Atten-shun! Stand easy…
Around me the snow seems to be declining and, whilst the buses to University are now running, this is still the weather for a warm coat (come rain or shine). Since I suspect rain it also needs to be waterproof because, whilst the buses now coming they are, alas, no more reliable than before.
Fashion magazines often treat trench coats as the reliable British solution to this particular problem. Perfect for the deluge that seems to persist some time between Autumn and Spring until the sun finally puts his hat on and comes out to play (if we’re lucky), if he doesn’t then hey… you get to look great for an extra season.
The humble trench coat first appeared in World War One, as one item of dress available to the British Army; permitted to certain officer classes who wished to purchase them. Epaulettes could be attached to the shoulders with a ring permitting military equipment to be attached at the belt and large pockets providing space for maps and other useful items. It may also interest you to know that the various flaps and slits in trench coats, now purely decorative, remained as a throwback to earlier rubber coats. These had been known for producing unpleasant smells; ventilation was therefore intended to reduce this problem and many of the newer coats simply retained the feature. The coats came to be known colloquially as “trench coats” by serving soldiers; and many veterans retained their own upon returning from service. During the Second World War many nations used these longer coats until shorter garments, which permitted greater ease of movement on the battlefield, became the norm. But for braving the weather at home the longer coats retained their charm. Casablanca (1942) provided a culture at war with the iconic, trench coat clad, Humphrey Bogart; and trench coats only grew in popularity, featuring consistently in popular culture and the media. For example, who could forget the influence of Holly Golightly’s attire in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)?
Nowadays Mackintosh and Burberry are perhaps the most well known brands, to which the high street provides an affordable alternative. Yet, with such a rich history, it might be advisable to invest in more individual, vintage product, if you can. Following a trend is fun and it’s certainly natural that this piece would appear, well, “uniform” given its roots; nevertheless it seems worth remembering that the trench coat came to be formed in response to certain historical events and experiences that gave rise to the design we know and love. The look hasn’t changed much and neither has the appeal – its always nice to carry a bit of the past with you (and if its got pockets you can put things in then that’s just the icing on the cake.) Wherever you source yours the trench coat, especially the vintage examples, are designed to last. This is a hardy enough fashion staple to prove itself worth the investment, besides it’ll never go out of fashion.