The Rise of The Classic Trench Coat

The Rise of The Classic Trench Coat

The reliable trench coat is a popular wardrobe item and the quintessential rainy season companion for everyone. The distinct long coat however had a different purpose before dispersing into the fashion industry and your local retail store.


The trench coat was originally designed as a military necessity in the1820s by Charles Macintosh. These were developed for the Army officers, who needed waterproof coats to replace their long, heavy, and itchy wool coats.

Macintosh revolutionized this need by constructing long coats of cotton, laminated with rubber that was dubbed Macs. The Trench coat is defined by the following features:

  • Waterproof fabric
  • Double-breasted silhouette,
  • Wide lapels,
  • A storm flap
  • Knee or full length
  • Waist belt
  • Buckle cuffs around the wrists and
  • 6-10 button fastening

The coats that Macintosh designed did repel rain, but they were costly to produce and made the wearer miserable because of the excessive heat that would get trapped inside. Through the years, the trench coat went through several developments for it to be more wearable for extended hours. In 1853, John Emary developed and patented a less smelly and more breathable fabric that was just as water-repellent as the original rubberized cotton. Subsequently, in 1856, Thomas Burberry too created the iconic gabardine fabric, a waterproof twill fabric, which was more supple, lighter, and comfortable to wear.

Since then, both Aquascutum and Burberry are credited for having introduced the trench coat that we use even today.

War and Popularity

During World War I, trench coats were made for first-rank officers only, which led to their association with upper-class society. The design of the trench coat was also ideal for everyday use, hence, even after the war was over, officers wore their trench coats at home. This initiated their popularity among civilians. Other countries recognized their usefulness and developed these coats to be used by officers as well as soldiers. Trenches gradually began to be used in the field and were available in shorter iterations, making them more versatile and allowing for greater mobility.

The Contribution of Hollywood

During the 1940s, Hollywood began paying homage to the battlefield trenches and introduced them to the silver screens. Donned by some of the most memorable characters, the trench coat garnered a lot of attention as the rendition of a powerful, brave and mysterious persona, while still looking effortlessly stylish.

The Present

During the 1990s, various ateliers fashioned the trench coat in new and eccentric silhouettes and shifted from the classic beige or military shades to brighter colors. From royalty to movie stars, trench coats have been worn throughout the century as a fashion statement rendering a fearless and smart look. Equivalent to the popularity of blue jeans or a white crew neck t-shirt, the trench coat today is one of the most revered items and has lived up to its relevance.

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