Perspiring to greatness

Three weeks in and it’s starting to look how it’s meant to look, the greatcoat. “Third week” is misleading, true, as while correct in a time-passing sense, only one day is spent developing patterns each week, so the third week is more in truth only the third day — about 20 hours, give or take. Which when building a new design from scratch with three metres of charcoal overcoating from West Yorkshire isn’t bad going.

But it’s anyway on the third day that the greatcoat has taken form, in that you can imagine the eventual end product. It all of a sudden looks the sort of coat you’d see worn at the Cenotaph every year, or in military reenactment every other Sunday. The collar is what gives it away, being as it extends very far down the front of the coat, might sail away if fully furled, and begs to be swept over for the fully-fastened all-elements greatcoat experience.

The collar takes the eye away from what actually makes the greatcoat most different to other greatcoats, and indeed from most other coats full-stop. It has a saddle shoulder, which is another of the ways of building the body and sleeve halfway between set-in and raglan. If there’s anything holding back the greatcoat from wider adoption, the thinking goes, it is the traditionally strong and square shoulder, which is no doubt great for military parades and for frightening the other side in a war, but can seem ostentatious when worn in the queue at Tesco. The saddle shoulder will (a) soften the shoulder of the greatcoat without doing away with the smart lines of the armhole of a set-in sleeve, which is what’d happen if you imposed upon it a standard raglan sleeve, and (b) offer up the perfect runways for epaulettes, which are essential for any coat seeking to be prefixed “great”.

The shoulder is what has taken most time so far. Not as simple as you’d think, it turns out, marrying the type of shoulder usually only on fine-gauge polyester knitwear in golfing outlets on the most grand and imposing silhouettes in all outerwear. You have to get good pitch in the sleeve, a smooth line over the shoulder, and no gathering of rubbish at the pit.

In the fourth week will come the pockets, the lining, and the back — none a formality, but compared to the geometric headaches brought on by the saddle shoulder (drafting and cutting then redrafting and recutting ) should all prove relatively plain-sailing. Whether it’ll all fall into place in time for next autumn, or whether the coat will benefit from longer in the oven, remains to be seen. No one wants undercooked greatness thrust upon them.