“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” These are the wise words of Alfred Wainwright, a British mountaineer, author and illustrator who spent his life charting the nooks and crannies of the English Lake District – one of the wettest places on Earth. He knew better than most that a good rain jacket is the difference between being cold and being comfortable. But you don’t have to be an intrepid explorer to adopt his famous mantra.
If you spend any amount of time in rainy climes, a good waterproof jacket is an absolute must. We emphasise the word ‘good’, because there are far too many subpar options out there, and people often aren’t clued up on how to spot them. Buy well and the water will bead off you like water from a duck’s back. But cheap out and you’ll find yourself cold and clammy as the rubbery fabric becomes saturated and clings to your skin.
Thankfully, this doesn’t have to mean dropping £1,000 on a high-performance technical jacket that wouldn’t look out of place on the north face of K2 (although you can if you want). In reality, there are all sorts of different types of rain jackets that can tie in with your personal style rather than detract from it.
Whether you want to go full gorpcore with a crispy Gore-Tex shell or keep it classic with a gabardine car coat, there’s a rain jacket out there that’s right for you – it’s just a case of finding it. And that’s exactly what we intend to help you do.
What Makes The Perfect Rain Jacket?
Perhaps the single most important factor in a good rain jacket is the fabric. This is the barrier between yourself and the elements, so it needs to do its job properly.
There are a few options here, all with their own pros and cons. Here are a few of the most popular ones:
Waxed cotton: A traditional option favoured by the likes of Barbour and Fjällräven. It’s great as the amount of wax can be tailored to certain areas to improve waterproofness and breathability. For example, you may want more wax on the shoulders and less around the underarms. The downside is that it’s heavy and can give off a very distinctive earthy smell. Plus you’ll need to have it rewaxed periodically to maintain its coating.
Gabardine: A tightly woven cotton fabric invented by Burberry founder Thomas Burberry. Its tight weave makes it almost completely waterproof, and its smart appearance means it’s perfect for classic outerwear like trench coats and car coats. If you’re a man about town looking for a rain jacket to wear with a suit, this is the material for you.
Gore-Tex: The gold standard for technical waterproof fabrics. It’s been the go-to for serious rain jackets for decades, using special micropores that allow water vapour to escape while blocking water droplets from entering. This means it’s completely waterproof, but also breathable.
Rubberised fabric: About as waterproof as it gets, but also about as unbreathable. Charles Macintosh invented a method for rubberising fabric in the late 1800s and fishermen have been thanking him for it ever since. This stuff will keep you bone dry, just as long as you don’t do anything that makes you sweat while you’re wearing it.
Proprietary fabrics: Most outdoor brands offer their own in-house waterproof fabrics. For the most part, they’re terrible. They tend to be cheap, lack breathability and wet out easily. In our experience, they’re best avoided in favour of Gore-Tex.
Another important factor to consider is fit. Remember, this is a piece of outerwear designed to be thrown on top of whatever you’re wearing to keep you dry. As such, it needs to have sufficient room for layers underneath.
This means it should be fairly roomy in the body and in the arms too, but not baggy. Never baggy.
There are two opposing ways to approach this. You will find that many rain jackets (particularly technical ones and rubberised ones) are sold in bright colours. Conversely, classic raincoats are often beige, black or navy.
It’s up to you whether you want to use this as an opportunity to inject some colour into an otherwise gloomy day or simply blend into the background. The latter will admittedly offer greater versatility with the rest of your wardrobe.
Key Rain Jacket Styles
‘Trench coat’ these days has become a bit of a catch-all term for a long, smart raincoat. Think Burberry and Mackintosh.
These are your classic British raincoats, and they’re perfect for wearing with smart-casual outfits, business wear and tailoring. That said, they can also be used to dress up casual clothes.
Technical shells are designed for performance first and foremost. These are the rain jackets favoured by mountaineers and alpine athletes, often featuring adjustable hoods, zip pockets and Gore-Tex fabric.
This could be any casual jacket style that has been reimagined in waterproof fabric. The likes of Private White V.C. and Nanamica are known for remaking classic casual outerwear styles in Gore-Tex and Ventile fabrics, for example.
A parka is a long, hooded coat that covers the backside. They’re often insulated and used as winter coats, but they can also be unlined and made from waterproof material.
The Best Men’s Rain Jacket Brands
Mackintosh is up there with Burberry in terms of heritage. The British brand continues the legacy of Charles Macintosh, who invented and popularised the rubberised raincoat.
It makes classic, long-length coats that are perfect for rainy days in the city.
Private White V.C.
Private White V.C. makes beautiful outerwear based on traditional military styles. It does so using the finest locally sourced materials and crafts all of its pieces in Britain’s historic textile capital of Manchester.
The brand is particularly famous for its Ventile rainwear – a waterproof material commissioned by Sir Winston Churchill, made in Manchester and worn on the first-ever Everest ascent.
In a classic case of ‘does what it says on the tin’, Danish brand Rains makes outerwear for (you guessed it) the rain.
The label started out making quirky, colourful versions of the classic rubberised raincoat and has since diversified to create an entire range of clothing.
Canadian brand Arc’teryx is known for its high-end outdoor gear. A gorpcore staple, it started out making climbing harnesses, but these days it’s better known for its technical rain jackets. It’s also the brand responsible for the birth of the waterproof zipper.
Gore-Tex jackets start at around £250 and max out around £700 for the top-of-the-line Alpha SV.
Nanamica is a Japanese brand known for applying technical fabrics to casual silhouettes. Its Gore-Tex outerwear blurs the line between performance wear and casual style, and styles range from car coats to classic mountain parkas.
Burberry is one of the original British raincoat brands, having started life crafting outerwear for officers in the armed forces. Its trench coats are the best-known and most reputable in the world, and although they’re expensive they’re the sort of garments you’ll still be wearing another 30 years from now.
Few inhabited places have weather as extreme as Iceland, so it’s little wonder that one of the world’s finest outdoor brands sprung up there.
66°North started life making gear for Iceland’s local fishermen, who often have to work in unimaginably grim conditions, and now makes a whole range of high-end outdoor gear with fashion appeal… including fancy Gore-Tex Pro jackets like the top-flight Hornstrandir.
Outdoor brands these days are obsessed with making everything as light and packable as possible. Great news for your baggage allowance, but not so much when it comes to the rough and tumble of everyday life.
That’s where Swedish label Fjällräven is different. It still makes things like they used to, using heavyweight, durable materials and relying on time-honoured waxed cotton for waterproofing rather than fancy Gore-Tex.
Danish label Norse Projects has been a firm favourite since its inception in 2004. It’s a brand we feel like we’ve grown up with, and it was doing adult-friendly streetwear before brands like Noah and Aimé Leon Dore were so much as a twinkle in their respective founders’ eyes.
One of the things Norse does particularly well, given that it hails from the cold, harsh north, is outerwear. The use of Gore-Tex is a common theme.
Barbour has been making waxed cotton jackets for not far off 150 years. In that time it has become a British country icon, found hanging in the halls of everyone from rural farmers and gamekeepers to rockstars and royalty.
The jackets are rugged, well made and completely waterproof when waxed, meaning they can last a lifetime if cared for properly.