A Wrapped Up History of Overcoats

Photo source

When it comes to keeping you feeling warm and looking sharp, there is no better choice than a well tailored overcoat. A classic overcoat will work seamlessly whether you want to wear it with a suit, a sweater and jeans, or a casual shirt and chinos. 

The overcoat as we know it emerged in the 17th century and has seen very few major changes since then. Though knee length and longer coats and gowns were in use before then, they were generally reserved for high status individuals or members of the armed forces.

Initially, the frock overcoat was the most-worn type of overcoat. This was a double breasted coat with a fitted top and a flared skirt. The Victorians replaced the frock coat with the Chesterfield, which was named after George Stanhope, the 6th Earl of Chesterfield. Stanhope was a big influencer of British gentlemen’s fashion in the 1830s and 1840s. 

The Chesterfield coat emerged on the same fashion wave as the lounge suit, and was intended as a more informal overcoat to replace very structured frock overcoats. Chesterfields came in both single and double breasted varieties, though single breasted coats have become more popular in recent decades. 

Overcoats were a key part of military uniform from the late 1700s to the mid 1940s and 50s. Certain styles have been brought back into fashion by their use during military campaigns. This is true of the trench coat worn by soldiers during World War One, which re-popularised the full length overcoat. 

The overcoat was a must-have item in every gentlemen’s wardrobe until the 1960s, when more casual coats became commonplace. Despite this, the classic tailored overcoat is an iconic garment   whose popularity endures. 

Are you in need of a new overcoat? Here are five questions your tailor should ask you about your bespoke overcoat, and why the answers matter