When rain falls onto a waterproof coat, the water should be repelled in the same way as from a lotus flower,” said one of the more discerning clients I advise on style. The lightweight mac he commissioned (similar from £3,600) from Thom Sweeney had some very specific requirements, namely that it should be easy to carry and wearable all year round, with fabric that’s breathable (“on a humid day, I don’t want to sweat if it’s buttoned”) and “dries quickly, as some coats can smell like off salmon if they’re left wet, and I take a coat with me to the opera, so it needs to dry very quickly”. While his bespoke coat was a hit, smart lightweight waterproof coats can be tricky to commission as they can only be stitched once. Fortunately, there are lots of high performance-meets-stylish ready-to-wear options to choose from – including Thom Sweeney, whose wool/silk/linen overcoat (£1,595) is waterproof, breathable and robust.
I also recommend Brunello Cucinelli’s superlight redingote coat in double-layered nylon (£1,290) that’s like a tailored version of a high-tech athletics jacket I train in, and a simple and unlined mac in water‑repellent grey/navy wool/silk-canvas (£1,210). Cucinelli’s cotton/silk “tailored” outerwear (£1,260) with peak lapels is another coat with attitude that marries performance with dynamism, and looks good over a suit.
Rainwear specialist Sealup, a fourth‑generation family-owned firm established in Milan in 1935, does a fine line in lightweight raincoats, and its Spring City raincoat (€525), which zips and buttons up, is one to search out for something smartly understated. More overtly dashing is the Bellagio raincoat (€500) – a long, waterproof and breathable windbreaker in silk-effect “techno taffeta”.
E Tautz has a reputation for reworking traditional menswear pieces, and its belted Morecambe Storm System coat (£960) follows the lines of a raglan-sleeve raincoat but is made in a waterproof wool fabric. The press studs and rows of stitching on the cuff add a smart finish to a drapey coat with a futuristic feel. I also like the label’s navy wool/nylon update of a US military‑style fishtail parka (£895). It’s just the ticket when it rains – no wonder Mods wore them over their mohair suits. Granted, the silhouette isn’t exactly Square Mile, but this is a first-class interpretation of a brilliant piece of military kit, which packs down to the size of a small loaf.
The appeal of a trench coat, another significant piece of battlewear adopted for civilian use, can be eroded by its many functions and features, which add both bulk and weight. Many brands create lighter-weight versions by paring back details. Gieves & Hawkes’s light beige cotton trench-hybrid coat (£895) keeps just the epaulettes; its light mac versions (£795) are simpler still, and the drill raincoat (£895) in navy cotton twill is an urbane option.
Ermenegildo Zegna’s sleek trench (£1,890) comes in a lined navy or grey Trofeo wool with a slight grain, membrane layer and leather piping. It dispenses with epaulettes but retains the storm shield and throat latch and gun flaps, and has concealed buttons for a more streamline effect. Despite all these features, it is lightweight, and folds down to the size of the FT Weekend. It has military-meets-dapper flair – especially when worn unbuttoned and belted. (As an aside, I was discussing the merits of trench buttoning versus belting with a top stylist pal of mine, and we agreed it has got to be one or the other; together is too mannered. And if buttoned is the choice, fasten the belt behind to lightly cinch in the waist.)
Aquascutum’s double-breasted Patmore (£750) has all the trench’s traditional features, but is constructed from exceptionally slinky cotton/nylon for a superlight structure. Blue looks good with grey suits, while chocolate brown is nattiest with navy. It’s not very long, so is ideal for men of around 5ft 8in or less. Taller men might be interested in Boss’s no-frills cotton coat (£380) or an almost metallic steel-grey mac (£530).
It would be remiss of me not to mention Burberry before I wrap up, so to speak, but in doing so it’s not the brand’s classic trenches I want to highlight, but the vibrant forest-green cotton-gabardine raincoat (£1,095) with simple lines, small lapels and epaulettes as the perfect synergy of business style, fashion savvy and practical outerwear.