Necessary Things: The Trench Coat

What is it about the trench coat that conveys such a perfect balance of strength and elegance? Is it the flaring lapels, the long drape, the military-inspired belt around the waist?

Maybe it’s the coat’s military heritage. It was designed for war and the trenches of WWI by Thomas Burberry to keep British officers warm, dry, and to keep their gear sorted. And yes, it was that Thomas Burberry. They were originally made from Gabardine, also invented by Mr. Burberry, for its toughness and its ability to shed water, but are more likely now to be made of poly/cotton; not necessarily an improvement.


The author at Earl’s Court in a trench by Burberry.

The trench coat was designed for maximum protection from the elements with details that were needed in the field:

  1. A shoulder yoke; a flap of fabric that drapes across the back and between the shoulders like a short cape. Still there.
  2. Gun flaps on the front, covering the chest in the same manner. These work like a tarp, diverting rain away from the coat to keep the insulating layers dry.
  3. A collar that raises to keep wind and rain from hitting the back of your neck.
  4. Straps that cinch around the wrists to keep water out.
  5. Epaulets on the shoulders secured a rifle strap, but are great for gloves or bags.
  6. The belt has D-Rings to hang hand grenades, and they are still there on most trenches.
  7. Extra large front pockets  are big enough for anything you need to carry.
  8. The coat was double-breasted for extra coverage and the hem was lengthened, ending below the knee, to protect the legs. .

Wear a trench coat and you look instantly dashing, capable, and maybe a little dangerous. The epaulets add volume to the shoulders. The lapels are wide and sweeping. The collar, when raised, frames the face and accentuates your jawline. The belt around the waist cinches, or ties, narrowing the midsection; bringing it all in. The bottom of the coat provides a dramatic flair.

A trench coat makes it seem as if you are coming from somewhere important and on your way to someplace else far more interesting. Trench coats are not the latest style, and they never go out of fashion. They are classic, and whether at the  office or on a country drive, they are always appropriate.


The author in his Burberry Trench.

The best thing about the trench coat is that you find one for yourself with very little trouble or expense. Sure, luxury brand trenches are well over $1,000 retail, but they can be had for a few hundred on eBay.

My advice is to buy one used, take it to a tailor, and have it cut down to your perfect size. All in, it should cost you no more than $300. 

If you must buy one new, I would recommend this one from Cordings of PiccadillyCordings Fawn Hampton Mackintosh Raincoat  It is nearly indestructible and perfectly tailored.

Everyone needs a little mystery in their wardrobe and the trench gives you this and some quiet elegance. The trench coat is the obvious choice for the discerning gentleman.


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