trench coat

The trenchcoat. It’s an English staple, a Burberry trademark and a utilitarian masterpiece. The trench was officiated into the British Army as an optional item of dress in 1901. Like most garments, its origin drew from necessity and was fashioned by the military.

Prior to its design, officers wore heavy serge greatcoats made from a rubberized cotton. Though the fabric was repellent, it also locked sweat in. Clothiers continued to experiment with new textures but none made headway like Thomas Burberry.

Fact: The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard have vastly impacted today’s clothing. Epaulette, also know as the gold shoulder patches Michael Jackson infamously wore, first debuted at the end of the 17th century. Roman and French officers used epaulettes to indicate rank.

Fact: The military began dying their uniforms to blend in with landscapes in 1840. Khaki means “dust” in Hindi. By the 1890s, khaki and camouflage attire was popularized and had proven successful in warfare.

In 1857, Thomas Burberry opened his first clothing outfitters in Basingstoke, after serving his apprenticeship at a draper’s shop. He too began experimenting with fabrics, and his innovative research led to the development of Garbandine. Garbandine is tear-proof, water resistant, lightweight and ventilated. The design of Burburry’s coats proved popular with socialites, sport enthusiasts, aviators, explorers and adventures.

Khaki means ‘dust’ in Hindi. By the 1890s, khaki and camouflage attire was popularized and had proven successful in warfare.

The term “trench” was adopted as the coat was worn amidst the deep trenches in WWI. The traditional trench is double breasted with 10 front buttons, has a storm flap and pockets that button-close. The original design was modified to include the D-rings, shoulder straps, epaulettes and a back pleat. Traditionally, trenchcoats feature a check lining. Burberry’s iconic house check lining has become a staple detail and is universally recognizable.

Image via Makayla Wagner


Fact: The back pleat was added for ease of movement when running or on horseback, and the storm flap at the shoulder allowed for increased ventilation. The shoulder straps secured epaulettes or other rank insignia, and it’s rumored that D-clips were used to attach hand grenades.

The Burberry trench continues to be a fashion must-have today. Large fashion houses. like Michael Kors, recognize the demand and have too designed their version of the historic coat. If you’re in the market for a raincoat, then I strongly suggest purchasing a trench – it is timeless and sophisticated.

Everlane’s affordable drape trench has a relaxed fit (which means you can layer with thicker knits) and comes in navy and classic khaki. Famous Spanish retailer Zara offers a multitude of trench styles in different textures, lengths, colors and details. If the original Burberry trench is what you desire, I don’t blame you. Watch for sales from luxury department stores like Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, & Saks Fifth Avenue.

*Purchasing tip: Be sure to check for department outlet stores as well and also add yourself to the store’s subscriber list. Being in the know for new products and upcoming sales is always a wise (and cost effective) choice!

Feature Image via Alberto Bobbera


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