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history Trench coat

Originally a lightweight raincoat made from a breathable and waterproofed fabric, the ‘trench coat’ was marketed by different outfitters as a sports and leisure garment for the upper class. The trench coat was given its classic form during the First World War, when it was adopted for military use, as a replacement for the traditional heavy woollen greatcoat.

history Trench coat

trench-coat
Photo: Getty Images

The trench coat was the result of the latest technical development and textile innovation when it was introduced in the late 1800s; and it was designed as a practical and high-performance garment, with each part of the coat serving a specific function. Originally a lightweight raincoat made from a breathable and waterproofed fabric, it was marketed by different outfitters as a sports and leisure garment for the upper class. The trench coat was given its classic form during the First World War, when it was adopted for military use, as a replacement for the traditional heavy woollen greatcoat.

The new trench coat was double-breasted with a belted waist to fit comfortably over a uniform; knee-length and slightly flared with a vent in the back, covering most of the body but still allowing the wearer to move. The pockets were large and deep and could be reached from both the outside and the inside, and the belt featured rings where accessories could be fastened. The cuffs could be tightened and the collar buttoned up to keep the weather out; on the shoulders, a deep back yoke protected from water seeping in.

A certain ‘war glamour’ made trench coats fashionable among civilians in both Europe and America. It was also an aspirational garment, identified with the upper classes, and the coats were worn as a way of showing support and solidarity with the military. Used in Hollywood on both men and women from the 1930s, commonly to connote austerity and mystique, the trench coat was re-interpreted in Paris in 1962 as a distinctively feminine item.