After much searching, I finally found my ideal Loden coat. Surprisingly, it was through Aspesi, a brand I previously only thought of as a supplier of down coats and M65 jackets.
First, a bit about Loden. There’s the fabric, and then there’s the coat. The fabric – usually dark hunter green, but sometimes in other colors as well – is first loosely woven together from the coarse wool of mountain sheep before being put through a lengthy wet finishing process. This shrinks it by a third so that it becomes something like dense felt. It’s then brushed and sheared, a process that’s repeated up to twenty times until it achieves the desired surface nap. The result is a marvelous cloth that’s dense enough to keep out the rain, snow, and wind, while still maintaining a beautiful, almost hairy, look.
Then, we have the Loden coat, which of course is made from Loden cloth. The coat is meant to be worn like a duffle – unfitted through the body and reaching just below the knees. Its back is made with a deep center vent that swings out from the shoulder blades; and its front has a fly opening so that the buttons are not exposed to the underbrush. It’s typically worn by Austrian shepherds, farmers, and hunters in the mountainous area of Tyrol, from where it originates.
As one writer put it in a 1956 article of Sports Illustrated, “Loden is to the Bavarian what tweed is to the Scot – a fabric so long indigenous to its land, of such peasant origins that it has become almost a folk cloth.” Indeed, Bavarian peasants originally designed the cloth sometime in the 11th century so that they could be protected from the their region’s blustery winters. In the mid-20th century, however, its heritage made it popular throughout metropolitan cities in Western Europe and the United States, with men and women rushing to wrap themselves in the fabric’s soft folds. In the 1980s, The New York Times wrote of it: “the coats were really a kind of caste mark, roughly definable as European preppy, that seemed to go automatically with cuff buttons left open on a bespoke sport coat, or a promising job at the Morgan Guaranty branch on the Place Vendrome.” The fabric became so popular at one point that manufacturers in France and Italy started coloring their regular wool coats “Loden green,” but of course, these didn’t keep out the rain and cold in the same way.
I’ve been wanting a Loden coat for years, but have always felt a bit unsure whether I could get away with wearing the original, Bavarian model. I worry that it might be too conspicuous nowadays in the city. Happily, I found this ¾ length coat from Aspesi, made from original Tiroler Loden fabric from Moessmer. It fits loosely enough to accommodate a sweater, but trim enough to hold a flattering shape, and reaches solidly mid-thigh (though for some reason looks shorter on Aspesi’s site). There’s also a removable quilted lining inside to keep the wearer extra warm, and four pockets – two outside, two inside – to hold odds-and-ends. High armholes, a single vent, and three leather buttons at the front complete the detailing. Although certainly fashionable, I think it’s designed simply enough to last through any coming trends. I’ve been wearing it comfortably through temperatures in the mid-50s and -60s, and typically combine it with a cable knit or Fair Isle sweater, pair of dark jeans, and heavy shell cordovan boots, like you see above. It has quickly become one of my favorite Fall coats, especially in the way the green picks up the autumnal colors that are blooming in the trees.
Aspesi has a few other jackets made from Loden wool, including this bomber style jacket and three-button sport coat. Both look like they’d go well with heavy twill cotton pants and flannel shirts. These are in addition to the knitwear, sneakers, and range of raincoats they have, all of which I seemingly missed out on last year. I still think they make the best M65 jackets around (at least for non-military purposes), but apparently they offer a fuller line of casualwear than I originally gave credit for. Much more than just field specialists, apparently.
(Pictured: Loden coat by Aspesi; cashmere scarf by Johnstons of Elgin; Fair Isle sweater by Drake’s; bespoke shirt by Ascot Chang; shell cordovan boots by Brooks Brothers; jeans by 3Sixteen; belt from a local jean shop)