How to look normal in a long black trenchcoat?
December 28, 2007 12:55 PM   Subscribe

I'm 6 feet tall, solidly built, in my early twenties, and I have an ankle-length black leather trenchcoat. It's swishy and sleek, with a button closure (no belt), like this one (it may be the same coat). I got this coat after pining for it in high school for years, and went through a wearing-black Matrix phase with sunglasses and the whole deal. Now I have a girlfriend and some perspective, and I'm more likely to wear pullover sweaters.

What can I wear with this coat? It's awesome, but I don't want to project the Matrix Poseur image every day. Occasionally is fine, as costume wear, but I'd like to be able to wear this coat more often than that, at dinner parties or evenings out, without seeming ridiculous. Is this possible? I'm in Southern California, so assume that it's comfortable to wear this without a lot of layers underneath.
posted by lostburner to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (47 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Some dark jeans and a plain white t-shirt. Always fashionable.
posted by typewriter at 12:59 PM on December 28, 2007

Honestly? It's way too long to be anything other than a ridiculous Matrix coat. Sell it and get a new coat that fits your current wardrobe.
posted by secret about box at 12:59 PM on December 28, 2007 [13 favorites]

Would you consider having it cut down to mid-thigh or shorter? I think it's tough to get away with a full-length black leather coat and not look like a movie extra. I think you'll get a lot more wear out of it (especially in Southern California) if it's shorter.

Other than that, I'm not sure what you'd wear with it to make it look not so costume-y. You can always just try wearing your pullover sweaters with nice pants or jeans but if the Matrix look isn't you anymore, it's gonna be hard to wear that coat.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:01 PM on December 28, 2007

Ya, pretty much there is *nobody* on whom I would see this and not think "Neo" immediately followed by "how sad..."

Embrace your perspective and move on to something more classic and classy.
posted by FlamingBore at 1:02 PM on December 28, 2007 [7 favorites]

I feel your pain. I once got a yellow suede padded coat with fringe! because it was on sale and looked wonderful on a hanger. On me it made me look like tweety bird and I finally had to rehouse it because I was too self conscious to wear it. When I see a coat like the one you describe, I immediately think of dungeons and dragons high school geeks. I'm sorry, but I think you have met the clash between your old self and your new self and that coat has got to go. Find it a new home or sell it, but you probably won't ever really feel comfortable wearing it.
posted by 45moore45 at 1:08 PM on December 28, 2007

To be perfectly honest, I can't really imagine an outfit that, combined with that coat, would look "normal" for dinner-and-a-movie or what have you. I do think there are probably outfits that might look cool with it, assuming you can pull it off, but I don't think they would make you look normal.

If you got it hemmed up to about mid-thigh or so (where the seam seems to be in your example photo) I think you could make it work with a lot more things. Jeans, tees, sweaters, etc. If you plan to wear it as a costume in the future, though, you might not want to do that.
posted by slenderloris at 1:10 PM on December 28, 2007

bring it to a good tailor and get it shortened to a little above your knee. It is pretty simple to do so shouldn't be too expensive.
posted by whoaali at 1:13 PM on December 28, 2007

If you wear a trenchcoat indoors, it will pretty much automatically become a costume, especially if it's long and shiny. (Assuming that you're male).

But in the winter, you might be able to wear it outside without looking too ridiculous, but it still portrays a style which seems like it doesn't fit you.
posted by kidbritish at 1:17 PM on December 28, 2007

If it's a really fine coat I would have it tailored. Maybe something like this? However, the amount of tailoring you would need could be costly, so unless it's a really good coat, I'd ditch it. Ebay, maybe? You KNOW there's someone out there looking for this exact coat.
posted by Evangeline at 1:18 PM on December 28, 2007

Oh, no. Nononono. I agree with others: if you can hem it, that might work. Otherwise, ditch it. (And I'm sorry, but I think this is one of those things that *guys* think look good, but women don't.)
posted by runningwithscissors at 1:25 PM on December 28, 2007

*flashes back to preppy days and reading GQ*

This is an over-garment and more specifically, because of its color and length, an evening over-garment. It is best suited for protecting one from the elements and more importantly protecting the really great and expensive suit you're wearing beneath it. Otherwise this should be saved for Halloween.

*I don't know what I'm talking about, but that's probably what the GQ guy would say.*

If it makes you feel any better I have a really incredible custom motorcycle jacket that I really want to wear, but it's just not so cool when I'm not actually on a bike.
posted by snsranch at 1:33 PM on December 28, 2007

I'd wear it with a t-shirt that says "Don't worry, I'm not going to shoot up your school."
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:35 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

The Matrix was released in 1999. Pleeeease don't wear a fashion inspired by an 8 year old movie.
posted by jamaro at 1:36 PM on December 28, 2007

Response by poster: You guys are making me really sad.
posted by lostburner at 1:36 PM on December 28, 2007 [4 favorites]

It was already an overly dramatic look even before popularization by the movie.

I think it would look good in certain limited circumstances. For example, you're Batman. Or a conceited movie actor. Or a conceited would-be movie actor. Even so, you must be going to a party and swishing out of a limo onto a pre-moistened street toting a hot It girl. Or an Uzi. Perhaps you're making a hip-hop video.

You get the picture. For going to work, or the convenience store, no.
posted by dhartung at 1:40 PM on December 28, 2007

just sell it on eBay, or find someone that playing Magic cards that looks cold and give it to them. there is no hope. thank god you found a nice girl who won't let you wear this.
posted by andrewzipp at 1:46 PM on December 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

You guys are making me really sad.
Well, we weren't going to say anything, but you asked...
posted by runningwithscissors at 1:48 PM on December 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

lostburner - all of the above goes double if this is you. I say you sell it immediately and go shopping. Make it your New Years Resolution to rock a new/classic look. Have a blast.
posted by FlamingBore at 1:52 PM on December 28, 2007

Sorry to be another voice adding to your sadness, lostburner... but I have to agree with those who recommend having the coat shortened, to either blazer or mid-thigh length. That way you'll be able to wear it for the rest of your life, in almost any kind of weather.

Citysearch recommends Elias Custom Tailoring in Santa Monica, which specializes in the alteration of leather and suede clothing. Golden Needle, in LA, is also recommended. And then you can always have the leftover leather made into a second item, maybe a vest or a belt...? Good luck!
posted by GrammarMoses at 1:55 PM on December 28, 2007

Response by poster: FlamingBore: Whoa, I'm a careless Flickrer. Well played, mate. To be fair, the lack of hair is a temporary condition.

Looks like I'll have to get it tailored, thanks all for that suggestion which I hadn't thought of.
posted by lostburner at 2:01 PM on December 28, 2007

Don't feel sad. I have a biker jacket in my closet left over from my college days, and I can't bear to get rid of it. I don't even know how to ride a bicycle, much less a motorcycle.
posted by Evangeline at 2:02 PM on December 28, 2007

I'm going to go against the grain and say don't alter the coat. Please don't. You'll just look like everyone else that way.

I think that style works really well on some people. And it can look rather hot. The picture FlimgBore linked to is blocked now, so I can't say for you specifically or not.

I'm of the mindset that I don't really care what year some piece was released in or inspired by. If I like it, I wear it.

So, onto your outfit. Well, wear what you usually wear that you're comfortable in. I've seen that style of coat worn with everything from thin sweater to button down shirt without issue. Dark pants are good, but keep them simple to avoid looking costume-y. Maybe try a pair of olive or camel khakis. No sunglasses or at the very least, light colored ones.
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:05 PM on December 28, 2007

If you look awesome in it, wear it and be awesome. Lobsterburner is only in his early 20's folks, so this is not like me at age 38 trying to wear something that looked hot in high school. I think if it's unbuttoned it will look less matrix-y.
posted by selfmedicating at 2:06 PM on December 28, 2007

Oh, and light or stonewashed jeans.
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:06 PM on December 28, 2007

cmgonzalez beat me to it. However, I would like to see a picture of you in it so I can more accurately assess whether you look like a dork or hawt.
posted by selfmedicating at 2:07 PM on December 28, 2007

Nrthing, sorry. Sell it to my brother, he's also convinced he would look shitcool in one of these.
As a blazer-length it could be pretty smart, but to be honest you are better off selling whole and buying something else. My bechained motorbike jacket with leatherstiched sleeves is, like Evangelines, hanging in my closet, waiting for the Alannah Myles aesthetic to roll around again.
posted by Iteki at 2:10 PM on December 28, 2007

lostburner - sorry, I figured if you included links in your profile you were aware we are all nosy that way. ;)
posted by FlamingBore at 2:12 PM on December 28, 2007

I'm sorry - get rid of the coat, or put it in the nostalgia closet and smile when you accidentally run across it.
posted by KAS at 2:19 PM on December 28, 2007

Oh, and light or stonewashed jeans.
above DO NOT wear it with stone-washed jeans. Please, no.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:25 PM on December 28, 2007

oops, I meant "above ALL do not wear it with stone-washed jeans." Really, just don't. I'm of the opinion that no one should wear stone-washed jeans, least of all people in long black leather trenchcoats.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:27 PM on December 28, 2007

Wear it with pride, but also knowing that its ridiculous. Don't let the forces of moderation make you boring!
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:39 PM on December 28, 2007

lostburner is in his early twenties - he can totally get away with it! Dark blue jeans, not black, white dress shirt or t-shirt. Walk with pride. A black leather coat is still fairly neutral; the length makes it unusual, but not unwearable. He's not asking to wear it to the grocery store. He wants to know if he can still wear it out. I say go for it!
posted by typewriter at 2:45 PM on December 28, 2007

About a month and a half ago, the guy behind me in line at the grocery store was wearing a coat like that. He looked to be about mid-20s, and was otherwise wearing garb I associate with lawyers and/or political types: button-down white collared shirt (buttoned all the way up); red, striped power tie; glasses; curly hair. He was buying a 6-pack of fancy dark German beer of some sort, a baguette and a couple other small items.

The entire package added up to one word for me: nerd. My thoughts at the time: This guy probably thinks he looks really slick and sophisticated, but unfortunately, most of his idea of what makes him seem slick, cool, and a connoisseur of the "finer things" at least looks to have been gleaned from reading beer geek blogs online.

And why did I think that, after seeing the guy behind me in line for maybe a minute at most?

Because he was wearing that freakin' leather coat!

(And see, the thing is, I too am a connoisseur of the long trenchcoat. The difference? Mine are wool. And I recently ditched the military surplus, boiled-wool one I had in college for a secondhand Pierre Cardin—only $40 at a local resell-it shop!)
posted by limeonaire at 3:10 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

trench coats are great. leather trench coats....if you want to make use of it, i would take it to a leather tailor and get it cut down. otherwise it just looks too costumey, in my opinion.

otherwise, why not invest in an antique dressmaker's dummy and hang it on that somewhere in your home? it would make a neat conversation piece.
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:35 PM on December 28, 2007

The year was 1994 and I was a high school junior. While walking through the mall I spied it: long, black, leather. It was badass, my ticket to instant cool. It was a semi-double breasted deal with a wrap around collar. We're talking cyberpunk meets Doc Holiday. I'll see your oversized brown bomber jacket and raise you this long, sleek, vision of the future! Best of all it was on sale.

So the black leather trench coat came home with me that day. And it was cool and I loved it. I made the rounds at school going from friend to friend, "Ahem," I'd say, "check. me. out!" And then I'd strike some completely badass pose. I babied that coat. I wanted to be buried in it.

But then after a few months of living with it I began to feel the first pangs of rejection. One day after school I stopped by a girlfriend's house to meet her parents, "Um, could you leave the coat in your car? They wouldn't understand..." What's to understand I wondered? They can't fathom how completely badass my black leather trench coat is? Would my edgy and exciting ways tear their vanilla suburban world asunder? Fine, I left it in the car. "Where's you jacket, son, you've got to be freezing!"

The coat and I had several other misadventures but one single event sealed it's fate: Pulp Fiction. Suddenly my friends who up to this point humored my bizarre fashion taste were emboldened enough to say, "Where's your Gimp jacket, gimpy," and god forbid I passed out on the couch at a party, "The Gimp's sleeping! Well, I guess you're gonna have to go wake him up..."

The coat, my pride and joy for so many months, found its way to the rear of my closet. A few years later I saw The Matrix with some high school friends and a new love interest. After the movie one of my friends asked, "Hey, didn't you have a trench coat like that?" I shrank in my seat as the new girlfriend recoiled, "Oh my god! You wore a leather trench coat?" She never looked at me the same. That cursed garment had broken the spell between us. Soon she wouldn't even return my phone calls...

Soon after the "Trenchcoat Mafia" did to for long men's coats what Hitler did for little square mustaches. I was lucky that I was out from under the folds of my own coat by then...

Looking back I suppose that the tie-dye Grateful Dead stoner phase, which gave way to the plaid flannels and ripped acid wash jeans of my grunge look had set me on a path toward inevitable early 90s fashion melt down. I mean we were told that rainbow colored bears were cool. Then Kurt Cobain dropped and suddenly ripped jeans and surplus store combat boots were in. Plaid sport coats with shoulder pads anyone? Ugh, it's all too painful to think about. We were lost back then. Lost.

Oh and the coat? Well it lived in the back of my closet for several years. Occasionally I would try it on and then strike a pose in front of a mirror. "You're still a bad ass cyber-cowboy," I say before putting it away. On day a few years later a girlfriend was browsing through my closet when she happened upon it, "Oh. My. God. What the hell is this thing?" And that was it for the coat. I chucked it in a grocery bag and under the cover of darkness left at a good Goodwill drop box.

I like to think that it's out there somewhere, living the life it was meant to live. Perhaps some two-bit gangster living in the slums of Mexico City has it now. Perhaps he's feared for his trademark leather trench coat. Maybe they call him "El Abrigo" and his name strikes fear into the hearts of rival gangs...
posted by wfrgms at 3:45 PM on December 28, 2007 [23 favorites]

Sell it and get a different coat. I was in an airport a few years ago and a young, good-looking guy walked by with a coat like that. I felt really bad for him because of the chortling everyone did in his wake. A couple guys even shouted, "Neo!" making everyone laugh that much harder.
posted by sfkiddo at 3:49 PM on December 28, 2007

Ditch the coat, man. Unless you want the dork aesthetic, which you might, it is an aesthetic, ditch it. I have a friend who has a long, black trenchcoat. He got it before the Trenchcoat Mafia! He says. It's not because of the Matrix! He says. But you know, that thing never comes out of the closet anymore, since about after the sophomore year in college he quietly put it away and traded it for a classy slightly past-waist brown wool affair that does not make people over 18 raise their eyebrows.

Cut it down to knee length or just above knee. But ankle-length? You cannot wear it to anything except an anime convention. Not with stonewashed jeans, not with a suit, there will be the 1% of the population that finds you uber-cool, and then there will be the rest of us who are expecting the 1990s to come running after you to take that coat back.
posted by Anonymous at 4:04 PM on December 28, 2007

Don't let strangers on the internet tell you what to wear and what not to wear. Be proud of your nerd chic coat. The best accessory is confidence.

Remember, apparently this dumbass guy gets a lot of attention from women. In fact, let it be a litmus test. If someone tells you not to wear it, they're judging you and are not worth your time.


Oh man have I dated too many pushy women.
posted by milinar at 4:15 PM on December 28, 2007

I have a western style trench myself. And it's in the back of the closet. You just can't go to the movies in a trench coat without people eyeballin you like you're in a swimsuit and cowboy boots. Trenches = unusual = you will stand out whether you want to or not.
posted by CwgrlUp at 4:16 PM on December 28, 2007

i'd never change my style of dress for a significant other. i like looking ridiculous. i wouldn't wear leather but i think the coat is cool. i don't think people need to dress in a more and more boring way as they age. "normal" is overrated.

if i was going to wear it, i'd wear it with overpriced stylish jeans like rock & republic and sweet upscale designer sneakers. and a hat of some kind.
posted by groovinkim at 4:49 PM on December 28, 2007

Top hat, cane, white spats.
posted by flabdablet at 4:57 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

keep the an old harley... you're set...

I would also get a scabbard for a sawed off shotgun to tie to the bike..

but, really... if you love the coat, wear the coat... anyone who judges you based on that without getting to know you is shallow...
posted by HuronBob at 5:09 PM on December 28, 2007

The other drawback with this jacket is people might be worried it's the only thing you're wearing, if you get my drift.

I would see if someone is interested in purchasing your coat. You just might be able to sell it and the cost of having it resized might be greater than the difference between the amount you get for the big coat minus a new, better fitting jacket.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:20 PM on December 28, 2007

Just carry a sawn off shotgun underneath the jacket. Goes with any outfit!
posted by Sukiari at 6:15 PM on December 28, 2007

If you don't mind attention and care what others think, wear the coat. Seriously. I wouldn't look down on you for it. But it is in no way fashionable, and will attract ridicule. Sure, such ridicule is shallow. So it really depends on if you enjoy being your own free spirit, or if you dress to please others.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 6:56 PM on December 28, 2007

Fashion is wearing what other people think you should wear and style is knowing what you like and wearing it. It might look like a costume on some but totally work differently on others. If you like it, definitely keep the coat unaltered.

Probably not what you want to hear but my mother had a similar coat in a woman's cut some years ago before she died and looked amazing in it. She was, by universal agreement, about the most kick-butt octogenarian ever. If we had been the same size, I'd be wearing it today.
posted by Morrigan at 8:17 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Now I have a girlfriend and some perspective, and I'm more likely to wear pullover sweaters.

This alone speaks to me that you should give up on the trenchcoat; it doesn't sound like your style anymore, and you sound like you're trying to avoid odd reactions from others (e.g., said girlfriend).

10 years ago, I had my own ankle-length black leather trenchcoat (belted, though); but back then, I was also either wearing black industrial-military wear or doing the femgoth-boi thing to the hilt. These days, I wear jeans and t-shirts because life is too busy and complicated; I gave away the trenchcoat a few months ago when we moved to the Chicago area. (I keep vowing to revisit wild, eccentric fashions once I get my life in order, mind you.) ;-)

That said, if you think your tastes have changed for good, find the coat a new home. If you're uncertain, and you really love that coat, stick it in the closet; it'll still be waiting for you when you're ready.
posted by korpios at 12:46 PM on April 25, 2008

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