For the truly well-dressed man, long wool overcoats are the rule. It’s the only appropriate accompaniment to a suit, and a good plan for when you’re wearing a blazer or sports jacket and anything nicer than jeans, as well. The big concern here is that the coat be longer than the jacket worn under it. If the hem of your suit or blazer jacket is poking out from underneath your coat, you’re doing it wrong. Thus, the dressiest styles of overcoat are all thigh-length or longer. While they may look very uniform to an untrained eye, there are actually several distinct styles, with varying levels of “dressiness,” each one offering a slightly different look and attitude.
Sharp Casual Coats
Somewhere between purely functional work coats and long wool overcoats lie the “sharp casual” options — too relaxed (or too short) to pair with business suits, but more stylish than a basic parka or puffer. Some of these are thicker and heavier than others, and materials can vary widely. It’s worth your while to own two or three, so that you have options for all temperatures and weathers.
The basic function of your undershirt, as noted above, is to absorb sweat and pad your skin. That means buying a style that suits your physical habits and your patterns of sweating.
T-shirt style undershirts are simple, basic, and functional. They’ve got sleeves that reach a little ways down your bicep, making sure the whole armpit is covered, and the crew neck takes care of chest and back sweat all the way up. The biggest disadvantage is that the neck of the shirt is visible if you undo any of your shirt buttons.
V-neck undershirts solve the T-shirt problem with a triangular cutout at the neck. They’re ideal for wearing under dress shirts without neckties, or other styles of shirt that expose some of your neck and collarbone.
Sleeveless undershirts (which go by a lot of names, some more offensive than others) are lightweight and usually have low, scooped necklines, meaning they’re unlikely to poke out from underneath your shirts. However, they don’t do nearly as much for armpit absorbency, so if you’re a heavy pit-sweater they may not do you much good.
Long-sleeve undershirts provide added insulation in cool months. Many are made from high-performance synthetic fibers for extra wicking. They tend to be a bit pricier than short-sleeve versions, but make invaluable under layers for men who are active outdoors.
Underwear (Lower Body)
We won’t go into too much detail here. A man’s drawers are a personal matter. You’re looking for something that fills the same basic functions as an undershirt, with the added consideration that you want everything snug but not too tight. A good fit is not just a visual consideration down there!
In years past the “union suit,” which combined a long-sleeved undershirt and long underwear into a single, unbroken garment, was a practical option for working men. These days it’s a bit of a relic, and certainly not a fashion statement. You might wear one for a long day of working in the winter cold, but otherwise most men prefer to keep their underwear two-piece.
Visible Underwear and Underwear as Outerwear
The trend of wearing thin undershirts visibly in hot weather isn’t a new one. Men have been doing it for practical purposes as long as undershirts have existed, and it’s come into and out of fashion for various subcultures (especially youth ones) over the years. That doesn’t make it a good idea, however. A man who aspires to seeming “well-dressed” or “sharp-looking” can’t show any visible underwear, on his upper body or his lower. That includes sagging pants that show the waistband of his undershorts, obviously, but it also applies to a visible curve of undershirt seen through a collar opening.
Make sure you’re picking underwear that can stay hidden when you want to look good. V-necks or scoop necks are ideal for wear with dress shirts. Casual dressers can, in some cases, look all right wearing an “undershirt” as a basic T-shirt. It’s never going to be fancy, but a tightly-fitted white T-shirt with jeans has been a sexy rebel sort of look since the 1950s. Use it with caution, and only if you’ve got the body for it, but if you want to break the look out at a tailgate party or something, more power to you.
The difference between a coat and a jacket, in theory, is that coats are only worn outside. Jackets can be worn inside, if desired. Practically speaking, most people use the terms interchangeably. Don’t get too hung up on the details. The important thing to realize is that, if the weather calls for a coat, that coat is going to be the first thing people notice about your style until you get inside and get the coat off. That makes selecting one a process worth a little time and thought.