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Clothing

The Winter Coat Guide: The Paletot

Kamau Hosten

As a newcomer to cool weather, I was ill-prepared. While I didn't quite freeze my ass off (a little bit of it is still there), the lonely topcoat I moved to New York with was less than adequate. Through enormous research, I narrowed down a few basic pieces of outerwear that should serve any newcomer well for a solid season. This is the first feature in the series on coats.

For myself, I've obtained a much heavier double breasted overcoat in the paletot style. The features being 6x2 buttoning points, with the top two not meant to be fastened, a center vent, peak lapels and a clean, beltless back. The beauty is in the simplicity. The coat has slight waist suppression, but still looks clean when worn over a sports jacket. Additionally, the styling works best with tailored clothing.

Hat by Selentino, coat and scarf by Brioni, trousers by Gant

Hat by Selentino, coat and scarf by Brioni, trousers by Gant

It is said to be 'invented' by 19th century dandies, namely the French count, Alfred D'Orsay. Nick Foulkes, author of Last of the Dandies, recorded that the count, who was caught in a rainstorm, purchased the heavy coat off of the back of a sailor. The vainglorious man-about-town saw a utilitarian appeal to the almost ankle length coat.

Address and age.

Address and age.

 

However outrageous his life may have been, the count was on to something regarding the warmth of this style of coat. Last season, I tried a slim, single breasted chesterfield topcoat. Not only was I unconvinced of my apparent hipness, I was left with bitterly cold knees.

The added layer of fabric and additional length of a double breasted coat are both practical and stylish. This coat proved to be sufficient on a recent blustery Sunday in NYC. With the bottom button fastened, the wind was blocked a bit more than the single breasted counterpart.

Rather than yank the left side of my coat taught over the right, as I did last winter, and futilely flip flimsy lapels up, the breadth of the lapels and the additional layer take the reins against cold. This solution will allow my gloved hands to slide nicely back into the pockets, one more layer away from the wind.

Photos by Bevin Elias