B&R's Rules for Layering your Outerwear

February 10, 2017

Any guy who dresses up for work knows too well that sometimes a suit doesn't provide enough warmth or protection against the cool weather. While most businessmen own at least one good topcoat to wear over a suit, oftentimes a 800-1000 gram topcoat is too warm to be layered on top of a suit. This presents the problem of not having the right layering for weather that's not cold enough for a topcoat, but cold enough that wearing just a suit isn't warm enough. This is when pairing outerwear jackets is a great solution.

An outerwear jacket that's appropriate for a smart look varies quite a bit depending on the temperature and the weather conditions. The most common problematic conditions includes cool weather in the 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit range, and of course, rain.

A common faux pas that we see all too often are guys who think all jackets and coats can be worn with suiting. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. The truth is, in order for a casual outerwear jacket to look appropriate dressed up, it must feature design details that compliment that level of formality. 

Rainy Weather

Beckett & Robb Field Jacket

When it comes to combating the rain, one of the best outerwear options is a field jacket, such as in the image above. Oftentimes made of nylon, field jackets protect against rain better than most alternatives.  Another outerwear jacket that has the right composition and design to be paired with suiting is the classic trench coat. The composition is protective, and the design is both long and insulating. Lastly, the large collar when popped, adds an additional level of protection for windy conditions.

Apart from the composition, the design of rain-oriented outerwear also plays a critical role. Just because it's a rain jacket doesn't automatically make it a good choice for more formal pairing. How can you tell if your rain jacket can be dressed up? Look for these details:

- Buttons: Front buttons allow the jacket to be partially-closed, like the picture above. Fastening only the center button replicates how a sport coat looks when buttoned up. This simple trick elevates the casual jacket a notch, making it appear more dressy. 

- Pockets: Chest and lower front pockets add a utility feature and adds critical visual interest to the jacket. As a general rule of thumb, the more pockets there are, the more casual the garment is. (Considering this same rule, think about a tuxedo jacket on the other end of the spectrum with its jetted front pockets.) 

Here's one more example showing all of these details in play with a Barbour jacket.

Cool Weather

There are many different types of coats that work for cool weather conditions. The large variety of coats out there can make asking the question whether one of your coats work well dressed up a hard one. Here are some of the details to look for (the same button and pocket details apply here just the same):

- Consider the hood: It's important to distinguish the difference between a dress coat and a truly technical coat here. Dress coats, such as a duffle coat, certainly fit the bill for being paired with a smart look. Technical coats, which include coats from strictly sportswear brands, that include hoods aren't "dressy" enough to be worn dressed up. Stick to wearing them when you're on the slopes. Simply put, if you'd ever wear the coat in question as your first choice for a skiing trip, then it's probably not a good option for more formal layering.

- Quilting: Quilting is always a good thing when it comes to outerwear jackets. This is due to the aesthetic look quilting provides and it also adds extra warmth which is always a bonus. 

- Flannel & Tweed: If your coat includes a mix composition that includes flannel or tweed, then it will look at home when worn over your suit. 

While knitwear doesn't constitute as outerwear, it should be mentioned. Like the picture above, knitwear, especially real heavy knitwear as shown, can be an excellent layering option. Not only does it provide the necessary function for warmth, it also perfectly compliments a button down shirt and tie. At B&R, we love combining knitwear with our suiting, as it accomplishes exactly what we've been talking about- it adds an extra layer of warmth when needed, without having to wear a topcoat.

Finally, the last important consideration we consider dressing up an outerwear jacket is not about the coat at all- it's the rest of the outfit. Remember that wearing an outwear jacket dresses down any look by many degrees, no pun intended. So, if you're wearing a suit, it's best if the suit is made up of heavy weight flannel or tweed. The same goes for the accessories, tie, pocket square, socks, and shoes or boots. Keeping everything else consistent is the key to creating a smart look with an outerwear jacket.

Have a question about how we at B&R wear outerwear jackets dressed up? Let us know! Write us at Shop@BeckettRobb.com.

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