Originally created for British soldiers during the First World War, the trench coat became popular among civilians when troops continued to wear the coats for everyday wear back home. So, how to wear a trench coat, nearly 100 years on? Let’s look back, in moving forward.
Fashion’s Burberry and Acquascutum both claim to have invented the trench, which soared to celebrity heights via Humphrey Bogart in ‘Casablanca’. Then, stylish gents David Hockney and Jean-Paul Belmondo as the 20th century ticked on. But, whoever the creator or pop-culture pioneer, what’s absolutely certain is the jacket’s timelessness.
The trench is a wardrobe staple really due to the fact it hasn’t swayed all that much from its original design – functional, but with fashionable, masculine taste in mind.
Breaking Down The Trench Coat
A step up from the cotton blazer and less weighty than a wool overcoat, the fit and fabric of the trench coat makes the outerwear piece an essential for any season, adaptable to any type of weather.
Fabric & Construction
The true trench will bear the hallmarks of its military origins: wide lapels, double-breasted design and an adjustable belt around the waist held by ‘D’ rings (no longer used to attach map cases and other army equipment).
Most come made from cotton gabardine, a tightly woven and breathable fabric that protects against the elements. Storm shields, a throat latch and hook-and-eye collar provide protection from the weather with traditional trench coats, serving their purpose in style and function.
When it comes to hue, you can’t go wrong with camel, beige or taupe, the original and the best. Again, this is fashion, and trends are what keeps style interesting. This season there are a bevy of bold colourways – blue, green and burgundy, and cautious prints – check, camouflage and even slogan prints on the back. Keep in mind dress codes before you invest in a crazy looking trench, versatility is key with this old-timer.
While from the classic double-breasted style is a winner, there are single-breasted trenches on the market, which serve their purpose as protectors and style leaders. They are even more subtle than their DB comrade, less regal with military motifs, more streamline and clean, reflections of minimalism.
Trench Coats For Your Body Type
Tall gents should be looking for longer styles that finish a couple of inches above the knee, breaking up their towering stature. Shorter men, opt for slightly cropped styles, which still cover the suit making you look taller, and not like a kid in dad’s clothes.
Tied up and sung, the trench also flatters a boxy body shape (perfect for the larger gent). Worn open, the sharp, square shoulder – crowned with epaulettes – broadens the torso, giving the illusion of width (perfect for the skinny guy). Read on for some trench coat styling tips.
How To Wear The Trench Coat
Work Approved Trench Coats
Tailoring, whether a full suit or separates, is the perfect trench partnership. A grey suit for the office can be softened by a camel or beige trench. If it’s spring or autumn, wear it open, the collar slightly popped as a DIY-windbreak for the neck. Stick to black lace-ups to anchor the look or switch in a pair of brogues in brown (yes, even in ‘town’) to work with the earthen trench. Tortoiseshell shades and a neutral-stripe tie make for an accessories win.
In warmer weather, give away the blazer all-together and rock a trench instead of the suit jacket. It’s more streamline and neat, and perfect for the not-so-corporate office. Keep the shirt-and-tie combo tasteful, muted-colours and subtle patterns for the latter.
Coloured Trench Coats
While tan, black and navy are more common outerwear shades, the coloured trench has become de rigeur this season. A far more casual look, raincoat yellows, forest green and washed-burgundy are key blocks of colour, layered mostly over all-black ensembles for a stark contrast against the greyish urban landscape.
The sophisticated jacket – in a sparky shade – looks great over cropped trousers, a shirt and sweater or unstructured blazer. Look for an oversized shape too, to inject a streetwear edge to the tailoring.
Belting Up Your Trench Coat
Take some time to focus on the waistline. The trench’s built in belt cinches the torso for a tapered fit, which adds a chic finish to a suit or roll neck. Just like the Italians, a bit of nonchalant styling looks best. Don’t be too pedantic about tying the belt just right. Instead, half tied at the front, or a double-tie to the side.
In summer, leave an inch or two gap between the jacket meet – and tie the belt to side for a purposeful styling that looks effortless. Final tip? Pop the collar for a built-in scarf function and some added neck flare.
Sporty Trench Coats & Sneakers
If you haven’t already guessed it, your trousers and more importantly, shoes, will determine the style code for your trench. Enter sneakers and active pants. This duo will put a jog in your trench-step, ranging from the retro runner to the minimal low-cut trainer in white (perforated for a textural twist).
Coloured kicks are perfect base notes for active-pants, joggers in jersey with a cuffed hem being the most obvious trouser. But for those who don’t feel dressed unless they’re wearing trousers, moisture-wicking wool pants and elastane chinos are stylish and functional options.
To encourage movement, the sporty look requires the trench to fluid, worn open and relaxed with the belt loosely knotted behind your back, ready to wrap it up when the weather changes.