Generously sized, attitude-laden overcoats were a staple style influence in my teenage years, thanks to characters such as Neo and Morpheus in The Matrix trilogy, Denzel Washington in American Gangster and Michael Caine in the original Get Carter, all of whom were ambassadors of long-coat style.

Full-length styles have always been synonymous with drama and status – designed to make a visual impact as much as to keep you warm. And, with luxury menswear enjoying a return to beautiful tailoring, thoroughly impressive overcoats have made an Oscar-worthy comeback.

The men on Saint Laurent’s AW23 catwalk could, in some ways, have stepped straight from the pages of a comic book, with menacing, sharp-cheeked models sweeping along in black or charcoal grey double-breasted coats with structured shoulders, huge collars and ankle-grazing hemlines. 

Saint Laurent AW23
Saint Laurent AW23
Saint Laurent AW23
Saint Laurent AW23

“This season’s hero piece is undoubtedly the oversized coat, with a particular focus on classic styles,” says Damien Paul, head of menswear at Matches, which has seen a 35 per cent growth in overcoat sales year-on-year, as more customers embrace tailored outerwear. “Brands like Lemaire and Balenciaga have modernised the concept from a directional fashion perspective, but this season longer hemlines are key,” he adds. “See the ankle-grazing extremes at Jil Sander and Loewe. Lines are clean, the detailing minimal, and colours are neutral to enable across-the-board wearability, making it the ultimate investment piece.”

Balenciaga AW23
Balenciaga AW23

Floor-length coats can be satisfying to swish about in on an icy morning, whether rendered in camel hair, tweed or leather, but how do you approach wearing a floor-grazer if, like me, you lack the proportions of a Hollywood leading man? In Mayfair, bespoke tailor Whitcomb & Shaftesbury is known for cutting handsome full-length overcoats that blend features from historic styles like polo coats and Ulsters into modern, flattering designs to suit all shapes and sizes.

The author wearing a Whitcomb & Shaftesbury Ulster coat
The author wearing a Whitcomb & Shaftesbury Ulster coat © Alex Natt

“Proportion is the key,” says Whitcomb & Shaftesbury co-founder Suresh Ramakrishnan. “There is a tendency, particularly with double-breasted coats, to go over the top. If you’re not the biggest man, you want to make sure that you don’t go overly wide with features like the lapels because they can swamp you. You’ll also want to minimise any horizontal lines on your coat and keep vertical lines unbroken to add the illusion of height. You’d be better off with hand-warmer pockets or slanting pockets over horizontal pockets with flaps, for example. A slant pocket is going to keep drawing the eye down towards your hemline, rather than breaking your silhouette at the waist.”

Ami AW23
Ami AW23 © Filippo Fior/
Bottega Veneta AW23
Bottega Veneta AW23 © Filippo Fior/

When it comes to full-length coats, the less fussy the better. Pieces from Parisian brand Ami have minimal detailing, drapey proportions and classic cuts. And if you’re going to wear a big coat, you should work to a pared-back principle with your styling also; don’t overdress it with loud accessories or unnecessary layers beneath. Scarves shouldn’t distract from the coat’s clean lines, either; although you shouldn’t need one if you’re swathed in cashmere head to toe.

I prefer to wear my own big coats with pieces that are informal yet similarly luxurious, as well as sticking with a restrained colour palette. A chunky cashmere rollneck in a dark colour, some drapey wool trousers in midnight blue or black, and a good-sized suede tote will look easy and elegant, but layering a dramatic greatcoat over a suit starts to feel a bit Bugsy Malone.

Loewe wool/cashmere long double-breasted coat, £3,500, wool cardigan, £2,700, tailored cotton trousers, £625, and leather campo lace-up shoes, £825
Loewe wool/cashmere long double-breasted coat, £3,500, wool cardigan, £2,700, tailored cotton trousers, £625, and leather campo lace-up shoes, £825 © Mark Rabadan

“Wear an overcoat with jeans and a rollneck,” adds Paul. “You want it to look effortless rather than grand.” Bottega Veneta’s outerwear walks the line perfectly for autumn, with sumptuous versions with extended shoulders and voluminous chests that are nipped in with belted waists. Generous shawl collars contribute to an informal feel. It’s as though creative director Matthieu Blazy played with the idea of a dressing gown coat, adding volume and softness to counteract the indulgent fabrics and textures on show. 

Jil Sander AW23
Jil Sander AW23 © Alessandro Lucioni/
Loewe AW23
Loewe AW23 © Daniele Oberrauch/

“Subtly oversized coats can be very flattering,” adds Ramakrishnan. “Good tailors and designers use volume to create shape, even in something like a coat that’s big and loose.” Is there such a thing as a coat that’s too long, though? Ramakrishnan says not. “Even smaller men can go longer than you’d think, because the extra length gives you more leeway with details like the lapel size, turn-back cuffs and pocket flaps. More length balances the body better.”

It’s time to free your mind – and go long with your outerwear. It’s only what Neo would choose.

Styling by Evens Mornay. Model, Igor V at Tomorrow Is Another Day. Casting, Tiago Martins at Ben Grimes. Hair, Rimi Ura at Calliste Agency. Make-up, Mayumi Oda at Bryant Artists. Photographer’s assistant, Christian Varas. Styling assistants, Amelie Richard and Rémy Yombo. Make-up assistant, Laurine Maciejewski

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