As yet another storm hits the East Coast, the Ivy Style staff — Chens, Zach, Chief Sharp and King Richard The Forty-Fourth — share the favorite overcoats that have been getting such a workout this winter.
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When it comes to fabrics, The Ivy League Look conjures up thoughts of tweed, flannel and oxford cloth for hearty basics, while for accents one might think of wool challis for neckties or Irish linen for pocket squares.
But any comprehensive list including such obscurities as “crash linen” would have to include velvet, which has played a small role in the history of the look. I don’t mean smoking jackets or crested slippers, but of the little strip of fabric that sits atop the collar of an overcoat.
Since moving to New York, I’ve weathered the winters in a navy duffel coat and camel polo coat. This year I added a third, a charcoal coat with three-button front, hacking and ticket pockets, and black velvet collar. Not quite a Chesterfield, nor Crombie or covert coat, but something similar, the coat is not too far from the one pictured above in this 1955 ad from Cornell Daily Sun.
That’s right, that’s another one of those vintage images that seems to have come from the twilight zone. There was actually once a time (perhaps parallel universe is more accurate), when a clothing shop catering to a campus community would advertise its velvet-collared topcoats, an item that today courts affectation even on the streets of Manhattan.
Fortunately that doesn’t faze me. I don’t worry about coming across as retro-eccentric, because compared to the many moth-eaten retrophiles I mix with, I try to give off a contemporary sensibility. That said, when I pair the coat with traditional Ivy items, I imagine the effect being something like stepping out of (or into) a JC Leyendecker illustration, being traditional and sporty-collegiate but with a nod to formality and elegance. — CC
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If I could have only one coat for cold weather, it would probably be the camel-hair polo coat. Like Christian’s velvet-collared model, the polo coat is loaded with historical connotations, but then again what long, draped overcoat isn’t? The peak lapels, double-breasted front, and back belt give it a sense of formality, but this is undercut by the soft, robe-like fit and the tan, hairy cloth that is anything but businesslike.
My favorite polo coat is from Ralph Lauren. In an era of shrinking and shortening they’ve kept the coat as it should be, long in length and somewhat loose in cut. And Polo makes the best-looking peak lapel out there.
Over tailored clothing it looks great, with the sort of dressed-up-yet-casual slouchy feel that makes Ivy tailoring so appealing. But lately I have been enjoying images of the polo coat in its original, sporting milieu, and as such I have been dressing it down with jeans, cords, Shetland sweaters, and mocs or sneakers.
I find that the easiest way to shake unwanted connotations in clothing is to change the context. If you think the polo coat is too 1930s or too formal, wearing it with a three-piece chalk stripe suit and fedora isn’t going to help. But a pink Shetland and an old pair of Levis might do the trick. And you can always pop the collar. — ZD
Image via Ruby Shoes Photography.
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My survival technique for this harsh winter has been to look like the college student in the recent turtleneck post with a Shetland swapped for the odd jacket and Maine hunting shoes replacing the loafers.
My go-to winter coat is a Gloverall duffle coat. I wear it almost every day that I do not wear tailored clothes. My Gloverall is navy with a Black Watch lining and horn closures. It is rendered in a three-fiber blend, with wool taking the lead at 70 percent. Looking at the Gloverall website, I do not believe l this coat is offered anymore. They most certainly have updated the line since I bought mine in the early ’90s.
At the time, two brands seemed to dominate the duffle coat market: Goverall and Tibbetts. Tibbets was carried by Cable Car Clothiers, but for me being able to try on the Gloverall in person was the deciding factor. I also found the company’s history interesting. Founded in 1951, the name Gloverall was created by combing “glove” and “overalls.” The company was originally contracted to get rid of military surplus duffle coats. Soon they began making them for the British workwear market before branching out to more gentlemanly shops. Freda Morris, one of the founders, claimed that celebrities and the counter culture made the coat famous, but for me it was the fact that it had earned a place among the offering of traditional shops.
It’s only been in the past couple of years that I have discovered that a defunct brand of duffle coat called The Original Duffer was popular among college students in the ’50s and ’60s. It had a distinctive label featuring a pack animal and was made of wool from the Baxter Mill. It was advertised in Gentry magazine and sold at Chipp and others stores of a similar vein. Although I do not own this coat, knowing of its existence reaffirms my choice of two decades ago.
So even today my winter coat choice has not strayed far from the campus. — CHRISTOPHER SHARP
Image via Typhoid Jones.
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My favorite overcoat since prep school has always been The British Warm. Originally made for J. Press by Burberrys of London in the 1930s, the coat was made from 32-ounce English Crombie cloth of deep-faced smooth Melton. Styled in short snug British officer fashion, it was always set with deep chestnut leather buttons and swelled edges. Distinctive trim-fitting epaulets engaged military posturing, yet the look was always contrasted by a lush maroon satin inner lining.
The outfit worked for me especially well at the Yale-Dartmouth games, where I’d wear it with a Fritz Huckle Viennese Tyrolean hat with a brush feather and a sprig of Alpine ski pins, played against the decidedly British-steeped overcoat lapels and bordered by a Welch Margetson brightly colored cashmere-backed Ancient Madder reversible scarf.
Later, adapting to the urbanity of Forty-Fourth Street, my J. Press British Warm reverted to a navy blue cashmere herringbone, minus the epaulets. Topped by an imported English full-weight, close-felted fedora with medium-tapered block and slim, curling, raw-cut brim (the Loden Austrian Tyrolean stayed in the closet). It was an outfit of perfection that would be handed to the knockout coat-room gal at 21 with a wink and a nod prior to Beefeater martinis.
Remembrance of times past, town and country, in my British Warms. — RICHARD PRESS