In case you haven’t been paying attention, modern man’s outerwear options have expanded well beyond the traditional sartorial suspects in recent years. Where once there were macs, denim and leather jackets at our disposal, we now have windbreakers constructed from cutting-edge technical fabrics and worker jackets of every kind. But one of the strongest transitional top layers is a style that flies under the radar.
A US classic reborn, the coach jacket has evolved from its origins as a lightweight, logoed-up waterproof layer for American football coaches as they toed the touchline. Picked up by hip-hop fashion in the 1990s, as squads like NWA and Public Enemy turned sports uniforms into hyper-masculine streetwear, the silhouette has gone on to garner a cult following and become synonymous with hard-bitten urban style.
Considering menswear’s ongoing obsession with all things nineties, it’s unsurprising that this type of jacket is back. The style’s practical benefits endure – it’s lightweight and showerproof, so perfect for navigating changeable weather – but this season designers have reworked it for a sleeker, crisper take.
“The original was characterised by a point collar, snap-button front, hip pockets, and drawstring waist,” says Emma Shore, designer at music platform and streetwear label Boiler Room. “The best modern examples stay true to these elements, but run wild with everything else.” That means materials both luxe and utility, cuts from oversized to slim-fit, and everything from souvenir jacket-style chinoiserie to Scandinavian minimalism.
All of which makes the coach jacket extremely versatile, perfect for bridging the gap between sporty and smart. It hits similar marks to last year’s outerwear must-have, the overshirt – albeit with a technical handle – which allows it to be dressed down with jeans or even layered up over unstructured tailoring. Making the coach jacket this season’s undisputed outerwear MVP.
3 Ways To Wear A Coach Jacket
If you want to keep the coach jacket on home ground, then the retro sportswear look is the route to go down.
Keep your eye out for big, throwback logos – the more kitsch the better – retro stripes down the sleeves and finish the job by wearing it with other sportswear meets streetwear faves like a pair of slim-fitting tracksuit bottoms for wintry climes, thigh-skimming running shorts for when festival season bounces back around.
The slim, flattering cut of a coach jacket makes transferring it away from its natural retro sportswear habitat surprisingly easy.
It can echo the formality of whatever else you’re wearing, so if you want to smarten up then swap out your blazer and sub in the CJ. Then its a case of simply layering it over a knitted long-sleeve polo or a fine gauge roll neck as we sidle into winter with a pair of office-ready trousers shoring up the defence.
Black, navy and beige versions of the coach jacket will always be able deputies to the rest of your outfit leading the way. But if you’re buying a coach jacket to lead the team and make MVP, you’re going to have to go bolder on the shade, and tone everything else down.
Remember the colour wheel and pair with similar shades, or go all out on contrast, plucking out an on-trend neon or day-glo tint against an all-black backdrop.
The Best Coach Jacket Brands
The coach jacket’s American-assembled style is made Parisian chic by Maison Kitsuné and its brand of simple and effortlessly elegant style. There’s no messing with the straightforward design bar a crisp cutaway collar, with two colours on offer, a vintage-tinged beige, and faded stone-grey finished off with a trademark fox badge.
Less flashy than some of its other high street counterparts – and more wearable as a consequence – there’s nothing overcooked about the coach jacket selection at Topman. This effortless check stands out for its ability to go with just about anything you’ve already got in your wardrobe, and the fact its conveniently been made machine-washable.
Skatewear has always been enamoured with the practical and versatile, so it’s no surprise one of its kingpins, Vans, has taken the modest coach jacket to heart. Cut tidily at the waist and in a flattering fit around the shoulders, Vans prefers to make wholesale changes to its CJ via bright shades like this bold yellow and intriguing team-ups with The North Face and NASA.
A firm member of the skatewear meets streetwear holy trinity along with Supreme and Palace (although technically a surfwear brand) Stüssy aren’t ones for shy and retiring menswear. It’s coach jackets are some of the most eye-popping out there, laden with consciousness-expanding paisley patterns, acid-laced leopard print back panels and the brightest neon this side of a lava lamp.
Aimé Leon Dore
Dreamy, gelato shades, throwback logos and athleisure so good it’d be a waste to not wear it out of the house, has made New York label Aimé Leon Dore one of the buzziest brands on the planet. Its coach jacket rests heavy on that logo dexterity, sitting pretty and horizontal down the front, on a colour palette of deep, dark shades that stand in contrast to its usual, brighter hues.
Sportswear giant Adidas is perfectly at home in the sporty coach jacket territory. Less vintage, more forward-thinking Adidas has stripped back the coach jacket in its functional NMD range to the bare bones, but has handily popped in some reinforced panels to protect those at-risk spots.
Elsewhere expect sporty performance features like ventilation slits on the back and a commitment to sustainability via recycled polyester shells.
The chore jacket might rule the roost at workwear label Carhartt WIP but that’s not to say its version of the coach jacket can’t give it a run for its money. Cliches aside, expect an ultra-tough but shiny-as-silk taffeta fabric, a smooth, textured tricot knit lining and bright, stand-out shades from this burnt orange through to a handsome teal.
Sitting pretty on the throne of the retro sportswear trend, it’s no surprise Champion nail this old-school sportswear piece. Avoiding the overcooked bright colours for a rich shade of go-with-anything blue, the label makes its version out of a premium cotton-blend instead of the usual nylon, with typical throwback touches like that trio of side stripes and majestic logo.
Named after the iconic Brooklyn baseball ground, Ebbets Field recreates the official crew jackets of bygone baseball teams from the 1950s – an early prototype of the coach jacket we know today. Come for the nostalgia, stay for the lightweight, water-resistant cotton blend construction, sharp collar and nifty pockets batting this coach jacket style out of the park.
The two sides of preppy favourite Ralph Lauren are on show in its coach jacket weaponry. On one hand, you have the evergreen RL design kept simple with the instantly recognisable polo player on the breast.
But there’s a more creative side on offer too, shown off by this mint varsity jacket that fashions the label as a 1960s high school team with a roaring tiger mascot sewn into the back. Pick your side wisely.
If you can’t stand strutting down the street without people turning around to admire your fire ‘fit, then you’ll have to scurry down to BoohooMan quick.
The online retailer is a dab hand when it comes to mega-watt streetwear on a budget, and does not disappoint with its take on the coach jacket cast in luminous yellow. It does come unlined however which is great for keeping the rain out but won’t prove much use against a wintry chill.