Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

Tailored Tech

(The base layer….)

Twentieth century composer Lukas Foss is known for taking two completely different kinds of music and somehow making them work together. What the younger generation might term a “mash up,” I think. “Anybody can take two things and put them together,” he said (and I’m paraphrasing.) “But to take two things that are so different and make them work well together, that takes genius.”

That got me thinking. We are in the grip of winter (today… mid 60’s at the weekend) and a topcoat is required to keep the chill at bay. But with leaping in and out of cars and buildings, a topcoat can seem cumbersome.

We all know how to combine the tailored topcoat with casual underpinnings — the camelhair polo coat over jeans, a blazer and polished shoes, for example — but can things work as well the other way? Could you wear your suit with a technical jacket of some sort?

The short answer is yes. You can get away with it provided that you take into account the length of your suit coat (or odd jacket.)

(Don't try this at home. And certainly not if you are going out....)
(Don't try this at home. And certainly not if you are going out....)

In the image above, I’m wearing a classic waxed cotton Barbour jacket in the Bedale model. It is a very warm jacket when worn with a chunky Aran sweater and corduroy trouser. But, it doesn’t work here. Looking closely at the skirt of the jacket, you can see the skirt of the suit coat sticking out. If the “base layer” had been an odd jacket and trousers, the result would have been even more obvious.


Had I elected to go with a Barbour quilted microfiber jacket I would have been O.K. . The longer length and cut actually hide the suit coat and lengthen my torso a bit. It is still a bit incongruous — the Barbour is really a jacket built for the country, the paddock, upland, and not the City streets. But it can work (leaping out of your Land Rover helps.)

Trying to stick within the same colour scheme brought me to my ski jacket:


With its sealed seams, pit zips, Velcro wrist closures, hood and waterproofing, the ski jacket is ready for just about anything. (Although buttoning up the integrated snowskirt would wrinkle the suit coat.) Best of all, it doesn’t look out of place with a cashmere watchcap. Which means your ears stay nice and warm. I think that this works best because of the colour and the lining that makes it easy to slip over a flannel suit. The hood makes it unnecessary to carry an umbrella (what a shame) and you are on your own when the wind catches the rain and soaks your trousers from the knee down. Don’t get me started on what it’s going to do to your dress shoes (I suggest rubber overshoes…)

In closing, I would say that the high/low mix for men can go both ways, with a little bit of care. But I still prefer a topcoat… especially if you are in the least bit of doubt or commute by public transport or on foot rather than by car.

For a random sampling of elegant mixes please visit The Sartorialist in Milan.





9 thoughts on “Tailored Tech

  1. Baby, it’s cold outside! Snowing again this morning. At least we didn’t get as much as london. Wearing my great target boots with a short black knit skirt, patterned tights and black cashmere sweater. Brrrr.

  2. Well played, sir!

    You’re the only other person I’ve seen with that particular Barbour quilted jacket. I wear mine whenever it gets under 60 degrees (we’re thin-blooded here in NOLA).

    I’ve never worn it with a suit, but then I don’t own a Land Rover.

  3. Alas, here in serious cold and snow country I have my dress coat and my shoveling the driveway outfit and not much in between. But I do have 8 pairs of different kinds of gloves/mittens and 9 wool berets, 3 wooly hats, 2 wool felt shaped hats and a fur-lined hat. The coat covers everything so all decisions are about keeping extremities warm and dry and looking good!

  4. Don´t forget the classic Gloverall duffle coat in navy, gray or even tan.

    I think it really works over a suit.

    It says “yes, I am wearing a suit, but I don´t take myself too seriously”.

  5. Hullo Elegant:
    Here is NYC in what’s left of the Investment Banking world, quilted jackets in classic dark colors (hunter green, navy, black) have made heavy inroads as the favored covering for suits vs. more traditional wool options. Not only are they somewhat sporty, but they do an admirable job of covering the suit jacket in its entirety, which I believe should be a requirement for a successful “city” coat. In that spirit I believe your Barbour option is the most appropriate and suitable choice of those provided.

  6. Great photos. In the 1980s and ’90s regularly used to see City (London) bankers and brokers wearing a Barbour jacket over their pin-striped suit. It was a longer Barbour, such as a Beaufort or Northumberland, I believe. In recent years quilted jackets have become much more common on the East Coast amongst a certain set. I used to see them only on Englishmen, Frenchmen, and Italians. But in the 1990s, as the Noo Yawk Wall Street tribe started to invade the Connecticut suburbs, there were suddenly a lot more of them. Here in SoCal, they are a perfect lightweight garment for crisp mornings and chilly nights.

  7. Speaking of quilted jackets now infamous, does anyone know the make/model of Madoff’s jacket. I love that exact model and cut as seen in the photo in the link posted two above. I’d buy one if I knew the brand. Doesn’t appear to be a Barbour.

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