I was a young lad in short trousers when the brief Suedehead trend hit my town. There was a fella who lived a few doors up from me who had the slightly long-at-the-back spiky haircut known as a ‘blackburn’, and I remember he wore checked shirts, two tone strides, red socks and chunky brogue shoes. The most notable item of his rig was a Crombie-style overcoat with a red spotted handkerchief in the chest pocket. I thought he looked cool, but what did I know? – I was seven!
Coats known as ‘Crombies’ in that period, and their re-emergence during the revival skinhead era of the late seventies-early eighties, more than likely had little to do with the actual Crombie company and were for the most part cheaper knockoffs. They were usually black or dark navy, cut in a Chesterfield style: single breasted, fly fronted, knee length, notch lapels, narrow waists, horizontal flapped pockets, ticket pocket, welted chest pocket, often with a cheap red lining which could be pulled up out of the chest pocket in place of a pocket square. Maybe I was viewing the past with rose tinted glasses but I don’t remember seeing anyone look as cool during my teenage years in the revival era, nor anyone with as good-looking a Crombie-style coat, as the original Suede who lived in my street in the early seventies.
When I went to college in the mid eighties I got a heavyweight calf-length solid medium-grey herringbone weave overcoat for five pounds from a second-hand shop in Sheffield. This saw me through college in the eighties and then was shipped to a resale shop along with a load of other stuff when I found that I’d actually emigrated! The eighties were a time when loads of studenty types wore big second-hand overcoats – maybe something to do with an Echo and the Bunnymen look, with which I wanted no part. When I was suited up I preferred to wear this dark navy blue Crombie coat which I’d inherited from my Dad.
It’s cut in a more straightforward style without the notable details often associated with Crombie style coats – this one has three exposed buttons, notch lapels and due to the button positioning at some distance from the front edge there’s a slight asymmetric crossover. The pockets are vertical ‘slash’ pockets and there’s no chest pocket
The provenance of this coat remains a mystery to me. My Dad used to walk to work and during bad weather wore a Burberry style trench coat. This Crombie coat seems a bit too formal for daily work wear. It seems more suited to wearing over a dinner jacket, but with my Dad being a frugal sort who was not an extravagant spender on his wardrobe I find it hard to believe that he lashed out for such a nice and presumably expensive coat to be worn on the one or two occasions per year when he was in Black Tie. I have no recollection of seeing him wear it so have no idea when or from where it was acquired. I used to wear this in England during winters in the eighties, when getting suited up to go nightclubbing was the norm.
I don’t have much use for such a heavy coat here in Florida – I have a lighter weight herringbone Chesterfield coat too – but I’m off to frigid Buffalo, New York this week and I’m happy to have this as an option. My Dad was the same height as me but somewhat broader in his advancing years so I did have the side seams slimmed slightly to improve the fit.
I wore this coat once during a visit to see the wonderful Paul Winston of Chipps while I was in New York. He instantly recognised the cloth as Crombie and confirmed my understanding that Crombie was originally a cloth-maker not a coat-maker, and it’s only more recently that the company has taken to constructing the coats for which they have been lending their name for fifty years!
Tipping a hat to the memory of my Dad, I’m also wearing a Tootal-style scarf and 1950s era RAF-issue aviator shades, both also inherited from him!
Sunglasses – Vintage RAF issue
Coat – Crombie (inherited, provenance unknown)
Scarf – Silk foulard backed with navy wool, label lost!
Strides – Banana Republic Prince of Wales wool flannel
Shoes – Allen Edmonds McNeil shell cordovan longwings