Cooler, wetter weather is just around the corner, and in terms of classic outerwear that can mean only one thing: it’s the return of the mac.
This sweeping, streamlined style of raincoat has been keeping city folk’s suits bone dry since the early 1800s, and it can still do all of that and more for you today. Smart, stylish and seemingly timeless, it has barely changed in almost 200 years, and remains one of the best coats for navigating the notoriously unpredictable transitional weather.
Thinking of adding a mac to your fall/winter outerwear roster? We don’t blame you. In our handy guide to this historic garment, we’ll walk you through everything from the history of the mac coat to the key purchasing considerations and most reputable brands to buy from. Here’s what you should know.
What Is A Mac Coat?
Technically speaking, a mac is a long-length raincoat made from rubberised fabric. The style was originally created by Scottish inventor Charles Macintosh in 1824, but these days the term is used broadly to describe any long, plain, button-down raincoat. They typically feature a classic pointed collar, twin slanted pockets, a covered placket and a knee- or thigh-length cut.
Macs differ from trench coats in that they lack military details such as a belted waist and epaulets, although the term ‘mac’ is often used to refer to this type of outerwear too. We’ve lost count of how many times we’ve heard someone talk about a ‘Burberry mac’ when talking about the British brand’s famous trench coats.
Mac Coat Purchasing Considerations
Before you buy a mac there are a few things you’ll want to bear in mind to make sure you end up with the right one for you. From fit to fabric, these are the key details to consider when shelling out for one of these classic coats.
As with any garment, fit is paramount when shopping for a mac. You don’t want to look like you’re swimming in excess fabric, but you’ll still want to make sure there’s enough room underneath it to accommodate a few layers, particularly as this style of coat is often uninsulated.
Most manufactures take this into account, which should mean that your usual size is fine, but just make sure you can get it comfortably fastened up with a thick sweater underneath, and that there’s still good freedom of movement around the arms and shoulders when buttoned up.
True mac coats are made from waterproof, rubberised fabric. It’s excellent for deflecting the rain, but not so great for breathability, which means you might not get wet from the outside, but you’re highly likely to get sweaty from the inside.
Today, most macs are made from some sort of blended cotton fabric that repels rain to an extent while still allowing water vapour to escape from within. Many brands have created their own fabrics for the purposes of mac coats, the most famous example being Burberry with its patented Gabardine fabric, which is still used in the production of the label’s raincoats to this day.
Lined vs. Unlined
Traditionally, macs are unlined, meaning there’s not much in the way of insulation. This is great if you plan to layer with your mac, but if you’re looking something you can simply fling on over a T-shirt, you might want to consider opting for a version that has a little bit of padding to it.
There are plenty of options out there that feature down insulation, which offers excellent warmth for its weight but doesn’t perform at its best when wet. Alternatively, look for synthetic insulation, which will still retain its loft when wet and keep you warm even in heavy showers.
The Best Men’s Mac Coat Brands
We’re long-time fans of British brand Percival’s contemporary classics, and we reckon its Sherlock coat is a great option for anyone looking for a shorter-length mac that offers some proper rain protection.
Handmade in London from an Italian cotton blend, it features lots of lovely details, including an absolutely massive internal pocket that Percival claims can accommodate a 13″ MacBook, although you’re probably better off putting it in your backpack.
London’s L’Estrange is built around the concept of contemporary smart-casual. It creates elevated essentials, designed to be dressed up or down with ease, and the label’s Modular Mac is a prime example.
This all-seasons overcoat is ideal for throwing on over anything and everything, with a flowing cut and comfortable fit that make it perfect for layering up.
This Danish brand is known for its minimalist, rubberised rainwear. The coats are simple, stylish and completely waterproof and windproof. We think they’re fairly reasonably priced in relation to some of their competitors too, with jackets starting from around £80.
Most models in the current collection are hooded, and therefore technically more parka than mac in terms of design, but if you’re looking for something that’s similar to an OG mac in terms of fabric, Rains has some excellent options.
Burberry is best known for its belted trench coats, which were originally designed for army officers in the First World War. They were, and still are, made using Burberry’s waterproof Gabardine fabric – a trait that has bled over into the brand’s plain-fronted macs too.
They don’t come cheap, but if you have the money, a Burberry mac is one of the best options there is.
If you’re looking for a proper mac, where better to buy from than the brand that invented the style in the first place? Since introducing the mac back in 1824, Charles Macintosh’s namesake brand has never stopped churning out high-end rainwear, as well as all manner of ready-to-wear pieces, and even a special fashion-forward line spearheaded by Kiko Kostadinov.
Known for its high-performance, premium outdoor gear, Canadian label Arc’teryx has a well-earned reputation for crafting some of the best Gore-Tex outerwear in the game. Originally, this only extended to alpine outerwear, but in recent years the outdoors brand has begun to introduce more casual shapes and styles into its collections, including Gore-Tex macs.
If you like what you see, we’d encourage you to take a look at Arc’teryx’s fashion-focused Veilance sub-brand too, which creates high-performance outerwear for urban environments, as opposed to the great outdoors.
Outerwear aficionados will often cite Italy’s Stone Island as one of their favourite labels. Founded by the wildly innovative Massimo Osti, the brand has become synonymous with unconventional fabrics, unusual dyeing techniques and general outerwear experimentation.
The collection changes from season to season, but you can rest assured there’ll always be some sort of mac sitting proudly among the coats and jackets. In fact, it’s become one of the brand’s best-known silhouettes over the years.
Private White V.C.
Ever been to Manchester? It’s extremely wet a lot of the time, so it should come as little surprise that one of Britain’s finest new rainwear brands was born there. Private White V.C. specialises in handmade outerwear using the absolute finest of materials, including waterproof Ventile fabric for its bestselling mac.
It’s a beautiful coat that features a flattering streamlined cut, military-grade copper hardware, and is made exclusively in the brand’s Manchester factory in the northwest of England.