Water-resistant is a fabric that can resist the penetration of water for a certain amount of exposure time. Most untreated cotton trench coats will disappoint anyone looking to brave stormy weather without an umbrella. Water-proof is a fabric treated with a chemical (wax, silicone, etc.) to fill in the gaps where water molecules can penetrate. Water resistant fabric work well in drizzles and breathe well. If you want to report a hurricane for a local newstation, get something waterproof.
I have a problem. I hate umbrellas. Not for other people, as long as they're reasonably sized (golf umbrellas are the Hummer of the sidewalk). I don't like carrying them, losing them, dealing with them wet, dealing with wind and so on. What I would really like is a raincoat with a hood that would go well with a suit. Does such a thing exist? Or perhaps some form of longline rainproof overcoat, like David Bowie's on the cover of Low. Thoughts? Advice? Cheers.
One of the priorities I set for myself recently over the summer was to get my rainwear squared away. Slowly, I picked up each piece and finally consider that part of my wardrobe complete.
The obvious first step was a coat. I don’t think it particularly matters if you have a trench or “mack” overcoat, but keeping your chest and the upper half of your legs dry is pretty necessary on days when rain decides to be horizontal. I have two raincoats — a the blue trench you see above and another tan “mack”-styled one — that I actually bought dirt cheap at thrift stores. Both are vintage London Fog and from what I’ve read they’re from the era when production was still in the United States and the quality still quite good. You see a ton of these in thrift stores, so they’re not terribly hard to find if you search long enough.
Next up was footwear. I have a pair of L.L.Bean Boots, which are great, but they’re not very dressy. I found dieworkwear’s “rainy-day shoes” article helpful in finding an option within my budget. I got a pair of SWIMS overshoes during the spring Friends & Family sale at Brooks Brothers, knocking down the price from $100 to $75 for days when the rain was lighter. For heavier days, I picked up a pair of Charles Tyrwhitt military captoe boots on deep clearance, which feature Dainite soles. Both have worked out pretty well.
Finally, came the last piece: the umbrella. Again, dieworkwear’s article on umbrellas guided my decision on finding a quality one. I’d considered getting a plaid umbrella from Brooks Brothers, but after handing them in person, I thought it might be a better option to consider saving up for one with a solid-stick handle and shaft. For a while, I was planning on going with one of Howard Yount’s umbrellas, which had some great canopy selections, but then I got a really, really lucky break. I’d loved the Francesco Maglia umbrellas dieworkwear mentioned, but thought they were well beyond my budget. Then I found out that they were not only on sale at a local haberdashery (Shrine), but through a Rue La La “local deal” I could knock off another sizable chunk of the price — putting them on par with the umbrellas at HY. I’ll do a full review in the future, but let me just say that at a discounted price it’s well-worth it and the quality is immediately noticeable.
So, that’s my rainwear solution and I expect it to last quite some time.
This spring has been especially rainy and had me rethinking a lot of my wardrobe in terms of how to best address the puddles and downpours we’ve had in the Land of Lincoln.
My winter solution for snow was to wear L.L.Bean boots to commute and change into a pair of dress shoes at work. For a spring/summer/fall solution to the rain, I decided to finally look into buying a pair of overshoes.
I ended up buying a pair of navy-colored SWIMS from Brooks Brothers during their Friends & Family sale. I’ve had the chance to wear them a couple of times and can say they’ve worked out just fine.
What sets SWIMS apart from other overshoes (aside from the cost)? The company likes to boast the velvet interior that “polishes your shoes” while you walk, but I’m just really partial to the fact they have colors available other than the standard black. I picked navy because it would fit in with my wardrobe and would look nice over either black or brown shoes.
They fit over my Allen Edmonds shoes quite nicely, however, don’t expect to use these to cover your suede bucks. If you have a really thick, chunky rubber sole on your shoes, these probably won’t fit (also, why are you wearing suede in the rain?), so be aware of that. But for any leather-soled shoe, these work just fine.
How well do they keep the water out? Pretty damned well, I’d say. I wore them in a downpour in downtown Chicago around Navy Pier and at the end of the night the leather was fairly dry — even the exposed part of the upper.
In terms of sizing, since I planned to wear them mostly over my Allen Edmonds shoes, I took their sizing recommendations (Medium: 8.5-9, Large: 9.5-10, X-Large: 10.5-11, XX-Large: 11.5-12). Brooks Brothers gives another sizing guideline, but I chose to ignore it. If you find yourself on the lower end of that measurement — like me, I’m a 10.5 — you could consider sizing down. Mine’s a slight bit loose while walking, but not terribly so. I considered swapping it for a size smaller, however, I was slightly worried that a smaller overshoe that would be stretched more might prematurely tear from the stress over time. So, it’s your call on that.
As far as pricing goes, they’re definitely one of the more expensive overshoes on the market, retailing around $100. Brooks Brothers sells them for $98 (black, blue and orange). Allen Edmonds sells them for $95 (black, brown and blue). But the best deal right now on SWIMS comes from Orvis, which has them on sale for $74 (black, brown, orange).
The one minor gripe I have is their excessive branding. It’s all over the sole, on the heel and most discretely on the upper (pictured above). It’s not terrible by any imagination, but I just don’t feel that the branding adds anything.
Regardless, if you’re in an area that rains frequently and you wear dress shoes often enough that you want to protect them on the commute in a mildly stylish way, SWIMS might be for you. Whether or not you think they’re worth $50-80 more than a pair of Tingley’s overshoes is a call you’ll have to make.
I’ve been looking for some outerwear for this spring and summer, but didn’t feel like throwing down lots of cash for these items. I typically wear sport coats or blazers most days and I’ve already got some overcoats (tan mac-style and navy trench-style coats) to wear over those more “dressy” items.
But as far as going casual, I didn’t really have anything to pull on over a sweater or oxford shirt. I’d been looking for a while, and there’s some great stuff out there, but I settled on a trip to the local army surplus store to get what I needed.
The first jacket is a cotton rip-stop poplin tropical coat. I guess it’s originally meant for tropical climates, which will work just fine for summer when I need a light windbreaker. The jacket’s a bit longer (I got a size “small-long”) and has two sets of pockets on the outside and a button front. It’ll probably hold up to a light rain, but nothing heavy.
This jacket came in other colors (tan, camo, navy/black), but none of them had slant top pockets and the arms were much wider. What drew me to this jacket over others was the lack of epaulets on the shoulders.
I wore this jacket twice over the weekend. On Saturday night, I wore it with a white OCBD, raw silk tie, brown tweed vest, navy chinos and boat shoes.
For running around on errands on Sunday, pink OCBD, navy linen tie, khaki chinos and sand suede desert boots.
The second jacket I got was a raincoat. The exterior is rayon, the interior is rubber and the jacket claims it’s “100% waterproof.” I don’t believe it’s military surplus since it’s actually made in Korea, but it feels up to the job. The armpits have ventilation holes and has two exterior flap pockets and a zip front.
This jacket is sized “medium, 38-40,” which seemed about right. It’s not trendy slim at all, but it’s got room for layering underneath and snaps on the cuffs to narrow or widen them.
The hood is a simple drawstring. Nothing amazing, but I’m fairly confident it’ll keep me dry. My only gripe is that it doesn’t have an interior pocket at all for a phone. I wonder if I can find a way to attach one on the inside somehow?
Together for both jackets, I paid $60 with tax and that’s about half what you’d pay for one of either type of jacket brand new from companies such as Penfield, Norse Projects, etc. Good enough for me.
I’m not one to typically wear “military-inspired casualwear,” but the price and functionality of each of these was attractive to me.
If you’re in Chicago, then you can check out Army-Navy Surplus, which is where I picked these up. For those of you not in the Chicago area, they also have a webstore that’s got a rather large selection.