The Nearly Forgotten Balmacaan

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It’s a shame how many classic styles of tailored clothing disappear as time moves on. Topcoats and overcoats, especially. With fewer and fewer men wearing suits and sport coats nowadays, retailers have little incentive to sell the kind of outerwear that traditionally accompanied them. We have a hundred companies at this point offering designer versions of the Army M-65 jacket, but perhaps a quarter of that number selling classic overcoats.

Some styles have fared better than others, however. The generic, single-breasted topcoat is sold everywhere, and many American stores still offer the polo. Tweedy Ulsters and wool Loden coats, on the other hand, are near impossible to find.

One coat that seems to hang by a thread is the Balmacaan – a long, loose-fitting style made with a fly front and raglan sleeves. Since it was designed to keep the rain and wind out, the collar can be buttoned all the way up to the neck, and the coat’s shell is typically made from a densely woven gabardine (like you’d expect for a trench) or heavy tweed. Supposedly, those raglan sleeves are also better at keeping the water out than set-in sleeves, but I’ve always thought that was marketing speak.  

In any case, there are only a handful of places anymore where you can buy a Balmacaan coat. As expected, O’Connell’sThe Andover Shop, and Cordings are among them, and they’re about as traditionally styled as you can get (a reader just notified me of one at Magee, which also looks great). In addition, Camoshita offers them every now and again, typically in more fashionable designs. For example, this season’s model comes in a waffle-textured wool, which can go over casual clothing just as well as a tailored jacket. After that, you can either go vintage or bespoke (vintage coats being especially good since they’re typically in great condition and are classically designed, but only cost a couple of hundred bucks). 

For those interested in bespoke, Molloy & Sons has a brown Donegal wool with orange and cream flecks of color. I think it might be the perfect cloth for this kind of project. Have one made and wear it with with collar buttoned-up, like you see above, or worn more casually with the coat open and layered over another jacket. It would be a great thing for chilly days.  

(Photos via Anton Helsinki, The Sartorialist, No Man Walks Alone, Forbes, Cape Cod KG, and Molloy & Sons)

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