Off The Sidelines: The Coach Jacket Is A Modern Casual Essential

A wardrobe staple that’s transcended its humble sportswear origins, the coach jacket is versatile, easy to wear and looks as good now as it did 50 years ago. Like many items that started pitch side, it’s been adopted by streetwear culture, and had its time in the 1990s hip hop spotlight, but today it’s a contemporary and often playful way to mix up your outerwear game.

You won’t have to scan the rails too hard to find one, either. A popular vintage item, coach jackets are also favoured by many modern brands, likely for their simple design and classic detailing. The style is defined by its short body and boxy cut, as well as its nylon or polyester-blend fabric, which gives it a distinctive sheen. They come with poppers or zips and typically feature a drawstring waist, which can be tightened to keep out the wind chill.

What should you look for when purchasing a coach jacket of your own? From finding the perfect fit to the best coach jacket brands today, here’s everything you need to know.

Coach Jacket Buying Considerations

Fit

Coach jackets tend to fit slightly boxy. This is to accommodate T-shirts and knitwear underneath, so if you’re after a slimmer fit it’s worth sizing down. We would however recommend embracing the wider fit to make best use of the jacket’s layering potential.

This is especially true of vintage coach jackets, which are usually overly generous in their cut, with relaxed arms and wide bodies that make them ideal for wearing over heavyweight hoodies or sweatshirts. Contemporary examples can vary, but look out for something in the middle: just boxy enough without leaning into oversized territory.

Fabric

Originally designed for wear on the sidelines, coach jackets had to be lightweight, plus water- and wind-resistant to keep out the cold. As such, they tend to be made from nylon or polyester blends. Some brands look to elevate the coach jacket, crafting them from higher grade cotton or wool, but for the traditional look and feel, opt for nylon, which gives the jacket its signature sheen and lightweight handle.

Colour & Patches

The sporting nature of coach jackets means they usually come emblazoned with their respective team’s logos and insignia. It’s what makes coach jackets such a fun addition to your jacket rotation. Go vintage and you’ll find jackets with junior baseball team logos, NFL affiliation or university coats of arms.

Team logos tend to be colourful, so if you want to add a pop of colour to your wardrobe then coach jackets are a great place to start. That said, contemporary brands have reimagined coach jackets with more minimal, logo-less designs, perfect if you’re after a monochromatic look.

How To Wear A Coach Jacket

Smart

Despite their casual, sportswear connotations, it’s entirely possible to smarten up the coach jacket. The trick is to pair it with other garments that have also transcended their sporty, functional roots to become modern day menswear staples in their own right.

Try wearing one over a long sleeve knitted polo shirt – the smarter older brother of the classic pique variety. On the bottom half opt for a pair of pleated trousers, relaxed but not too wide, then finish with leather penny loafers or boat shoes, which again, are well put together without being too formal.

Weekend Casual

This is perhaps the easiest way to wear the coach jacket today, and certainly the most versatile. A natural pairing with denim, try the coach jacket over a pair of jeans. Match the boxiness of the jacket by opting for regular-fit denim in either a light or dark rinse wash, and combine the two with a loopback sweatshirt for the ultimate Americana flex. Finish the look off with suede desert boots and you can’t go wrong.

Sportswear Casual

For full-on sideline coach vibes, combine a coach jacket with sweatsuit, baseball cap and sneakers. Make sure you nail the details and fit though. For the tracksuit, make sure it’s logo-less and dark in colour. Think sleek, dark sweatpants and a sweatshirt or hoodie cut from a dense cotton loopback that’ll hold its shape with repeated wear. Go tonal with the jacket to give the outfit an understated edge, and combine with vintage-style running shoes as a nod to its athletic heritage.

The Best Coach Jacket Brands

Mackintosh

Although known more for its waterproof raincoats, Mackintosh’s design team has expanded into other outerwear classics with its range of expertly crafted coach jackets, which feature the brand’s signature minimal styling.

Shop now at FarFetch

Carhartt WIP

Carhartt’s coach jackets draw on its heritage as experts of American workwear. Expect simple, time-tested designs and understated branding, with its logo often only seen on the left chest.

Shop now at END.

Dickies

Similar to Carhartt, Dickies coach jackets are classic in design and heavy on function. Made from the brand’s durable coated nylon fabric, they feature snap button fronts and simple branding.

Shop now at END.

Noah

With its focus on fabric, Noah’s coach jackets are often crafted from cotton and wool, which you don’t usually find with this style. Made to an impeccably high standard and with playful colours, you can’t go wrong here.

Shop now at Noah

Universal Works

The British brand has a tendency to put its own twist on wardrobe staples, and Universal Works’ coach jacket is no different. Featuring a snap button pocket at the chest, this unique take is high on our wish list.

Shop now at MR PORTER

AAPE/A Bathing Ape

A Bathing Ape, and its sub-brand AAPE, is known for its iconic branding, so it makes sense for its coach jackets to feature a logo or two. Expect staple coach jacket designs in interesting colourways and branding on the chest and back.

Shop now at END.

The North Face

Outerwear specialists, The North Face produces coach jackets stripped of any detailing, apart from the brand’s logo. Understated colours meet durable, waterproof fabrics.

Shop now at SSENSE

John Elliot

For minimal, well-made coach jackets, John Elliot is a great place to start. Offering perfect fits and simple, nylon fabrications, wear one with a grey hoody, blue jeans and sneakers and you’ve got a failsafe weekend look.

Shop now at FarFetch

History Of The Coach Jacket

The coach jacket originated on the American sports field. It’s named as such because it was designed for and worn by coaches dictating the pace of football and baseball games, from high school to professional level. While this particular style is not as widely worn today, it was hugely popular from the 1950s up to the 1990s, favoured for its lightweight, water- and wind-resistant nylon fabric and comfortable, relaxed fit.

The style was adopted away from the field in the 1990s and quickly became a fixture in hip hop and streetwear culture. N.W.A, Wu-Tang Clan and Run D.M.C were all known to wear coach jackets back in the day, seemingly favouring them for their uniform-like appeal as well as a way of showing their sports team affiliations.

Today, the coach jacket has become a staple layering option, noted for its classic, easy to wear design and comfortable fit, which ensures it looks cool with smarter looks or dressed down with complementary sportswear.

Charlie Thomas

Charlie Thomas is a writer and photographer, contributing to publications including The Independent, The Times, The Rake and Black + White Photography magazine. His photography has been exhibited by Photofusion, Central Saint Martins and Photo Co-Op.