It is not an ‘everyday’ coat
The camel coat is the most eye-catching outer garment in menswear. Winter metropolitan streets and avenues are crowds of blues and greys; smart, but extremely uniform. The camel coat is expressive, and should therefore be used sparingly. It is not an ‘everyday’ coat, but one which should be used on special occasions and with special outfits.
It goes without saying that it is far higher maintenance than darker coats – spots and splashes will be more evident throughout wet periods, so save it for those beautiful crisp sunny-but-frosty mornings.
Works best with grey suits
Mid grey and light grey suits, particularly in flannel, partner well with camel. Mid-blues can work, but they can look somewhat cartoonish and Dick Tracy-esque. Navy is also passable, but avoid very dark grey and black suits as they create an alarmingly cheap looking Bugsy Malone ensemble.
Great for casual outfits
The camel coat also works extremely well as a weekend coat, unlike a formal navy guards coat or a charcoal covert coat, which really do belong between Monday and Friday. Worn with a crew neck or roll neck in cashmere, the camel lends a dignity to otherwise entirely casual outfits; perfect for not-trying-too-hard occasions with prospective in-laws.
It should end around the knee
The ideal style for the camel coat is a simple single or double breasted with a peak lapel in wool or cashmere. The latter is luxurious, although pure heroin to moths, so be warned. It should fall just below the knee. Avoid longer versions as they will be less useful for less formal occasions.
Camel coat is versatile
I wandered into Zara recently to have a mooch around. It’s not a store in which I seek inspiration but for some reason, inspiration seems to creep up and bang me on the head rather often. Exactly two years ago, while on holiday, I purchased a charming check coat from the Lisbon branch. Exactly a year later, my eye was caught by a rather splendid deep blue coat and the other day, not expecting to see anything of interest, I winced – in the knowledge that I would soon be a trifle poorer – when I saw a rather attractive double breasted camel coat. Whether I bought the Zara model or settled on another, I knew I had found the overcoat for the season.
I had never considered a camel coat before. I have always thought myself a little fair-skinned to wear such a colour, particularly in the depths of winter when my pallor is at it’s most shockingly colourless. My first counterargument when I tried the coat on and admired it’s shape, size and surprisingly flattering colour was that I still had the remnants of a summer tan, that my hair was flatteringly sun kissed and that by the time the season had arrived for wearing such a garment, my tan would have disappeared and my hair returned to it’s anonymous mousiness.
Fit is always important but with a darker coat, you can get away with little imperfections. Camel coats do not allow such imperfections to go unnoticed because the eye is drawn to them; a little too much width or length and the effect is disastrous. This is certainly a coat you can buy off the rack but it’s a very good idea to ask a tailor to check the fit for you and make any adjustment suggestions before it’s first outing.
Zara’s model was double-breasted which, when buttoned, was sharp but unbuttoned looked rather ‘flappy.’ Unless you are having one made or adjusted, open double-breasted overcoats can look rather ungainly. If you tend towards open rather than buttoned overcoats, pick a single breasted version. Be careful with the length – an overly long camel coat, no matter how well tailored, looks trampish. Maximum length should be just below the knee. A note on minimum length, English chaps should avoid the shorter Del Boy style; unless you have a seriously impressive 1970s wardrobe to partner it with, it won’t work.
Wear it with…
Cornflower blue shirts, blue suits, blue denim – camel is a perfect companion for all things azure. White is also a happy, if less inspiring, complement. Don’t just wear it at the weekends either; Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman (above) provides one of his more convincing arguments for wearing it on the daily trundle to the metropolitan office.