Remember that thing your dad used to say, about how there’s no such thing as being cold, only bad clothing? Turns out, it’s true. Enter: the best men’s winter coats. And allow us to counter that sage fatherly advice with some of our own: you’re only as stylish as your outermost layer. In winter, that means your coat. So when we talk about cold weather outerwear, we’re talking about the best men’s winter coats, the ones that are built for extreme conditions and designed for maximum style.
But GQ, the inescapable reach of capitalism has smothered me with more options than is humanly possible (or, frankly, ethical) to consume! We hear you, guy. That’s why we’ve done our best to break it all down in an easily digestible—though admittedly still-daunting—list in the hopes that you’ll land on the right one for you. Whether you’re after an arctic-level insulated jacket, a lightweight but weatherproof parka, a heavy-duty peacoat, or lush and luxurious topcoat, we’ve got the right stuff to keep you toasty and dry from now through March (or April…or May…sighs fitfully). Here are a dozen essential outerwear styles—and the best versions of each to buy right now.
The Best Winter Outerwear, At a Glance
We warned you, folks: there are a lot of coats out there. But only these are the absolute best, each culled from the already-great selection below.
The Puffer Jacket
A great puffer means utility, sure—it’s the jacket you’ll reach for on the crappiest, bone-chilling-est days of winter. They can be stuffed with real deal goose down filling or synthetic insulation like Primaloft, which puts your bare skin at a good distance away from the biting cold and retains your body heat. Technical stuff aside, it doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your style to wear one. Beyond the sleeping-bag-like coats of your youth, there’s a whole universe of sleek and shapely puffers out there for the coldest of times. Whether you take your cues from A$AP Rocky’s streetwear vibe or George Costanza’s normcore aesthetic is entirely up to you.
The Trench Coat
Given that they were originally designed to keep British army officers warm and dry in the dark, dank trenches of World War I (hence the name), we’re pretty sure these classic coats will be able to handle most anything a wet February day in the city might throw your way. These days, trench coats come in an endless range of cuts and fabrics—single or double-breasted? Belted or not? Water-repellent cotton gabardine or waterproof Gore-Tex?—but the end result is always the same: you’ll look elegant as hell in one, whether it’s tossed on over a suit or a simple tee and jeans.
You know that tired chestnut about the Inuit supposedly having 50 words for snow? (Apparently, it’s true.) That’s sort of the deal with topcoats. Call ‘em an overcoat or a great coat, a balmacaan or a chesterfield. The list goes on forever. Each of those distinct styles varies slightly, but they’re bound by a common denominator: they’re long and tailored from a warm, dense fabric—generally wool or cashmere—and will keep you looking and feeling all-business in the face of chilly temps. Toss it over a hoodie or even a suit, or when the weather is somewhat mild, over a T-shirt and jeans like you’re dashing from gate to gate at LAX.
The Duffle Coat
Beloved by generations of great Brits—from Winston Churchill to Paddington Bear—the duffle coat, with its heavy melton wool body and charming toggle closures, feels more relevant right now than it has in ages. It feels rugged and rustic, but can swing to more refined territory with the right details. Lean into its preppy energy by layering one over a chunky turtleneck and some horsebit loafers, or go full Raf Simons FW11 by wearing one with with your biggest, leather-iest pants.
You probably owned a great surplus store parka in high school, and the appeal remains the same: they’re big, they’re tough, they look killer with everything from thrashed jeans and boots to flannel trousers and brogues to cargoes and trail runners. Parkas inherently are designed with hoods. The rest is kind of left up the air. They can be filled with down insulation or they can be left unlined and lightweight enough to pack into a tote bag. They can be zipped up, buttoned up, or pulled over. They can come with a furry hood or a detachable hood. There are many ways to slice it and you couldn’t easily mess it up.
The peacoat has all the necessary hallmarks of a menswear staple: initially designed for the military (the US Navy, to precise) and once worn (devilishly well) by Steve McQueen. They’re usually made with a dense, super thick Melton wool fabric which is great at keeping the wind out. They’re also usually double breasted and sit just below the butt. Try one with some slim jeans (a little flare is optional, but highly recommended!), beat-up boots, and the collar popped to maximize the ’70s Robert Redford energy.
The Car Coat
No driver’s license necessary. Car coats, known for their long and drape-y silhouettes, are the perfect medium for bringing some texture and flow to your winter ensembles.
The Camel Coat
There’s something instantly elevating about a perfect camel coat. They’ve been around for over a century at this point, but that golden tan tone still stands apart when you step out into a sea of dowdy black and gray overcoats. Though they originated as literal camel’s wool, the style has become more synonymous with the light tan color itself. That’s a great thing because camel wool is pricey stuff, so opting for a camel-colored option in a more conventional wool can save you some serious change without sacrificing the uptown looks. It’s sophisticated, it’s striking, it works with every skin tone. And it’s high time you tried one yourself.
If you’re smarter than we are and live somewhere with temperate climes all year long, then, first off: Why are you reading this article? And secondly, you can probably get away with a nice light raincoat. Raincoats these days is a pretty broad category. They can be as classic as a trench coat or as rough-and-tumble as a Gore-Tex-laden anorak. They can even be a lightweight outer shell that can get you by when the rain isn’t so intense. That’s good news if, for some reason, you thought that waterproof coats were boxed in to a single style. Here are a few worth considering.
The Flight Jacket
As far as trends go, bomber jackets have tumbled a fair bit from their mid-2010s height. If you ask us, that’s a great thing: these jackets are as authentic and timeless as it gets, and they’re all the more appealing when every third goober at the bar isn’t wearing one. And considering they were originally intended to keep pilots from freezing at high altitudes, the genuine articles pack in a fair bit more heat than they generally get credit for. High-quality jawnz will be outfitted with knit cuffs, premium leather and shearling, and tough hardware. But you’d be surprised with how good some of the more affordable options can be.
The Fleece Jacket
Fleece jackets aren’t blowing up on your Instagram feed just because they’re cute and cozy (for the record, they are cute and cozy). There’s real utility to the fluffy stuff: when Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard first began making clothing from the fabric in the ‘70s, it was because he was enamored by its combination of durability, lightness, warmth, and washability. (They’re like the Wool Coat 2.0.) And who wants to go through the hassle of taking their wool coat to the cleaners, anyway? You can layer it over a hoodie in the city or under a shell jacket on a snowy trail, and it’ll never steer you wrong. And, yeah, they’re pretty darn cute, too.
The Waxed Jacket
Longtime fans of The Crown, this one’s for you. Waxed cotton hunting jackets, long beloved by British royalty and Brooklyn cool guys alike, are like raw denim jeans for your torso: the longer and harder you wear them, the better they look. And given that they’re hardy enough to keep you safe and sound from the elements and re-waxable ad infinitum, we guarantee you’ll be wearing yours for a very, very long time.