Admittedly, young preppies may wear theirs with jeans and a sweater but for most men the Chesterfield outercoat is the most formal coat they will ever own. If indeed they own one, for the black velvet collar is becoming rarer and rarer.
Dating back to the Victorian era, the Chesterfield is typically a three button fly fronted single breasted (though the 6x2 DB is perfectly acceptable) in navy or charcoal plain or herringbone wool. It may or may not have a black velvet collar and can sport either notch or peak lapels (like those on Roger Moore's coat in the photo from the film Live and Let Die) with peak preferred if the coat is to be worn with black tie. Since it began life as a very long coat, and though shorter versions are seen from time to time, a Chesterfield should ideally fall a couple inches below the wearer's knee. Finally, its sack coat-like lack of waist suppression makes it a great candidate for made to measure construction rather than bespoke tailoring, at a savings of perhaps 40%.
I call the Chesterfield an outercoat because it can be made as either an overcoat or a topcoat, depending on its intended use. An overcoat will typically have 21-22 ounce cloth (650 grams) and a topcoat only 18 (540 grams). The heavier weight may be worn on colder days but the topcoat is better suited to temperatures ranging from freezing to cool.
When it is not layered over jeans and a sweater, the Chesterfield seems most at home under a dark homburg hat. Gray suede or yellow chamois gloves are the smartest choice in my opinion, and the velvet collar is at its best accompanying a scarf in silk paisley during the day. The white scarf with fringed ends makes a good partner at night so long as it is removed when the coat is checked.
Ready to wear Chesterfields are, very generally, priced from $1,000 to $2,000 (£800-1,000) if they can be found. Made to measure versions offer considerably more design flexibility and run $2,000-$2500 (£1,300) while bespoke coats tend to be about $3200 (£2,000).
My own preferred Chesterfield specification is the single breasted in charcoal herringbone, with black velvet collar and peak lapels. Spot that coat on the street and I may well be the man wearing it. But I will most likely not be wearing jeans.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Photo: Live and Let Die