Who would deny that the iconic trench coat earns its keep in any serious wardrobe, be it male or female? To understand how this has evolved, let’s take a look at its history. The first clue is right there in the name – ‘trench coat’.
Designed for the British military by Thomas Burberry (a fact disputed by Acquascutum) as an army officer’s raincoat, it was worn in the trenches in WWI and WWII. Essential to its success was not only the overall design which embodied functional features, but the waterproof gabardine fabric.
So what were these functional features?
Made with 100% cotton gabardine invented by Thomas Burberry, it was lightweight, durable and waterproofed.
The epaulettes, seen on military uniforms to indicate rank, were utilized to fasten gas masks, gloves or whistles. Likewise, other equipment such as grenades and maps could be attached to the D rings on the belt. The sleeve straps on the cuffs, and the hooks and eyes at the neck, were tightened and fastened to keep out the wind and cold. The storm flap was designed to stop the rain from running down the shoulders and entering the carried rifle. The deep back yolk had a similar function in directing the water over the back rather than on to the body. Traditionally, the trench is double breasted with five by two buttoning.
At the end of WWI, the British government found itself with a considerable surplus which they distributed among the public. They became very popular being tough and hard wearing at a time when fabrics were scarce. They remained in popular use up to and during WWII. By the early 1940s the trench coat had made it to the silver screen most notably worn by Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca.
Before long, it was adopted by leading politicians and movie stars, as well as fictional characters played by Peter Sellers – Inspector Clouseau of Pink Panther fame and Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Its timeless defining features have ensured its iconic status. This classic garment was one of the first masculine looks to be adopted by women and interpreted in many ways. The structural design means business yet, with the addition of stilettos, a buttoned up and belted finish, the look transforms into a sexy mysterious allure. A must for any wardrobe.
Whatever the length, whatever the colour or fabric content, the defining features of the trench coat is a story of style integrity. Wear it long or short, belted or loose, slouchy or structured. As Goldilocks said: ‘It’s just right’.