Do you know how the trench coat got its name? At the beginning, the trench coat was a raincoat worn by British Army officers during the First World War in order to defend themselves against rain and mud. Thomas Burberry, an enterprising outfitter from Surrey and founder of international chain Burberry who was specialised in manufacturing leisure clothing and sportswear, created it.
The original version of the trench coat, also worn by British Royal Flying Corps (the name of the air arm of the British Army until it became the Royal Air Force), had a wide yoke behind, epaulettes, straps at the cuffs of the raglan sleeves tightened and large pockets that button-close.
Double-breasted with a belt at the waist, the coat included D-rings that were useful to hook on military equipment, such as binoculars and hand grenades. The trench coat was very long, often ankle-length, so that it could cover the rim of the boots and defend legs against bad weather. Inside, it also had a removable insulated lining with pockets that soldiers wore to warm up their bodies when they slept in tents.
During the 1920s and the Great Depression, the trench coat (a bit modified) became a very fashionable item of clothing thanks to its cost and practicality: a raincoat was cheaper than an overcoat indeed.
In the 1940s, Humphrey Bogart chose the trench coat as his uniform in Casablanca and in other movies, making it the garment par excellence in the film industry. It is an androgynous and no-frills article of clothing once used to highlight the mysterious charm of divas, such as Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. Twenty years later, it became also glamorous and sophisticated after Audrey Hepburn, with her innocent allure, wore it in the final scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
In thriller movies, the trench coat became the uniform of the detective, the private detective and the secret agent thanks to the raised lapel that seems to be expressly created for protecting the air of mystery surrounding all these characters. During the ‘70s, its creased and unstructured version became very trendy thanks to the popular American TV series Columbo, and many men started wearing it over their suit jackets as if it were their “second skin”.
Nowadays the trench coat is still the most adaptable item of clothing par excellence; it is like the white canvas for the painter: an endless source of inspiration. We do know every fold and detail of the trench coat; we have disassembled and recreated it a thousand times using all kinds of fabric, embroideries, marquetries and weld joints. The trench coat is like the Arabian phoenix: It always rises from the ashes.