The raincoat…it’s for kids who’ll be waiting for the bus during a drizzle and the supremely unfashionable in hiking pants and comfortable shoes. We haven’t seen it on the fashion radar in quite some time – except for in the strictly classic sense. How can men wear a raincoat fashionably?
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Tech fashion’s rippling effects have revived raincoats from the backs of closets and military surplus stores, and now, it occupies the same rung as your lugged lace-ups and Canada Goose jackets.
Yet, renewed interest means revisiting what the raincoat actually does – that is, it keeps you dry. It’s a simple enough concept, but for the modern man, is it enough to give up umbrellas?
Consider this: Many techy raincoats can just be packed away into a pouch, they offer full coverage from the waist up, and the wind won’t bend it to the point of uselessness.
And, if we’ll go to lengths for the perfect water-resistant down jacket, what’s a raincoat but an extra level of protection for your hoodie, bomber, or denim once spring arrives and puffers are no longer practical?
With these points in mind, let’s re-think the raincoat’s status:
History (or Lack Thereof)
We can clearly trace back the flight jacket and trench coat to military use, but the raincoat’s own story isn’t as clear. Garments meant to protect the wearer against rain go all the way back to ancient China, but the materials used – like bamboo – are far removed from the jacket’s current design.
Rather, its emergence seems to correspond with the invention of waterproof materials – by Scottish chemist Charles Macintosh, who simply fused two pieces of fabric to rubber. Coats bearing this construction started appearing in the 1820s, and even today, “Macs” is still used to informally describe waterproof outerwear.
Along the way, trench-style raincoats – think of Burberry’s timeless design – filled a place in many men’s wardrobes. Yet, throughout the second half of the 20th century, the raincoat lost its usefulness to umbrellas, and thus was relegated to the sidelines of the apparel industry.
Today, though, its return is marked by three key factors. One, many seemingly mundane menswear items have tech features, like moisture-wicking, abrasion-resistant, and water-repellent properties, thus upping their everyday value.
Secondly, workwear-based silhouettes and features have permeated the streetwear world, to the point that no one bats an eye over wide-cut overalls and shirt jackets.
Thirdly, on the subject of streetwear again, the outdoor clothing market – also on the sidelines or associated with bros and their basic girlfriends – has started recalculating its position.
Collaborations involving The North Face, Karrimor, Columbia, Patagonia, and Canada Goose have added a fresh, new look to relatively uninspiring practical garments. And, building upon this, the camping-inspired runway collection has elevated these visually unexceptional styles, if not dragged them under the “dad fashion” umbrella.
The Modern Raincoat
Think past the yellow or brightly patterned one you might have worn as a child, or the solid army green style your parents have to go outside in a downpour. Today’s raincoat feels and looks like an entirely different garment, perhaps partially influenced by Vetements’ dabbling with a bit of hiking garb thrown in.
For starters, designs veer in one of two directions. On the techy end, the coat is reminiscent of an anorak or a track jacket, often equipped with multiple pockets. On the classic end, Burberry’s silhouette continues its reign: Knee length, with a defined collar, buttoned front, and hand pockets.
Then, on the subject of construction, we’ve come a long way from Macintosh’s invention. Rather, lightweight options – your techy choices, essentially – start off with ripstop nylon or polyester, and involve a waterproof coating, plus fully sealed seams.
The classic end, by contrast, borrows from both modern and traditional workwear: waxed cotton or wool, with a water-repellent coating for improved performance.
Then, because you expect more out of your jacket, brands often pack them with features, from pit zips for releasing heat, packable hoods, gussets for flexibility, extra pockets, or a drawstring hem.
These days, a raincoat isn’t just a shield against the elements – it has to fit into a more active, streamlined lifestyle.
How to Wear a Raincoat for Men
1. Raincoats should be worn as a layer
Unless you live in a regularly hot and humid climate, your raincoat should have some space to wear over a hoodie, a sweatshirt, or a lightweight bomber.
Take note from the outdoor industry’s hardshells: These jackets are meant to be light and packable, and ready to deploy over whatever you’re wearing at a moment’s notice.
2. Avoid stiff, old-fashioned raincoats
Motion’s the motto in today’s techy landscape. So, whether the material itself has a bit of stretch added (a factor likely based on a typical softshell jacket) or gussets in key areas, a raincoat shouldn’t ever restrict your movements. You’ve got to commute and explore in this thing, after all.
3. Keep your raincoat packable
For the techy pieces out there, if the jacket’s strictly meant to keep you dry, look for something compact. Ideally, it should pack into its own pocket, usually located on the interior, or a separate pouch.
That way, you can stash it in your backpack or messenger bag, and keep it there until the storm begins.
4. Go for a fully waterproof raincoat
It’s the difference between a windbreaker – usually water resistant – and a hardshell. Beyond the everyday to adventure design, a hardshell tends to be fully waterproof – essentially, for submersion and more demanding wet conditions – and is completely seam sealed, so that moisture won’t seep through.
Yet, at the same time, make sure the jacket won’t lock heat in – a downfall with many waterproof materials. Seek out Gore-Tex® – known to let moisture evaporate from the interior while repelling it from the outside – or pit zips, which let you physically release any heat buildup.
5. Know how to style your raincoat
At this point, it’s stating the obvious, but for a quick primer, any raincoat designed like an anorak or track jacket is best paired with casual or outdoor-inspired pieces – think T-shirts, jeans, wide-legged pants, and even your everyday button-fronts.
But, if you’re headed off to an office where you’re expected to wear a suit (or even a blazer), now’s the time to break out the Burberry-inspired trench.
In this case, beyond matching the colors, look for a fit large enough to glide over your suit without appearing bulky. You don’t want to feel uncomfortable, but wrinkled garments also look unprofessional.