The fall season is best embodied by two spreads: the bounty of Thanksgiving dinner, and the sometimes infinite-amount of outerwear choices that come with a season that starts balmy and ends downright chilly. Just as reaching for Aunt Phyllis's county-famous green bean casserole or another helping of sweet potato stuffing can be a nerve-wracking decision, the sheer amount of coats fall gives us the occasion to wear is enough to freeze anyone into inability.
In an effort to make that decision a little easier, we're going to investigate a few of our favorites with an eye to how they perform throughout the entire season. This tour will include fleece jackets, lightweight down, 3-in-1 men's parkas, windbreakers, and raincoats (sorry, you're on your own for that casserole vs. stuffing conundrum).
Labor Day is barely in the rear view window, and you're just not quite ready to accept the fact that summer is truly a goner. So ease yourself back into the layering spirit with a windbreaker, the lightest possible coat. It's something you can even wear during one of those final trips to the beach in September or October, when the wind's begun to kick up but there are still sunsets worth seeking out. That being said, windbreakers typically have a wear-by-date of October, unless you supplement their warmth by layering a crewneck sweatshirt or even a wool turtleneck underneath.
For all the attention spring gets for its rainfall–"April showers bring May flowers", etc.–the amount of rainfall from September to October can be substantial. Just as the case is with Spring, no garment is better for waiting out the rainy weather than a good-old-fashioned raincoat. For the highest level of protection, nothing beats a raincoat that comes with a hood and a button-out liner.
Think of the fleece as the perfect bridge between fall and winter. It's not quite in the same category as a sweater, but can't be precisely defined as heavy-duty outerwear, either. What it is is an ultra-versatile way to layer with your existing staple pieces to ensure warmth at everything from a Columbus Day hiking trip to an end-of-November leaf raking push. That being said, a quarter-zip fleece is closer to a sweater in terms of functionality and can easily be tossed over a tee, an oxford-cloth buttondown, or a wool turtleneck. Sweater fleece coats provide the warmth of a lighter coat with water and wind resistance.
Lightweight down jackets are an easy go-between that provide the warmth and wind resistance that a heavier piece of outerwear can provide, while at the same time avoiding the bulkiness that can come with a full-on down parka. This compromise makes it a great choice for wear in the car, in bleachers at sporting events and while running quick errands that don't require reaching for your heaviest winter kit. Just as you would in the case of a heavier coat, you'll want to look for a lightweight down coat with sealed seams that will more effectively block wind and cold.
When you've reached the tail end of fall, or just happen to be dealing with a particularly frigid October or November, the 3-in-1 parka is the indisputable go-to. Thanks to the two separate pieces that combine to make the 3-in-1–a quilted inner jacket and a windproof, waterproof shell–you'll be wearing warm insulation and a weatherproof shield at once. Better yet, you can break them apart for separate wear throughout the season: wear its quilted liner alone on September evenings, and don the waterproof shell during an October gale.