«An essential addition to any wardrobe—including, clearly, my own—the trench coat first drew me in through the military and historical origins of its name, married with its presence in the world of cinema and a steady way of adding a bit of sparkle and shine to drab, grey days.»
Far from the inhospitable trenches that housed soldiers during wartime, the word “trench” is now more widely associated with the iconic fashion item. The origins of the coat trace back to the 19th century, when Burberry imagined the use of a very tight woven fabric to create a waterproof coat. During World War I, Burberry was commissioned to supply the military-style coat to protect soldiers out in the field. Featuring details like epaulettes and sleeve straps, the double-breasted coat was designed to withstand the elements, perfect for wear in the very trenches for which it was named. A classic star of men’s wardrobe thus was born. The name of another brand must be added alongside Burberry: Aquascutum, who popularized a coat of a similar style.
The mythical overcoat features heavily in American film noir as the garment of choice for shadowy detectives stalking about—with no shortage of iconic heroes with upturned collars, such as Humphrey Bogart. The image of the private detective with a tired mac draped over his hunched frame plays an essential role in Peter Falk’s portrayal of Columbo, a character who never parts with the signature article of clothing. The Dick Tracy comic strip eventually made its way onto celluloid, with Warren Beatty sporting a glaring trench coat in canary yellow. For a darker turn, the trench coat goes pitch black in its longer Matrix incarnation.
Forever entwined with English culture (and weather), the trench coat also conjures images of World War II heroes like Winston Churchill. And while the colour of choice remains beige or shades of mastic, the trench coat also comes in black, blue, green, or even red.
The trench coat was ushered into the modern wardrobe by Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche followed by more mainstream brands like Daniel Hechter. Jean Paul Gaultier also dabbled in the trenches with a large flared-out version, as well as creating long models and even deconstructed versions in his couture. Burberry still releases trench coats every season, both classics and flights of fancy like the short swing cape version. The inner lining often embraces signature stylistic codes, such as the Burberry tartan. The liner can also be removable to adapt to cold or warm weather.
A must-have fashion mainstay, the trench coat never fails to keep rainy days at bay with an undeniable touch of class.