'usefulness assessment'. I love the more formal winter coats, but I agree that in these times and considering my age (59) and condition, I have resorted to much more practical attire and that also includes handbags (eschewing heavy leather for much lighter nylon crossbody types to relieve my frozen shoulder). In spite of that, I still manage to look pulled together and soignée at the office (according to my colleagues), thanks to my preference for the classics.

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  15. Ahh yes , sheep skin . That takes me back to seventies . They were big in Britain and the popularity lasted about a decade .

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  16. Winsted Conn’s own. A young Ralph Nader, standing in Grand Central (?).
    His American Tort Law Museum is a tour de force. Well worth a visit.

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  17. I still wear my long Austrian Loden coat on wintry walks through ski town (and NYC). To the puffer coat brigade I probably look weird and European, which I am...

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  18. I truly enjoy wearing my full length wall coats. And that’s what it’s all about. Enjoyment !

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  19. Weird is an infinitely more interesting way to go through life.

    Kind Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich

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  20. Oh, I remember long-haired girls with white turtlenecks in pea coats with white jeans and black Wellingtons.....

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  21. I just put on new toggles and straps for my 30 year old Gloverall duffle coat. Gloverall will sell you the repair kit. So it should be good for another 30 years!

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