Jacket vs coat, do you know the difference?

If you are a word geek like me, then you can agree with me on this one. Better yet, you can appreciate the fact that every single word in the English language was made with the specific use in mind. When it comes to the debate over the jacket vs coat, that rule adequately applies. While the two words are certainly not interchangeable, it seems that over time some people got left out of that memo.

Today, we will go over everything you need to know about the jackets vs coat debate. From down jackets to trench coats, we will go into everything. Let's explore all the details that make one different from the other (because they are). More importantly, we have put together some tips and tricks that will enable you to easily spot the difference. Let’s get started

The Difference According to the Laws of Fashion

Jacket vs Coat - The Difference

When it comes to the actual measurements of a coat and a jacket, there are some differences. In the fashion world there are components that separate the two. Typically speaking a coat tendsto be longer than a jacket. With most coats, you can expect for the coat to go down all the way to the middle of your thighs or even longer. (think in terms of a long trench coat). Jackets are quite the opposite.

Jackets typically stop right at the waist and do not go further than that. In fact, many jackets stop at mid belly or just right under your belly button. Although this is the norm, it should be noted that fashion trends are changing. For example, on of the hottest down jackets that is breaking the “waistline rule” is the Columbia Hexbreaker Long Down Jacket. This jacket borders between a jacket and coat, especially since is extends just under the knees. Get all the facts about this jacket here.

Not only are coats longer, but coats tend to have longer slaves as well. Not only that but in the long standing debate over jacket vs coat, coats typically have this next feature as a determining factor. Coats usually have an open front that either closes with the aid of buttons or a simple zipper. Jackets, however, do not typically have this feature. Jackets usually are not open all the way in the front. Instead, they tend to have a couple of buttons at the collar to help you button up or they may fasten elsewhere like on the side.

If you want to work towards settling the debate over jacket vs coat, then one way you can do so is by looking at how the fashion world distinguishes between the two. Comparing things such as measurements and closure options will help narrow down your answer.


Like all pieces of clothing, different types of jackets and coats both have the ability to visually displayed how are you want to express yourself. Did you know that the ability to express yourself through your outerwear can come in handy? This is because your expression in clothing can also help you narrow down which is which. You see, with most coats that are made for the purpose of expression, you can expect the coat to make a loud and bold statement. (Again, think in terms of a trenchcoat). The expressions that a coat makes is one that strongly reflects who you are. This reflection stays pretty much constant from day to day and does not change until after an extended period of time.

Let's take our trench coat again as an example. You may want to buy an elegant looking trench coat that is upscale and stylish. But when you are shopping for one, you may want to settle on one that not only personally describes you. But you may have it in the back of your head that you will want to wear this coat regardless of the occasion. There is not much flexibility when you are getting ready to pick out your coat. This is because unlike a jacket, you will typically be buying only one coat.

On the other hand, the personal expression that jackets offer tends to be a lot more flexible. While you can still make a loud and bold statement with the jacket, you don’t necessarily have to stick with this specific type of personal expression day in and day out. Your mood and how you feel can change on a daily basis. When you wear a jacket, you will likely have the ability to adapt to your mood.

You see, this is because jackets offer a lot more flexibility when it comes to dressing in a way that is uniquely you. The next time you are looking at your wardrobe of jackets and coats, consider this. If your garment in question is an adequate representation of your personal style on a day-to-day basis, then you are likely to have a coat on your hands. However if your garment has a unique flavor to it that might cause you to wear one day and not another, then you are likely looking at a jacket.


Jacket vs Coat - Functionality

One of the next important concepts in the jacket vs coat debate comes in the form of functionality. By figuring at the functionality of your garment, you can quickly tell whether you have a coat on your hands or a jacket. Coats tend to be thicker and heavier with padding all around. This is because coats are primarily meant to keep you warm. Jackets, on the other hand, are not as well insulated. (Although they can be especially when you were talking about a down jacket). Often times jackets have a padding on the shoulder pads. (Especially suit jackets). If this is the case with your garment, that’s typically a dead giveaway that you have a jacket on your hands.


There is another deciding factor in the jacket vs coat debate. This factor is practicality. When the weather gets colder, think about what you choose to put on in order to stay protected from the elements. For example, if it is really snowy and cold out, then you are probably going to be grabbing a coat. Not only that but because most people only own one or two coats, the piece of garment you grab will be pretty much the same one you grab every time it is severely cold outside. This is what makes a coat. Coats are something that you grab and put on when it gets way too cold outside. Speaking of warm coats, check out one the seasons latest winter coat, the Kenneth Cole Wool Blend Coat. Click here to get an in depth review.

On the other hand, if it is a little nippy rather than downright chilly out, you might find yourself grabbing a jacket. Now the type of jacket that you grab might depend on a variety of reasons. For example, you might pick out a jacket based on how the rest of your outfit looks. This is because jackets are typically worn as garments that reflect who we are as individuals. Because your daily outfit changes reflect something different about you from day to day, the same goes with your jacket.

Overall, the traditional role in the jacket vs coat debate is practicality. If you are looking for something that is super warm and helps keep you protected, then you are talking about a jacket. If you are just looking for something to keep you a bit warm, and are not necessarily limited in your choices, then you have got a jacket on your hands.

To Match or Not to Match?

Jacket vs Coat - To Match or Not to Match

Speaking of personal expression, one of the next best ways to figure out the answer to the jacket vs coat debate is in regards to matching. Consider your garment and think about whether or not your clothing plays a role when it comes to pairing. Typically speaking, coats do not have matching accessories that compliment them (think matching pants and matching undershirts). The only exception really is when it comes to sports such as skiing and snowboarding. In that case, you are typically going to find a matching coat and pants sets.

Jackets, on the other hand, do not follow this rule. In fact, it is common for jackets to have matching components. For example, a suit jacket will always have a matching pair of pants to go with it. If a jacket does not formally have pants to match with it, then chances are when you put on a jacket you were thinking about the other elements of your outfit that  would go with it regardless. If you find yourself asking questions like “Will this match my pants?” “Will this go well with this undershirt?” Or “Will this work with my shoes?” Then you are probably debating the different ways of how to wear your jacket.

Price Point

The price point can sometimes help settle the jacket vs coat debate. However, it is not a full proof way. Instead of looking at the prices of jackets and coats across the spectrum, consider your personal value of jackets and coats. Typically speaking, if you are going to be dishing out quite a bit of money, then it is probably because you are about to purchase the coat.

If the opposite is true, and you are shelling out a fair amount of money but not something that will necessarily break the bank, then it is most likely that you were purchasing a jacket. In the good old jacket vs coat debate, coats tend to be a little bit more pricier than jackets are. This is mainly because back before the fashion industry boom, people really only ever owned one coat. The one coat that they owned is something that they saved up for. Where as jackets are fairly cheaper, more people are likely to own more than one.

Regional Differences

Jacket vs Coat - Regional Differences

Depending on where you grew up, you may have a different opinion. Your definition of what makes a coat a coat and what makes a jacket a jacket might be different. This is especially true if you come in contact with someone who comes from another part of the country.

For example, in the northern part of the US like New York and Rhode Island, winters tend to be harsher. Not only that, but the cold tends to be more bitter overall too. Because of this, many northerners know that a coat is distinctly unique. This is because they have a specific definition. Northerners consider it to be the only type of garment that will help keep you protected from the elements.

If you travel down south however, things will change. In warmer states you will find that the definition of a coat is not what you would expect. Especially in states like Florida and South Carolina. People who live in these warmer climates really only ever need to pull out a jacket to help keep them warm. Because they will likely never face the harsh elements the way Northerners do, many Southerners only really every use jackets. Not just that, but you may notice that many Southerners even use the term coat and jacket interchangeably.

Final Thoughts

In the long ranging debate about the jacket vs coat, an unlikely explanation exists. While some travelers might be dead set on their definition of what a coat or jacket is, there are some ways to help figure out the difference.

One thing is for certain, however. Now that you have explored the two a little more in depth, you should be more the wiser. You now have a little bit more information in your arsenal to help you determine what qualifies as a coat and what qualifies as a jacket. If anything, one of the greatest things you can do is help spread this information. That way, you can be sure no one is left out of the loop any longer. Not only that, but now you are better prepared. The next time a friend tells you “Hey don’t forget to bring along a coat”, you may or may not want to ask them to elaborate!

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