Unstructured tailored jackets – which, with little or no padding, place extra emphasis on fabric quality and relaxed style rather than rigid structure – have been one of the defining elements of menswear in recent years, and now overcoats are following suit. The best examples are intended more for business than weekend wear, but many are in such fantastic fabrics and drape so beautifully they can double up.
Brunello Cucinelli specialises in soft tailoring and extraordinary cashmeres, and its superbly cut double-faced cashmere coats feel like fluid dressing gowns. A navy version has a charcoal interior and a cheeky peak lapel (£3,790), while a charcoal mélange double-breasted number (£4,680) with a cement-grey lining is the ultimate in effortless elegance.
There is more refined cashmere at Ermenegildo Zegna, where coats have shirt-like Capri sleeves, lending a vintage accent. The cashmere/mink camel blend (£3,490) has strong lapels cut on the roll, so can be worn with two or three buttons done up, and while a grey fine houndstooth silk/cashmere version (£2,290) may look more architectural, it is just as unstructured.
“Soft” cuts are at the heart of British tailoring brand Thom Sweeney, and this avoids formal coats looking bulky over tailoring, says co-founder Thom Whiddett, as “structure comes from the suit beneath”. With more relaxed overcoats, “a fluid shape with a natural shoulder works with both tailoring and casualwear,” adds Luke Sweeney. Take the brand’s smart check wool/cashmere blend (£1,985) – bold shoulders lend an almost boxy quality, but Sweeney’s signature soft cut and just-above-the-knee length gives it a lightness and swing, while patch pockets add a casual touch. The straighter, more conservative cut of a single-breasted coat (£1,690) is offset by the fabric – dark houndstooth mohair, which has a bouclé-like quality.
More gorgeous fabric can be found at Private White VC. An overcoat with a half-raglan sleeve (£975) is made in two-by-one twill Venetian Chesterfield wool that’s “tightly woven in opposite directions to make it watertight, windproof and warm and to give it a high sheen and lustre,” says factory director Mike Stoll. The rich cinnamon cotton/sateen lining has two internal pockets – big enough for tablets – with large Riri copper zips. The “prick” stitching on the collar and three lines of stitching on the cuffs and hem add a distinctive flourish.
Kilgour’s easy-to-wear alpaca styles (£2,400) in charcoal and dove grey are also exceptionally cut and constructed. The single-breasted format, with its notch lapel and flattering lean, angular silhouette, shows creative/design director Carlo Brandelli’s elegantly maverick genius at its best. These are coats to throw across your shoulders and immediately look and feel great in. Consider layering with assorted tones of grey – from chunky knits to scarves – for a sophisticated relaxed look. There’s more grey to be found at Hugo Boss, which has an imposing wool-twill coat (£530) with the lightest of padding in the shoulders, and a wool/cashmere number (£700), and at Gieves & Hawkes, where there’s a sober-yet-chic charcoal wool overcoat (£2,495) that’s a strong choice too.
I’m also impressed by Chester Barrie’s unstructured Ledbury (£795) in Prince of Wales check with a hint of tobacco that’s reminiscent of a soft continental covert (straight cut) coat. Another distinctive take on Prince of Wales check comes from Dior, which has a navy/grey number (£2,900) in a wool/polyester techno knit with remarkable stretch, while at Dunhill, the slouchy silhouette of the charcoal check overcoat (£2,190) takes inspiration from styles worn by creative and non-conformist thinkers from the mid-20th century, including Joe Orton and Francis Bacon.
Lastly, Loro Piana has adopted an ultra-relaxed approach – while ramping up the luxe quotient. The Sweater Coat (£9,240) is, as its name suggests, a double cashmere tailored overcoat – in this instance, lined with castorino (beaver) fur.