Far from the brightly coloured ponchos you see at football matches; a good raincoat is a smart investment that will keep you stylish, warmand protected from the rain.
If you live in Britain, a raincoat is a non-negotiable item of outwear. But it doesn’t have to mean buying a bulky, ill-fitting piece of plastic or settling for an anorak/parker/trek-the-Pyrenees style jacket. This guide will take you through the various fabric and style options to help you buy a raincoat that looks great and is practical too.
How have men’s raincoats evolved?
In 1823 Scottish born Charles Macintosh patented the raincoat (hence the 'Macintosh' or 'Mac' moniker). Early raincoats were made from a bright yellow rubber with buttons down the front, a warm, cosy inner lining, and a hood to keep you dry – think Paddington Bear for an appropriate visual.
Over time, the humble raincoat evolved and was made available in different styles and materials to meet specific uses. Plus, most tailors were reluctant to work with rubber to create their raincoats as most sewing machines would break under strain, and they preferred to work with more practical fabrics.
Modern raincoats are made from breathable fabrics such as Ventile Cotton, Gore/Tex, Tyvex and coated nylons that allow designers to create more streamlined designs that are still light and practical.
What are the different styles of raincoat available?
The parka or anorak
This raincoat style protects against the rain and keeps your neck and head warm with a fur-lined hood. An anorak was traditionally made from caribou or seal skin and worn for hunting and kayaking in the Arctic. Some anoraks required a regular application of fish oil to keep them waterproof. Thankfully, the invention of the far superior fabrics used for waterproof anoraks today means you don’t have to purchase a yearly fish oil subscription.
The terms anorak and parka have been used interchangeably over the years; but, there are differences. A parka describes a green coat with a drawstring waistline and furry hood, whereas an anorak is a waterproof slip-on jacket that offers a more casual way to protect yourself from the elements.
The trench coat
A trench coat is considered a type of raincoat: it’s made from durable cotton, gaberdine drill or even leather that stops the rain from getting in while keeping you looking polished. Trench coats were initially created for police officers. During World War II, the military adapted it adapted for use by soldiers in the trenches.
Trench coats sport a double-breasted design fastened with a belt and typically comes to the knee, although you’ll see a variety of lengths available. Our favourite style cuts off just at the knee as this is the best length to balance your proportions.
This style comes with ten buttons (five on each side) and the peak lapels you’d typically find on a double-breasted jacket. The handy adjustable wrist straps on the cuffs can be tightened to stop the rain coming down your sleeves when using binoculars (while birdwatching, of course). Trench coats were limited to a khaki colour palette, but today's fashion-forward designers now make them in many colours.
Of course, when you choose to have a raincoat made to measure, the world is your oyster when it comes to colours and details. Why not read more about our made to measure range to see what we can create for you?
Waxed jackets are a bulkier style of raincoat with deep, covered pockets, often called a Barbour after the brand. They are made from a heavy cotton fabric that has been treated with beeswax or paraffin to make them waterproof.
This type of jacket was designed for country gents to wear when hunting game in inclement weather; although today, you're more likely to find them worn with leather boots and jeans at your nearest pub.
There are many other raincoat styles; however, we’d prefer not to discuss garments that we'd never want our stylish clients to wear.
What details are typical on raincoats?
Buttons: While you’ll find zips on anoraks, tailored raincoats will always have buttons. Why? Firstly, the buttons look much smarter and give you a nice shape. Secondly, buttons allow for some of your body heat to escape keep you comfortable.
Pockets: Pocketson a raincoat are intentionally placed on a diagonal angle to prevent rain from falling down your coat into your open pocket and allow you to put your hands in your pockets comfortably. The pocket may also have a button to keep it closed for added water protection
Storm collar: This important detail protects your neck from the rain and your shirt from getting wet. Storm collars are usually detachable, so you can remove them when it’s dry and reattach them to stop the cold rain from dribbling down your neck (*shivers*).
Cuffs: You’ll often find raincoats with tabs and buttons around the cuffs. These allow you to tighten the cuffs and prevent water from falling down your sleeves.
Structure: A raincoat’s design is influenced by the fabric chosen, so whether super-light or a little heavier, the material used will define the overall shape of your raincoat.
What fabrics do you use to make raincoats?
Ventile was developed in World War II for Airforce spitfire pilots who had quite specific requirements. They needed a cool and comfortable fabric to wear in the cockpit, which offered protection and warmth if they came into contact with the cold Atlantic waters. This 100% high-density cotton went into production in 1943 and offered an 80% survival expectancy rate for pilots who wore it and fell into the sea. It continues to be used for this purpose today.
Aside from it’s weatherproofing and life-saving properties, Ventile is a durable and robust fabric that comes in rich colours. When used for raincoats, it creates a great shape to frame your body while allowing the movement needed for comfort. It has a soft, crisp and smooth appearance.
Although it keeps the rain at bay, Nylon can feel heavy when it’s wet. It also creates static easily, which makes it feel like it’s sticking to your body.
Gabardine cotton drill:
This fabric is much weightier and more structured than cotton, Ventile or Nylon. It’s ideal for those who really like to feel that they’re wearing a coat.
What type of shape can I expect from a raincoat?
Raincoats are pretty shapeless unless you’re wearing a trench coat where the belt cinches in the waist to create some definition or a parka with a drawstring waist.
One thing we don’t do here at Alexandra Wood is shapeless. We use an exclusive seam shaping design that creates a flattering silhouette with the illusion of slenderness.
It can be challenging to find an off-the-rack raincoat with a decent silhouette, so a tailored option is the way to go. Tailors are experts in the creative use of darts; however, we like a clean line or two, so we have developed a way of creating shape without using darts.
At Alexandra Wood, we opt for a traditional, classic cut for our raincoats. The fabric is laser cut in our workshops with special machines that can slice through even the most sturdy materials and allows us to tailor the raincoats for a crisp silhouette.
What is the best colour for a raincoat?
It's easy to find a raincoat in navy blue or the classic beige that was made famous by Burberry. These neutral colours work well with almost any outfit so they are ideal if you are looking for a 'wear everywhere' raincoat.
At Alexandra Wood, we like to experiment with colours and innovative fabrics, specifically Ventile, to keep your look fresh. We suggest trying a raincoat in a deep red or burgundy, black, toffee brown or even olive green.
How long should my raincoat be?
You can buy a raincoat in almost any length; however, our view is that a raincoat should finish at the knee.
We believe that it’s essential to balance the proportions of your body. A knee-length raincoat produces the correct ratio of measurements from your shoulder to the bottom of the coat and gives you the illusion of shape around your waistline.
How should I style my raincoat?
Raincoats can look marvellously stylish, particularly if you choose one with an uncluttered shape and minimal details like ours or a simple trench coat.
We recommend pairing ours with dark denim jeans or cords, leather Chelsea boots, and a textured merino knit jumper worn over a simple shirt. You can always add a flourish with a flat cap on cold days or keep the buttons open so people can get a peek of a cheeky patterned lining.
They are so smart that you can wear them to work over a suit.
When it comes to anoraks, parkers and wax jackets, a casual look is best with jeans, sturdy boots and a thick jumper.
Please do not, under any circumstances, wear a parker with a suit.
How do I pop my raincoat collar?
Popping your collar is a term used for when you lift your collar. This makes you look a little cooler, heaven knows why particularly, it just does. So, in the name of style, we've added a contrast under collar in suede so you can really show it off.
When it’s not raining cats and dogs, you can simply put your collar back down to look super sophisticated once more.
About our raincoats
While we appreciate the traditional neutral colours used for raincoats – navy and beige - we felt that, as ever, menswear could do with a creative nudge and wanted to offer more exciting colours, cuts and designs. That’s why we construct our raincoats with cotton Ventile® cotton for its rich, colour palette which allows us to elevate raincoats into a fashion item.
Because we use pure cotton (no blends here), your raincoat remains weightless in the rain and doesn’t cling to keep you looking good while staying completely dry.
Each season, we create flattering new raincoat designs with hand-edged stitching and fun, patterned linings. It’s unlikely that anyone will have the same raincoat as you – but they are sure to want one!
Are you looking for a dry-weather coat too? Shop our beautiful range of overcoats.