Topcoat weather has really hit, so your question is coming at a great time. Thanks for writing in.
I, too, love the look of a camel hair coat. And I, too, wear a lot of blue and grey – in fact, my go-to topcoat has been navy for the last ten-ish years. But you should think of a camel hair topcoat as the khakis of outerwear. The question is really… what doesn’t it work well with?
But I get where you are coming from on this. Many, many years ago, Ann bought me a camel-colored duffel coat from a sample sale, probably around 1988. It was not actual camel hair, and it was quite a bit more casual than the kind of piece you and I are talking about. But let me tell you – I wore that thing to death. Almost literally. Clean, not so clean, with jeans, with khakis, with suits, with everything. But if not for Ann, I think I would have thought the color a bit impractical and maybe even kinda unapproachable. Until I found myself wearing it every day.
A camel coat is special. It’s one of those iconic pieces, like a pinstripe suit or a navy blazer, where just the mention of it makes a bunch of vintage photos flash in your head like a filmstrip: Duke of Windsor... James Bond… and my all-time favorite Vince Lombardi yelling on the sidelines in Green Bay. You didn’t hear it from me, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a couple of other football coaches in a camel hair topcoat. Actually, you did it from me; I’ll stand behind that.)
A couple of things that make it worth the investment. It’s not just a color thing; it’s actually made from hair that comes from the soft undercoat of Bactrian camels. Camels live in the desert, which gets both really cold and really hot, so their hair is excellent for regulating temperature. They naturally shed it in the summer – which also means that this kind of fiber is more sustainable to harvest and produce. It's also super-sustainable in the other sense, because it’s going to last you forever. Or at least, ours is – the fabric and the garment are both made in Italy just like our sport jackets, with a full canvas, natural shoulder, horn buttons… the whole deal. The texture of the camel hair is phenomenal.
Anyway, your blue and grey wardrobe sounds like a great canvas for camel. In fact, it might actually be better there than more navy or charcoal (the other two colors in our year-after-year topcoat lineup.) I would not wear it with black tie… but I really think almost everything else is fair game. I hope you never find yourself in a situation where you need to throw on a topcoat over pajamas, but if you did, a camel hair one would look chic as all get-out. It’s the kind of coat you can wear to a board meeting, but also to run and pick up the paper and a carton of milk. Or over sweats on your way to the gym… it just pulls you together. A topcoat covers a multitude of sins. Here are a couple of formulas for you:
• Outfit 1: Camel topcoat with a charcoal grey suit, a sky blue roxford shirt, black Chelsea boots
• Outfit 2: Camel topcoat with a navy suit, a blue EOE striped shirt, brown calfskin Chelsea boots
• Outfit 3: Camel topcoat with a lovat cashmere sweater, an oxford button-down shirt, white jeans, chukka boots
• Outfit 4: Camel topcoat with a navy cashmere sweater, a university stripe oxford shirt, blue jeans, suede tassel loafers
• Outfit 5: Camel topcoat with a white oxford shirt, your most busted blue jeans, penny loafers
Last thing I’ll say. Almost everything I’m saying here applies to the topcoat category as a whole. So if you chicken out on camel, navy or charcoal is equally solid and does almost the same thing. The only difference is that those two could be worn with black tie. The camel can have a bit more of a country crossover vibe when you want it to (in the olden days you didn’t wear brown in the city, just navy and black and grey.) But I really believe that every guy needs a topcoat, camel hair or not. It’s the easiest, lowest-barrier way to get some tailoring in your life, especially if you’re not wearing a suit or a sport coat all that frequently. At least when it’s cold outside.