Where to buy a deceptively warm coat?
November 25, 2013 12:20 PM   Subscribe

I get cold easily. I'd like to buy a new men's winter coat that doesn't look like anything special but is secretly lined with magic warmth nodules. I don't want to be the guy bundled up in a Michelan man snowsuit when everybody around me is wearing hoodies and windbreakers. Help me fit in, fashionably speaking, while still feeling like I'm perpetually cozied up by a roaring fire.

Bonus points if it's a long coat that'll help keep my legs warm too. I'm not much of an outdoorsman so this is just something that'll be worn walking around my neighborhood in the Pacific Northwest. It gets fairly windy here.

I'm specifically trying to avoid big puffy snow gear, and anything with fur.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (32 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Cashmere is light and very very warm. It is also expensive, but a good cashmere coat will last for decades. Macy's, Nordstrom, Brooks Brothers all carry them. You can also buy them used, if you're lucky. I used to find them in thrift shops, but that was a long time ago.
posted by mareli at 12:26 PM on November 25, 2013

Have you already considered silk long underwear? It's very thin and quite warm. Disadvantage: difficult to remove; advantage: you can wear it even inside a cold office.
posted by amtho at 12:29 PM on November 25, 2013 [6 favorites]

Also, consider flannel lined pants. I have these from LL Bean and they just look like regular Khaki pants, but are amazingly warm. They also come in jeans.
posted by Betelgeuse at 12:33 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

This mens down coat from Uniqlo is a sleeker version of a puffy coat; perhaps pair it with their Heattech sweaters/longjohns.

Or this LL Bean insulated duffle coat.

On the pricier end of the spectrum, this 4-in-1 coat from Theory.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:33 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nothing puffy basically rules out down and down-substitutes. There's a whole world of coats that aren't down and are fashionable for a broad subset of what fashionable means. For my own tastes, I'd look for a woolen pea coat or similar style, but you might prefer something more like a ski parka.

But here in the northeast, the key to staying warm is not a single article of clothing but layers; consider picking up a good underlayer (I recommend smartwool for this if you can do wool-on-skin) and a couple of good wool sweaters of various weights (thrift shops can be your friend here), and a jacket or parka that is thinner but good for stopping wind and wetness, more the ski jacket style than the pea coat.

Just layer for the temperature and nobody will notice that you are bundled up because your secret warm weapon will be under your regular clothes. You will just look like a guy in an ordinary sport-ish jacket and a sweater.
posted by gauche at 12:33 PM on November 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

I wear a military surplus trenchcoat as both an everyday and dress coat. They are not bulky, and have a zip-in removable liner so they work at all temps. And, they are machine washable. The only problem is that they don't have a hood, so I wear a stocking cap. I've worn it in -30 with the wind blowing in Montana, and it's great to have something that covers your legs.
posted by 445supermag at 12:33 PM on November 25, 2013

You can get ultralight down coats that are not bulky or heavy, but are surprisingly warm. They are quilted, but they're not huge and ridiculous like those big puffy North Face jackets that were in fashion a while back. They come in longer lengths, too. I'd probably start my search at REI and L.L. Bean. Look for one with a windstop layer in it.

More generally, stay away from cotton when it's cold out. Wool, thinsulate, down, and poly-fill are your friends. Don't forget to wear warmer pants and socks (I am a fully invested member of the Cult of Smartwool Socks, by the way -- if those are too spendy then EMS makes socks which are half as expensive and just as good) and consider gloves, hat, and scarf -- your body will have a much easier time keeping itself warm if it's insulated all over rather than just around your core, though the core is the most important.

Finally, long underwear. Invest in several pairs of comfy longjohns and wear them religiously. They don't have to be big heavy scratchy woolen things, something thin and smooth and synthetic will still make a huge difference. Proper warm clothing must start with a base layer, and if you get some long undies that fit you well and are not too thick then you can easily wear them under normal clothes without anyone being the wiser. It will make an astonishing difference. Seriously, they will revolutionize your life.
posted by Scientist at 12:34 PM on November 25, 2013 [9 favorites]

A lined pea coat.
posted by mattbucher at 12:34 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

One key to warmth is neck and head coverage, and keeping your feet warm and dry. So a good scarf and hat, and wool socks with shoes/boots adequate to your conditions, will go a long way to making a lighter jacket feel warmer. (Cashmere scarf is warm, classic, unobtrusive. Wool hat lined with fleece is great and can easily be stowed in a pocket. Smartwool or other "washable wool" socks are expensive but worth it. For long underwear, silk or silk-wool blend ones are luxurious and so warm. If it's really cold you'll want mittens rather than gloves, or get those ones that have fingerless gloves with a mitten cap that comes down over them.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:35 PM on November 25, 2013

Icebreaker Legacy Trench.
posted by nicwolff at 12:36 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

There's always the long, vaguely military-style wool overcoat Dwight Shrute wears in The Office. I have a similar one, and I live in a colder climate than yours. It works well for the legs.
posted by Z. Aurelius Fraught at 12:37 PM on November 25, 2013

I have a down coat from Land's End that is super light and packs up into its own interior pocket and it is super warm. Presumably they also make a men's version. It is not ridiculously puffy although there is a hint of puff.
posted by elizardbits at 12:37 PM on November 25, 2013

The lined peacoat suggestion is on point. I have a "fox knapp" quilted peacoat not because I get cold easily, but because I hate how puffy or bulky jackets look no matter how the weather.

I also own a quality surplus Air Force "extreme cold weather" down jacket, and it's not appreciably warmer. The things so warm that I've ended up sweaty as hell in the snow when it's in the mid 20s.

It's a very high quality peacoat, and I've gotten multiple compliments on it. It's also worn EXTREMELY well and is in nearly the exact same condition it was when I purchased it despite some abuse.

I honestly can't tell via google if this company still exists, but they're readily available on eBay/etsy. And the concept is really what matters here; a lined peacoat that isn't from like, h&m or old navy or something. If you have to or would prefer to shop offline, look at places like jcrew and all saints, etc.

If i lost mine or it got ruined id just buy another fox knapp online though. Warmest "thin" jacket I've ever seen that isn't some dadcore hiking tech REI job.
posted by emptythought at 12:48 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a high tech jacket that is deceivingly warm as it has a layer of Thinsulate in the lining, the same stuff that's in gloves, etc. I bought it used but original price was not cheap. I keep it for the coldest of Chicago days. Doing a search for Thinsulate lined coats brings up a lot of options.
posted by readery at 1:00 PM on November 25, 2013

You may want to look for classic wool overcoats that are fleece-lined or lined with some kind of quilting or other warmness.

My brother once had a J. Crew pea coat that looked like a typical pea coat on the outside, but had some kind of fancy tech-fabric lining that made it so warm he could barely even wear it in our Louisiana winters.

This was a while back, but maybe start with J. Crew?

"Lined Overcoat" might be a good key word.

If you have a favorite clothing brand that matches the aesthetic you want, you could look at all their outerwear options and see if they offer a lined overcoat. I've also seen some outerwear brands that offer a temperature rating as one of the specs/descriptors. Look for coats that appear unobtrusive but have a low temperature rating.
posted by Sara C. at 1:04 PM on November 25, 2013

Hooded jackets like these by Carhartt read as casual hoodies, but are actually way way warmer. They would be good for "fitting in" with the fashions you describe your friends wearing (more so than pea coats which I like but are more fancy looking).
posted by rmless at 1:09 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Be sure you tuck a scarf into the V neck of the standard men's coat. Otherwise, that V acts like a chimney and all your body heat escapes.
I (in Portland, OR) own mostly rain coats with zip-out warm linings zipped out. During the recent frigid and super windy weather, I wore my thick black coat that will stop the wind. As soon as I entered a building I was too warm. Thus, the advice to wear layers.
posted by Cranberry at 1:12 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I currently use an Arcteryx Khuno, -12C this morning and my torso was pretty warm with just a t-shirt. Of course, my legs were dying in the cold but that's another story. I won't suggest wearing this above 0C... too warm for me.

Arcteryx also has the Therme which is 3/4 length. Thermals for the legs would be a good start!
posted by TrinsicWS at 1:22 PM on November 25, 2013

As a perpetually freezing human of the female variety, I've had fantastic luck with J. Crew's wool coats lined with Thinsulate. Seriously. Dressed in business attire in a knee-length wool and Thinsulate coat, I was able to spend many happy and comfortable hours in the the wilds of Iceland in the winter, while my colleagues in pufffy coats were freezing. As someone who feels chilly when the thermometer drops below 70˚F, this was a coup. J. Crew's University Coat is available with Thinsulate and seems casual enough to blend in with the styles your pals are sporting.

I recommend including the following items in your cold weather attire: wind-blocking hat and gloves, a thin cashmere scarf, Smartwool socks and lined boots (I swear by La Canadienne's which look like regular riding boots, but are secretly warm and waterproof. Perhaps there's a similar company for gents?). If the day is especially blustery, consider adding a cashmere sweater, lined wool pants, knee-high wool socks, silk long underwear or a "bomber" type hat into the mix.
posted by kayzie at 1:22 PM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Nthing a wool coat with Thinsulate. J. Crew's are nice. I like this one.
posted by amaire at 1:31 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nthing surprisingly warm layers: I have a possum/merino cardigan that is so warm under a light coat that even in the snow I am a little too warm.
posted by Kaleidoscope at 2:24 PM on November 25, 2013

I will echo Sara C, kayzie and amaire -- I've had a J Crew men's peacoat for several winters now (in Chicago, and now in Boston) and with appropriate layering it has kept me toasty. The Thinsulate will keep you warm; mileage will vary of course but I would have absolutely no problem with it in a Pacific NW winter.

Also, I totally understand this question as I dislike puffy jackets and really dislike what I call trash bag jackets.
posted by andrewesque at 2:51 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree that a wool peacoat, ideally lined with something to provide insulation and stop wind, might be a good solution for you. I have one from a thrift store that is my go-to for cold days around town. (Yes, it gets cold in New Orleans. Not for long, but we even get snow every once in a while.) If that's more your style than more "outdoorsy" stuff, that is probably your best bet. They're certainly good-looking.

I still think you could probably get away with a more outdoorsy-looking coat though if you wanted, even if you're not much of a camper or whatever. It fits my mental image of Pacific Northwest fashion anyway, and I doubt if you'd look particularly out of place. They'll be a bit bulkier, less sleek, though folks up above have pointed out some nice non-quilted options which you might prefer over the stuff that I had in mind, which was more like L.L. Bean jacket.
posted by Scientist at 3:18 PM on November 25, 2013

I have an older version of this women's Lands End quilted insulator jacket, and even though it looks like a spring jacket, I can wear it all through NYC winters. It blocks wind and keeps me warm even in the damp with its stealth lining. I'm not finding the same thing in the men's section yet but that might be me.
posted by mgar at 3:58 PM on November 25, 2013

J.Crew makes several of their wool coats with Thinsulate linings, including classic peacoats. If peacoats are not your thing, there are several other styles that can be ordered with Thinsulate, ranging from very casual to dressy.
posted by keep it under cover at 4:33 PM on November 25, 2013

The jackets that have completely floored me in this regard are Mountain Hardware Softshells. Everyone asks me "aren't you cold wearing just that light jacket?" and I get to grin a toasty minimalist grin. My husband and I can wear them through the NYC winter (with just work clothes underneath). The style is very casual, I can't tell from your question whether it meets that requirement (actually, in the Pacific NW, I think you'd fit right in!).

Basically, anything on this page.
posted by xiaolongbao at 7:38 PM on November 25, 2013

Not all padded jackets are puffy. I have a parka jacket from Elvine (the model is called Willis) which has polyester-filled quilted padding. As you can see from the photos, it's very slim. There are lots of jackets like this from various brands.

The reason it's warm is partly due to being wind-resistant, and partly due the padding; while wool is certainly a nice fabric, polyester is also extremely warm. If you look at peacoats, many of them have a very thin lining. It turns out that even a pure wool jacket is not very warm. I have several wool jackets — including a peacoat — made from very thick wool, but without any padding aside from a basic nylon niling, and they are so much less warm than my Elvine jacket. You definitely want padding.

The other thing you want is a hood. Even when you are wearing a hat/beanie, a hood preserves much more heat than a mere collar, and protects you from the breeze.

You will also want a coat-length jacket. Generally speaking, you want to cover as much of your body as possible, so the longer the better.
posted by gentle at 9:56 PM on November 25, 2013

What you want is wool. Not 20% wool - the real thing - a wool coat. I don't know about adding Thinsulate to it - the only experience I've had with Thinsulate was in some rather expensive gloves I bought when I lived in Colorado that were worthless - but wool will keep you warm. Wool coat, scarf, gloves, socks - and always wear something to cover your head.
posted by aryma at 10:33 PM on November 25, 2013

It's taken me a few years to figure out how winter works in Holland, and I've finally figured out that it's not just about the coat, it's about coat + long johns + socks + gloves + scarf + hat. I find if my ears, hands and feet are warm the rest of me feels warm.

I currently wear a North Face parka with a fleece liner and it's neither puffy nor Michelin Mannish, but I've also been cultivating more of a sporty Tomboy Style look lately so it might not be your speed.
posted by nerdfish at 2:28 AM on November 26, 2013

Cashmere. I have a coat that's half cashmere, half lamb's wool, and the fabric is quite thin--maybe a quarter inch thick. When I bought it, I thought I was buying a light fall coat, but it took me all the way through New England winters with no problem. It's too warm for fall when it's buttoned, but if I wear it open it works fine.

It's one of the very few things I own where, when I bought it, I said to myself "Well, I might be paying too much for this, but I really like it…" and then, after I'd owned it for a while, said "Wow, I could have paid more and still think I got a bargain."
posted by ngc4486 at 7:31 AM on November 26, 2013

LEather Trench coat with Thinsulate.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:30 AM on November 26, 2013

Nthing base layers. Warm and low-profile.
posted by benbenson at 12:11 PM on November 26, 2013

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