The Popped Polo (Coat, That Is)

popped polo coat

I’ll confess to popping the collars on all my overcoats, including my raincoat, most of the time. Not for preppy reasons: I just can’t seem to shake that 19th century influence.

Zach of Newton Street vintage recently posted about popped polos — polo coats, that is — which got us thinking about finally mentioning there’s a tumblr site entirely devoted to polo coats and their cousins.

We haven’t done a poll in a while, so let’s see how the numbers break down among you guys when it comes to popping wool, cashmere and camelhair collars, as opposed to cotton piqué:

[yop_poll id=”26″]

It’s certainly been polo coat weather lately. I’m heading into town in mine, worn lazy-Sunday style with grey flannels, boat shoes, turtleneck under buttondown, vintage-varsity-styled shawl cardigan from RL, and a baseball cap from the Newport Jazz Festival.

And no, I’m not wearing such a getup to church. — CC

32 Comments on "The Popped Polo (Coat, That Is)"

  1. Christian, I think you mean 20th century.

  2. Katzenjammer | January 26, 2014 at 10:10 pm |

    I’ve never really understood the fascination with those large flappy tan camel hair Polo coats. They look utterly un-Ivy and un-trad, at least to my eye….which no doubt suffers from some ocular flaw or another. Indeed, they have always struck me as supremely Italian-European in their overall shape and cut: the shoulders, the huge lapels/peaks, etc.

    Anyway, yes I pop my collar when it’s quite cold – or when I’m feeling wee bit of the Sprezzatura fever.

  3. Ironchefsakai | January 27, 2014 at 2:06 am |

    In probable defiance of all that is trad, I wear a black peacoat; the collar pop is an imperative.

  4. We really should consult Richard of WASP 101 about popped vs. unpopped collars and also about Squash vs, Racquet Ball.

  5. Is the fella on the right in the illustration wearing a herringbone jacket and striped flannels?

    Sometimes when it gets really cold I’ll fold up the lapels too, like this:

  6. On the left, I mean.

  7. @EMJ

    No, I definitely mean 19th century


    Those are your particular subjective interpretations. The polo coat’s origins are British colonial. It was the top topcoat on campus between the wars (see my rise and fall essay for the polo coat in context), and look who sells it: Brooks, Press, RL, and O’Connell’s.

  8. Katzenjammer’s “flaw” is viewing the past through eyes of the present. The Polo Coat “IS” Ivy because it was so popular at Yarvton and other schools. I agree that it seems “un-trad” since the Trads adore the most boring and bland of Ivy style. But it is traditional as well as stylish, and certainly iconic. Another coat far less popular is the Polo’s military cousin, the elegant British Warmer.

  9. Off topic, but I saw a gossipy mention recently of a possible BB store opening in New Haven just across Elm from Press. I’ve been wishing for a local branch for many years, so perhaps somebody is listening.

  10. I agree certain versions of Ivy are hopelessly boring.

    Can we blame the Midwest?

  11. Philly Trad | January 27, 2014 at 2:01 pm |

    Boring? Bland?


    Classic! Traditional! Civilized!

  12. Katzenjammer | January 27, 2014 at 3:38 pm |

    I suppose I don’t subscribe to:

    A big pointy lapels, massive shoulders, everything-about-it-is-overdone kind of coat = exiting.

    And understated, balanced, measured, nothing-calls-attention-to-itself kind of coat = boring


  13. Katzenjammer | January 27, 2014 at 3:47 pm |

    Not to get too off topic either; however, I saw something interesting about an hour ago and I thought I’d mention it here.

    I’ve walked by Façonnable on Madison a million times and haven’t given it much of a look. Today, I saw a few sports jackets in the window that actually looked pretty decent. The material is a bit “elegant” for my tastes, but I’ll be darned if they aren’t producing a very natural shoulder; maybe they always were and I just hadn’t noticed? Obviously has front darts and a few other things – but I was rather surprised to see this; they look pretty well made too.

    I spoke with someone there who said that they are starting a tailor-made program, everything from mtm to bespoke.

  14. Unless one is a print ad model, these coats always look rediculous to me….like some sort of 1930s/40s Al Capone meets Sherlock Holmes dress up, murder-mystery themed dinner party silliness. They just don’t work in my mind….too big. Too floppy. Too long. Too camel. Too double breated. No thanks.

  15. Big, so they fit over your other clothes.
    Floppy? Only if they’re the wrong size.
    Long, so they keep your legs warm.
    Camel, for those who like that color.
    Double-breasted, to keep your chest warmer with an additional layer of fabric, which also helps keep out the wind and any precipitation it might be carrying.

    I love my double-breasted, peak-lapelled, long overcoat, which I always wear with the collar popped. However, it never gets cold enough where I live now to wear it. I might move, though, and would never be able to replace it, so it stays in the closet, under wraps.

  16. Everything is relative. A raglan, prussian-collared, fly front coat of Harris or Cheviot tweed gets my vote. And then there’s the covert coat. Also a winner.

  17. I think a tweed/herringbone, wool, 3/4 length topcoat and/or a lined Barbour work just fine and won’t have one looking like they should be stepping out of a 1940s Lincoln or cheering on the Dodgers at Ebbets Field…

  18. All this talk of the boring and bland is getting me excited.

  19. AEV doesn’t mess around, does he?

    There is a sort of urban, Depression era kitsch to the polo coat. Hard to explain. Seems to go with pomade and oversized fedoras.

    Whatever the Tommy Hitchcock patina once was, it has long since faded.

    Most men are better off stricking with a fly-front coat of melton or tweed.

  20. katzenjammer | January 27, 2014 at 10:06 pm |

    “There is a sort of urban, Depression era kitsch to the polo coat. Hard to explain. Seems to go with pomade and oversized fedoras.”


    @AEV, I am a print ad model and your post makes me feel like I don’t exist or sum tin. I think I shall go find a print ad revolver and do something unthinkable with a print ad bullet.

    ; ) hehe

  21. My entire wardrobe consists of boring, bland items, which means that I never look fashionable and always look stylish.

  22. I terms of today’s perspective, I think any overcoat that falls below the knee and isn’t quilted or down insulated has a “Depression-era kitsch.” A raglan sleeve herringbone, a Ulster collar melton wool, or a fly front Chestefield all look just as “dated” as the polo coat or British warm in a contemporary context.

  23. As a mid-twenties Midwestern writing professor in 2014, I would have no business wearing a polo coat, yet have always wanted one.

    A polo coat worn in a louche manner has always suggested a moneyed indifference to me which is much more attractive than the look-at-me neon colors and improbable layering of neo-prep or even older GTH-style attire. Besides, they look warm as all hell.

    That said, a navy duffle is my daily driver, and I probably have no business in one of those, either.

  24. Zach — I think I understand what you are saying. You’re saying why not the polo coat when the “British warm,” as you nicely call it, is just as dated. But there’s a difference. The polo coat has a kind of flair that some people (including me) don’t feel comfortable with. On the other hand, I don’t mind looking dated. After all, I am dated. And I would love one of those Chrysalis tweed top coats with raglan sleeves that Ben Silver sells:,24995.html#.UuhcLPZMGL8

    But then, when my favorite salesperson at the local Brooks was suggesting something and I said, “No my tastes are conservative,” he replied drily, “I hadn’t noticed.”

  25. As a couple others have hinted, I’d like to explicitly ask: What Ivy styled anything *doesn’t* look dated? In the eyes of today’s most discerning fashionistas, any outerwear below mid-thigh is too “old-guy” and unappealing. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised many of us have sport coats longer than some modern-styled “overcoats.” Our style, by definition, is grounded in what was fashionable decades ago. The other guys make fun of our grandpa style as much as if not more than we make fun of their androgynous, cropped style.

    Moral of the comment: it all looks dated, so wear what you want. 😉

    Or you can take the alternate route and say “Wow, if it looks dated to that guy in the high-waisted trousers and sack jacket, *I* certainly don’t want to have anything to do with it!”

  26. @RJG: I get your point about your own dislike of the polo coat, and as a subjective response it is certainly valid. My only point was that whether or not somethig is “dated” depends more on it’s wider popularity or lack thereof. I know some men who love fedoras, but I would say that a fedora is “dated,” not because I dislike them but because men have pretty much stopped wearing them. I’d say that the long, heavy overcoat in general has gone the way of the fedora.

  27. There is a large difference between something looking classic and/or timeless (e.g. OCBDs, a navy blazer, penny loafers), implying it’s never ‘out of style’, and something (e.g. the Polo coat, many hats, high waisted pleated trousers, etc.) looking like a costume.

    No, everything doesn’t look dated and I think a quick scan of the average commercial airplane, mall, supermarket, movie theater, or Unabashedly Prep post quickly disproves the theory that everyone sould “wear what they want”. Our country has become a human zoo in large part because we have lots of people running around in costumes of one variety or another….

  28. Years ago Bonner of Ireland made and sold a really great looking tennis sweater. It was a Fogey Anglophile’s dream come true. Made not of cashmere or even lambswool, but, rather, shetland.

    The stripes–maroon and navy–at the collar, sleeves, and waist were subtle, well, just right. The cable knit pattern was also subtle. The color of the sweater was a faded ivory. Maybe ecru. Hard to describe.

    It was so tastefully done. Not garish in the least. Especially when compared/contrasted with the multitudes of tennis/cricket sweaters out there.

    I think of the polo coat in the same way. While not as much variation, certain versions seem to just look better than others. They look fine in certain contexts, and ridiculous in others.

  29. Height is required for a man to pull the polo coat off successfully, Christian looks fine in his. As for me, at 5’10” on a good day, I’m not so sure. I tried a RL polo coat on in one of those vintage shops in Orchard St on the Lower East Side, it would have been about a 40/42, was in good condition and not overly expensive. I deliberated but eventually passed on it as I just had a feeling it would just be one of those misbuys that never get worn much. It’s probably still there if anyone’s interested. It still haunts me.

  30. While I always think the polo coat looks great on others, I wore one in my younger years and always felt it was “too much coat” for me. And it seemed like a coat meant to be worn buttoned — looked great all done up but less so when unbuttoned and open. In the ’70s-’80s some makers also carried single breasted versions (; O’Connell’s carries a marvelous single-breasted version now that I can personally vouch for!

  31. It is a trench coat.

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