From Flashers to Dashers - The Trench Coat

From Flashers to Dashers - The Trench Coat

The trench coat conjures up images of Cold War spies - and flashers - lurking in shadows, soldiers during the great (not so great) war and movies stars such as Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.  But where did this famous coat come from?

Both John Emary of the impressive but awkwardly named 'Aquascutum' (from latin, meaning water and shield) and Thomas Burberry, of the now famous Burberry company, claimed the honour of inventing it.  However they actually had some material to work with (don't pardon the pun).  From rainy Scotland, where needs must, Charlie Macintosh and Thomas Hancock created The Macintosh weatherproof jacket and some 50 years later John Emary patented a new water repellant but breathable fabric for his coats.  Three years later Thomas Burberry also created his 'gabadine' fabric whereby individual strands of cotton and wool fibre were weatherproofed, rather than the finished textile.  Burberry's fabric was the most breathable yet, proving popular with explorers, aviators and other adventurous gentlemen.

The new style coats were expensive and affordable only to the well off, and because of its practical yet stylish features, became a popular choice of officers during WWI.  The images of brave and dashing soldiers wearing their coats off to war helped romanticize the coat and also indeed created the name - Trench Coat.

After WWII, the trench coat started appearing on stars in many famous and now classic movies, further enhancing it's desirability.  Think Marlene Dietrich in A Foreign Affair, Meryl Streep in Kramer vs Kramer and Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's.  With Burberry using Kate Moss in it's 90's ad campaign, its cult status was cemented.

It is beautifully constructed and the collar is especially intricate.  It takes a tailor a year to learn how to sew and more than 180 stitches need to be handsewn to create a perfectly smooth curve.  Of course, there are numerous imitations making it more affordable - perhaps without the hand sewn stitches!  Flattering to all shapes and sizes, the trench coat is timeless and iconic.

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