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Spies love them. Detectives, too. British supermodels and even those cartoonish caricatures of nudists both seem to have an affinity for them. I am, of course, talking about the classic trench coat. Almost aggressively anachronistic in our current street style-heavy culture, it’s hard to deny that the trench has a certain level of elegance that, say, a puffer jacket just can’t achieve.
And no brand is more synonymous with the trench coat than Burberry. The British brand is credited with inventing the original trench coat and its predecessor, the Tielocken coat. With Burberry’s heritage firmly set within the parameters of outdoor garments and wartime needs, the militaristic design has since evolved into a classy overcoat for anyone looking to invest with a timeless classic.
The History of the Trench Coat
Like Barbour before it, Burberry’s early years in business were dedicated to outdoor garments that were perfect for hunting tradition on the British Isles. Thomas Burberry, the brand’s founder, invented gabardine, a breathable, waterproof fabric that is still used today. The brand would go on to experiment with various designs that would be able to protect against the rainy weather that the UK is famous for, while also injecting a bit of style for the upper-class patrons and hunting parties.
By World War I, Burberry was already an established outdoor brand and devoted its manufacturing talents to the war effort. The modern trench coat is a direct result of the military need for functional garments. Many of these elements are still seen today: the epaulettes to carry gloves and whistles for easy access, the D-ring at the belt for grenades and artillery, and the high collar for protection from shrapnel and the elements.
It was after the war that Burberry trenches became mainstream and, like so many other workwear-derived garments (think Carhartt today), it became fashionable for mixing high-class style with a lower-class origin.
By 1955, Queen Elizabeth II had bestowed a royal warrant on the brand. Further, Burberry began sponsoring the adventure class, including polar expeditions and early aviators. Hollywood took note of this pairing of Burberry and a rugged masculinity and began styling leading stars in trench coats. The counter-culture movements of the ’60s and ’90s eventually made it even more stylish, playing with this same masculine portrayal but on a feminine frame.
Buying a Burberry Trench Coat
If you’re looking to invest in a Burberry, go as classic as possible. Try not to get caught up in the colors and shades that the fashion house will invariably come out with – they will all look dated within a few years. Stick with the classic checkered pattern (only on the interior, as part of the charm of Burberry is its quiet elegance). And most importantly, get one that fits correctly: it shouldn’t be big on your frame, but should be able to feel comfortable with a wool sweater underneath. It should also hit lower on the legs. It’s a trench coat, not a peacoat.
Styling a Trench Coat
More often than not, wearing a trench coat is about attitude. You need to really have confidence in wearing this coat so it’s not wearing you. Avoid wearing it only for special occasions or you’ll realize that there’s really no place or time when you need to wear one. Instead, wear it regularly and unabashedly.
Going to the post office? Throw it on. Same for the grocery store, getting your oil changed, or to a birthday party. The more you feel comfortable wearing something that has a presence (even though it’s not a particularly loud garment), the more you’ll come to appreciate the blank canvas that a trench coat offers you.
My only style advice is more a note about fit. Whether you buy your trench new or second-hand, take it to a tailor you trust and bring a couple outfits with you that are representative of what you’d wear the trench with. This will indicate for the tailor where, if at all, the coat needs hemmed and provide you a better overall fit. While the coat should be long, us Short Kings can’t, in good conscience, be dropping a couple thousand on something that drags in the mud.
- 45.7 inch overall length
- Three colors: Beige, Black, and Blue
- Leather trim on buckle
- Double-breasted closure
- Burberry lining