News The History of the Trench Coat: From Military Necessity to Fashion Trend

Alex Wright

Editorial Team
Editorial Team
May 7, 2021

From one of the most iconic items of military uniforms to one of the most iconic items in fashion: a trench coat is much more than just an accessory. The history of the trench coat has more than 150 years, and we invite you to dive into it with us.

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What Is a Trench Coat?​

This classic raincoat has long and varied stories, and they all contribute to the modern perception of the trench coat. Initially, even before the First World War, the trench coat was used as a garment worn by army officers. It was adapted to be worn literally in the trenches, hence its name. It was during the Great War that these classic clothes acquired the shape and style that many of us still wear today. In the classic style of the cloak, military influence can still be traced.

The Traditional Aesthetics of the Trench Coat Includes the Following:​

  • 10 front buttons
  • wide lapels
  • button-down pockets
  • waist belt
  • straps with buckles around the wrist
  • waterproof
  • made of high–strength cotton gabardine; the alternative is leather or poplin
  • insulated lining
  • raglan sleeves
  • length from just above the ankles to just above the knees
  • usually, the color is khaki

The History of the Trench Coat and the Materials From Which It Was Made​

The history of the trench coat begins almost 100 years before the First World War. It is documented that since 1823 there has been a form of rubberized cotton, which was used to create outerwear for men and women. This fabric was revolutionary because it was weather-resistant, and it began to be used for both military and civilian purposes. Such coats were called "mackintosh" in honor of their inventor Charles Mackintosh. No matter how amazing this fabric was for keeping dry and warm, it had one significant drawback – it did not let in air. In addition, the fabric had a rather unpleasant smell and could even "melt" in the sun. Despite these shortcomings, raincoats were used by army personnel throughout the 19th century.

Who Invented the Trench Coat​

Designers and fabric manufacturers have been developing the material for many years, trying to make it more breathable, and therefore more comfortable to wear. Two fashion designers claim to create a trench coat, and the debate continues to this day: this is a clothier from Mayfair, John Emary, and a men's clothing designer, Thomas Burberry.

Trench Coat and Hollywood​

In the period between the World Wars, trench coats, in addition to being chosen in the trenches and on the battlefields, began to acquire celebrity status. The golden age of Hollywood paid tribute to the trench coat, and it was often seen in various films, it was also worn by the stars of the silver screen. Detectives, gangsters, femme fatales, and leading men could be seen in this iconic attire. In the 1941 film The Maltese Falcon, Humphrey Bogart wore an Aquascutum Kingsway trench coat. He also wore it in the infamous scenes in the films Casablanca in 1942 and Deep Sleep in 1946. Leading actresses such as Marlene Dietrich and Audrey Hepburn also wore these alluring cloaks.

These strong roles, as well as their solid establishment in the army, made the trench coat an even more enviable and desirable thing. They were naturally cold and carried the attitude and image of a strong, fearless, brave, and mysterious person. From royalty to movie stars, trench coats have become as important a fashion item as blue jeans. It combines style and functionality, and its history makes it even more amazing.

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