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Russell Smith

Do you have to match a camel coat with other brown apparel? Add to ...

The question

I got my boyfriend a camel coat for Christmas, but he won’t wear it. He says it’s because it has to go with certain shoes (brown) and pants. I thought camel was a neutral. What can he wear with a camel coat?

The answer

Indeed your boyfriend is wrong and wasting a beautiful item. Camel coats go with everything, including and especially dark suits. They do look excellent with brown shoes (particularly suede ones), but black shoes and boots are fine too. I have even seen red paisley scarves paired with them to great effect.

Note that camel refers nowadays only to a particular light-brown colour, not necessarily to actual camel hair. Some coats of this colour are made from camel hair, some are just dyed wool. Some are a blend of the two. The finest are made from the soft undercoat or under layer of fur from two-humped Bactrian camels. (The camels moult; the hair is gathered where it falls by hand.) Its natural hue is golden tan, so doesn’t need to be dyed.

There is always a touch of the dandy about the camel-coat man; perhaps the showiness of it is intimidating your guy a little. For some reason – perhaps their association with conservatism and old money – many overcoats of this colour are double-breasted, and that makes them even flashier. But you don’t have to look like Gordon Gekko in a big overcoat: Fashionable topcoats are moderately short and well-fitted these days, not big flapping announcements of wealth.

They are useful and versatile items because they look comfortable with jeans and blazers as well as with suits. I find them beautiful and would love to have one. Tell your boyfriend if he’s scared to wear his to send it to me.

Novelist Russell Smith’s memoir, Blindsided, is available as a Kobo e-book. Have a style question? E-mail style@globeandmail.com.

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