Royal Airforce officers wearing greatcoats, inspecting an aircraft in France
A great coat, also known as a watch coat, is a large overcoat that is typically made of wool designed for warmth and protection against the elements. Its collar can be turned out to protect the face from the cold. It was popular in the 19th century as a military uniform and casual wear for the wealthy, and is still issued for inclement weather by many armed forces around the world.
William Fane De Salis (1812-1896) with a shotgun, c. 1890Joseph Stalin wearing a uniform greatcoat at Yalta, 1945
Our great coats features an action back – a box pleat down the whole length of the coat. As we are sticklers for detail, our great coat backs are cut out of one piece of fabric that eliminates any seams, making for thinner pleats that are more comfortable against the back. This also uses considerably more fabric and requires a certain amount of skill to get right. The action back allowed for rifles to be fired, grenades to be thrown and champagne bottles to be sabered. It works quite well for throwing a ball to a dog in a park too.
The pleat is held in place in the waist with an adjustable half belt, that gives shape to the waist and can be tightened to allow the coat fronts to be separated for ventilation. When a coat is made in a heavy vintage fabric, this is actually essential.
The front features buttons and buttonholes along the front, so that the front can be closed all the way up to the shoulders. Then there is a hook closure at the neck, which was traditionally made of two small brass hooks that were notoriously fiddly to close and brass being quite soft, easily bent out of shape. We have simplified the throat closure with a bigger steel hook made for us in Germany to our specification, that allows closure while wearing gloves. With the collar up, it acts as a funnel, completely protecting the neck from the elements, making a scarf superfluous.
The cuff is made of a separate piece of fabric attached to the sleeve, so that it could be replaced when worn, or the wearer was promoted to a higher rank and had a different colour cuff.
We have added two inside breast pockets that can be accessed when the coat is partially closed, negating the need to fully open the coat to get something from the breast pockets. In Scandinavia and Russia, our clients definitely appreciate that.
These are just some of the details on our great coats, there are more such as the reinforcement triangles at the pleat openings, or the swept back shoulder seams, that move the seam away from the top of the shoulders where they could be annoying….
Our great coat is available on a bespoke basis or as a made to measure unstructured version. We keep a small amount of stock in the unstructured version that can be purchased here. Clients can choose from over five hundred overcoating fabrics from Austrian loden, archive military service cloths, Italian Casentino, Peruvian Alpaca and Scottish Cashmere to name a few. We have made an orange Casentino
Prices start from £1295 for stock coats and £4195 for bespoke coats.