"What are the classic overcoats that I should have in my collection?" We put most styles into 3 categories: Town, Country, and Country in Town (Rus in Urbe). As a minimum, our advice is to 'stock' 2 coats from the category you most often wear, plus 1 each from the remaining categories. You can then add other interesting pieces along the way!
Crombie - the classic cut. Lean and clean with excellent structure. Favoured in navy blue, charcoal grey, or camel / tan. Worn by statesmen through the ages and unsullied by brief associations with 'Teddy Boy' and 'Skinhead' fashions. Crombie, founded in 1805, originally supplied cloths for tailors to use. From the late 1980s onwards, Crombie started to manufacture garments themselves. The full length double-breasted cut is often referred to as the 'King Coat' after the garment made for George VI.
Chesterfield - single or double-breasted with inset sleeves and drawn at the waist. Often featuring fly-front and, or, contrasting velvet collar. Named after its 19th century creator, the Earl of Chesterfield.
Raglan - one piece shoulder and sleeve. Named after Lord Raglan, a likeable chap who dedicated his life to the military and Great Britain, and involved in the battle described in The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson (1964). In one of the great ironies of tailoring history, Lord Raglan was the one who gave the Earl of Cardigan the order that was misunderstood and led to the near complete massacre of the Light Brigade. Cardigan, meanwhile, was described as 'an ass' and 'unusually stupid', but he did dress rather well!
Some years before that, Raglan had his right arm amputated following damage it received at the battle of Waterloo. His tailor then designed a special short coat for him with a diagonal sleeve seam running from under the arm to the neckline making it easier for Lord Raglan to dress himself.
Field Coat - ideal for country pursuits including shooting and fishing, and absolutely at home with a pair of corduroy trousers and tattersall-check shirt. Usually in hard wearing tweed. Warm, water resistant and practical, an inspiration for wax jackets such as those made popular by Barbour.
Rus in Urbe
Covert - claimed to be invented by both Cordings and Crombie, this started life as a riding coat. Most popular in stone or olive, also in charcoal grey (most suitable for town). Fly-front, Venetian Twill cloth in wool or wool & cotton mix, 3 or 4 rows of stitching to cuff and hem (originally designed to protect the edges when 'hacking through the thicket'), plus options including velvet collar and ticket pocket. Loved by racehorse trainers and city types, alike.
British Warm - the military influence on coating culminated in the classic 'British Warm', in heavyweight melton cloth with epaulettes and leather buttons. Designed for officers in the Great War and favoured, 30 years later, by Winston Churchill.
Polo - in camelhair, soft fleece or tweed, with raglan or inset sleeves, half or full belt, and large patch hip pockets with flap. Originally invented to keep polo players warm between chukkas and sets of tennis. The American outfitter, Brooks Brothers, is usually credited with introducing it's wear into wider society.