Permanent Style's Simon Crompton ponders the simple pleasures of a good piece of outerwear, while trying out our new cotton twill raincoat.
Coats are such fun. Their grand expression, sweeping lines and dramatic shape. They might be the only time, in fact, that classic menswear gets a full-size canvas for its very particular design philosophy: fashion through function.
If the coat is long, to protect the legs, how do you allow the wearer to walk unencumbered? A flared skirt? Pleats, vents? How do you fasten those vents in particularly inclement weather?
The wearer will rarely need to fasten the coat up to the neck. But he needs to be able to do so: not enabling it would be to sacrifice functionality. So there must be a throat latch that is usable without the wearer looking in a mirror, and indeed usable with shivering hands and wind whipping about his neck.
The design of such a throat latch - instinctive to use and stored easily when not - has defined the look of many a raincoat. Think of that long, tapering strip running around the collar of a trench coat. It is the design of the collar, in effect. On some coats, it is their most striking and distinctive aspect.
To steal a phrase from the late AA Gill, this is the pleasure of strapped-up and buttoned-down clothing. It is design driven by necessity - not the needlessly dropped shoulder or impractical proportions of womenswear. Things are there for a reason.
Which is all a long way of saying that these are the appealing aspects of this Drake’s raincoat.
The long length (firmly below the knee, even on me) and A-line shape are not the results of designer whimsy. They are practical. Have you ever worn a short raincoat in heavy rain? Every time you stride forward, the water slides off the surface onto the knee, drenching your leg. Not so with a longer length.
The flared skirt of the coat aids this functionality too, yet cinch in the waist (perhaps casually, at the back) and the shape is rather flattering. And of course the belt itself traps warm air around the upper body; loose coats are useless for that.
The throat latch is neat and easy to use. Yet it also allows us a flash of chestnut-coloured corduroy. The cuffs have straps to tighten against the cold. But even if you never use them, they provide an attractive full stop to the sleeve - and show more of those appealing horn buttons.
And the pockets. An entire essay could be written about the pockets. First, they slope down and forward, so no water can slip in. Second, the flap is sewn down and kept tight to the body, but allowed to move with pleats on either side. And third, there are two of them. Two on each side. There is a hand-warmer pocket in there and, just behind, a slit that allows access to the deep stuff-containing pockets inside the coat.
There are many more details, but I’ll mention just one: the locker tab on the back of the neck. This sticks out so much, both literally and figuratively, that it might be the single element that defines the coat. It says firmly that this is a practical piece; that when we get home after a rain-soaked walk it will be hung from a hook, without ceremony, and left to drip dry.