Men's fashion usually advances in small, understated increments, which over time add up to important shifts. Case in point: Deftly revamped versions of traditional men's coats showed up on every major runway this season. The references are decades?if not centuries?old, but the end results are completely contemporary. Take, for example, Loro Piana's navy-blue overcoat reinvented in the divine-sounding and heavenly soft baby cashmere. It tops our picks of the best new outerwear classics.s
This short coat, which fastens with rope and wooden toggles, originated in 17th-century Duffel, Belgium. It became the British Royal Navy's uniform during World War II, and stylish nonconformists adopted it postwar as a badge of honor. More than 50 years later, the duffel still has a youthful appeal, as in this Cole Haan shearling version ($2,100; 800-201-8001) or a Louis Vuitton slim navy coat with white cords and nylon hood. At Dior Homme, designer Hedi Slimane took the duffel formal, pairing it with a tux shirt and bow tie.
The short, soft undercoat of the camel is one of the oldest fabric materials used by man; it's even mentioned in the Bible. Worn over a suit, the camel hair coat conveys power and confidence? which is why it has always been a hit in Hollywood among movie stars from Humphrey Bogart to George Clooney. This season its versatility makes it a formidable choice. At Davide Cenci ($1,700; 212-628-5910), Etro, Paul Smith, and Valentino, camel is offered with clean lines and classic tailoring. Issey Miyake used it to create a loose-fitting, buttonless version with wide lapels and sloping sleeves.
Its name comes from the Dutch word pij, meaning "rough woolen fabric," and in the 19th century this hip-length, double-breasted coat was worn almost exclusively by fishermen. Later, bands like the Beatles became fans of its easygoing vibe. Still a favorite today, its style options abound: Paul & Shark's purely traditional navy ($875; 212-452-9868); a khaki version with epaulets at Bottega Ve-neta; slim-cut gray wool at Ralph Lauren; and from Véronique Branquinho, one made entirely of fur.
Created in the 1830s and named for George Stanhope, the stylish Sixth Earl of Chesterfield, this coat remains the most formal outerwear option. Its signature black velvet collar was designed to symbolize sympathy for French aristocrats during the revolution. Twentieth-century dandy Cecil Beaton made it his coat of choice, and a slim rendition was adopted by rock-and-roll-obsessed teddy boys during the fifties and sixties. This fall Canali did a brown herringbone style ($1,850; 800-347-9177). At Burberry the coat is black, fitted, and double-breasted.