Coats have been known to come in many colors, are sometimes lined with fleece, and have kept more than a few gumshoes dry during drizzly stakeouts. These rugged cousins to jackets are also worn to protect a man’s finely tailored suit.

The frock coat was the precursor to the modern overcoat. Introduced in the early 19th century, they had knee-length skirts all around, in contrast to coats with tails and cutaways. Edwardian-style frock coats, which were usually double breasted, also had a seam at the waist.

Crombies were similar to frock coats except they were worn as overcoats, were single-breasted, and were usually made of wool. Formal Chesterfields came in double- or single-breasted styles, while covert coats, named for the fabric they were made of, were designed for riding.

The Macintosh, or mac for short, is yet another coat with roots in the 1800s. Created by Scottish inventor Charles Macintosh in 1823, the fabric was a sandwich of cotton, rubber, and cotton. Originally conceived as a material for tarpaulins, the fabric was quickly picked up by tailors and made into raincoats, which worked fine once Macintosh figured out how to plug the holes made by sewing the cloth together.

When they were first introduced in the 19th century, morning or cutaway coats were intended to be less formal alternatives to frock coats, but by the 20th century they had become associated with weddings, funerals, and other formal occasions. In the United States, for example, the Solicitor General typically wore a morning coat when arguing before the Supreme Court.

Woolen pea coats are just one of many types of coats with a military background—sailors in numerous European navies wore pea coats throughout the 1800s. During World War I, British military overcoats made by Burberry out of waterproofed gabardine were so popular they remained fashionable long after the war ended.

In fact, between the wars, modern trench coats, as they were known due to their World War I associations, evolved directly from these Burberry military coats. Trench coats were a...

World War II added the duffel coat to the menu of men’s overcoats. This was a bit more casual looking than a trench coat, probably because of touches like horn toggles instead of buttons, patch pockets, and a pullover hood that cinched tightly at the neck to keep out the cold.

British Field-Marshall Montgomery wore a duffel coat during the war, while Northern Soul music enthusiasts embraced the garment several decades later. Around the same time that those kids were shivering in line waiting to get into The Twisted Wheel and other clubs, the Godfather of soul, James Brown, was cutting a fantastic figure in calf-length leather coats.

Naturally, this look was too good for Hollywood to pass up. By 2003, when “The Matrix Reloaded” was released, actor Laurence Fishburne was costumed in a clone of Brown’s coat, but to give the coat some Morpheus-appropriate attitude Fishburne’s frock was made out of black alligator.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Black Tie Guide

The Black Tie Guide

Peter Marshall became an authority on formalwear out of necessity — he needed a tux to wear on the maiden transat… [read review or visit site]

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

The Fashion Columbia Study Collection (FCSC) is the digital home of the Columbia College Chicago’s fashion archiv… [read review or visit site]

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vtg 1930s 40s Horsehide Detailed Chinstrap Double Breasted Leather Coat Jacket LPay Day Chore Coat Denim Jean Work Jacket Vtg Deadstock 1950 - 60's Xl Xxl Sz 48Vtg 50s Us Army M-51 M-1951 Nylon Oxford Shell Fishtail Parka Coat Jacket S (k15Vintage 1920s Schwartz Men's Double Breasted Belted Overcoat Coat 42 1930sVintage 1930s Rogers Peet Men's Chesterfield Overcoat Coat Velvet Collar 38Vtg 30s 40s Banded Buckle Back Cafe Racer Motorcycle Leather Jacket Coat Rare MVintage Fox Knapp 70s Indian Blanket Hooded Jacket Coat Size 42 Unisex SouthwestVtg 60s Vietnam Us Army M-65 M-1965 Bdu Field Coat Jacket Og-107 X-small (k13)Vintage 1950's Fleck Sport Jacket Coat Suit Blazer Rockabilly Vlv Elvis AtomicVtg 70s 80s Cowichan Lebowski Chunky Wool Hand Knit Shawl Sweater Coat JacketVtg Kevin Howlin Ltd Sport Coat Donegal Wool Tweed Belted Mens Jacket Blazer Rare Brunswick Automatic Pinsetter Repair Lab Coat Bowling 1950 1960 EmbroideredVintage Woolrich 40s Plaid Wool Jacket Coat Six Pockets Hunting Winter ZipperVtg Alpha Industries Civil Air Patrol Us Army M-65 M-1965 Field Coat Jacket (k11Vtg 50s Atomic Fleck Rockabilly Blazer 46 48 R Jacket Vlv Sport Coat Tweed ElvisVintage Denim Jacket Chore Barn Coat Work Tuf Nut Indigo Sanforized Size XlVtg 30s Rogers Peet Men's Chesterfield Overcoat Coat Velvet Collar Heavy Wool 46Vintage Brown Weia Suede Car Coat Leather Jacket Germany Ultra Soft Men Euro 54Nyc Schott Black Suede Fringe Rocker Western Jacket Coat Size 44 Nice! !!Vintage Daks Mens 44 S Window Check Wool Country Sports Hack Jacket Blazer CoatVintage Wool Woolrich Plaid Hunting Camping Fishing Coat Jacket Lined Large SizeVintage Mens English Squire Corduroy Coat (size 42)Mens Vintage Arnold Palmer Navy Suit Jacket Blazer Sport Coat Brass Button 36 S42l Sexy Red Leather 70s Fight Jacket Club Coat Tyler/brad Retro Vtg Free ShirtOrig. Ww2 1942 Australian Wool Uniform Coat, Unissued Sz 38Vintage Brown Leather Redwood Sportswear Usa Leather Jacket CoatVtg Korean War Us Army Patch M-51 M-1951 Field Coat Jacket Og-107 Small Long (k8Vintage Us Army Military Cotton Trench Coat OvercoatVtg 1940s 50s Cumberland Shooting Hunting Thick Canvas Suede Vest Jacket Coat 38Vtg 50s Amazing Atomic Beigh Blue Fletch Plaid Rockabilly Coat Curlee Clothes 42Vintage Sears And Roebuck Trench Coat. Mens MediumVtg 60s Vietnam Us Army Patch M-51 M-1951 Bdu Field Coat Jacket Og-107 Small (k7Vintage 1970's Full Length Leather Coat With Belt Rust Color No Smells Or DamageVintage Harris Tweed Sport Coat, Jack Frost, Utah Woolen Mills Size 46r Usa, EucVintage Mens Size Small Burberry 100% Wool Red Zip CoatDeadstock Big M Seed Vintage Red Jacket Coat Xl/xxlVintage Banana Republic Bush Safari Waist Coat Vest Mens Xl