By Stan Mukoro
â€œWhen I put on a trench coat, I try not to use any other accessories.
The look is fabulous. Itâ€™s perfect as it is.â€â€” Juun.J
In 1914, Thomas Burberry introduced a unique item to the British Army during World War I that has evolved to be one of the most functional and iconic in the history of apparel. Simply dubbed the â€œtrench coatâ€ by Burberry, the soldiers wore it in inclement weather as they traveled and battled in the mud soaked trenches. Since that time, the design has been adapted in fashion houses all over the world, restyled, reinterpreted and retailed repeatedly for men, women, children and yes, even pets. Nearly a century later, the trench coat is still timeless and stylish as it struts its stuff with confidence in collections on and off the runway. For men especially, it is an investment piece and quite frankly, just as important as owning a suit.
A style chameleon in its own right, the trench coat easily adapts to different seasons and climates and its water repellency is the best protection for your clothing. Recently, I was in Africa on business and it just so happened to be rainy season in the country I was in. The daily downpour was so intense that it seemed artificial. From a window, I witnessed the spectacular drenching men dressed in business suits were getting as they attempted to dash from their cars to nearby buildings in ankle deep water. I cringed at the thought of being â€œtrench-lessâ€. Getting my suits wet is a crime in my eyes. Lucky for me, I prepare well when I travel.
Todayâ€™s classic trench imitates the original Burberry design and features many of the same elements: the flanged back, the D ring, the epaulettes, the belt, the wrist straps and the buttoning flap on the shoulder. However, a hint of modernity was added by adjusting the length. The traditional trench falls at the knee or just above. Shorter coats are also available but are considered more casual. Either length can be found in a single or double-breasted style, with or without a belt or lining and available in a sea of colors and fabrics.
My trench adoration could be considered borderline obsessive because my collection includes a range of styles and colors. I began with an ageless khaki style by Burberry. Up next were black and navy. While still classy colors, they are more cutting edge in the grand scheme of trench coat tradition. Breaking away from the subdued hues, a bold impression is made with more distinctive colors. Royal blue, burgundy, mocha brown, red and canary yellow versions of this modern must-have coat were fantastic finds that never fail in pulling my look together. The acquaintance between the trench and trendier colors may seem like a stretch, but believe me they are received very well. A white t-shirt and jeans paired with my red trench coat is a simple fashion statement kicked up a notch.
When you are in the market for a new trench, consider when and where you will be wearing it. Donâ€™t forget to wear a blazer when trying on to test how easily the coat slips on and off. Consider a raglan sleeve rather than a set-in-one to allow room for the sleeves of the blazer underneath. A coat with no lining can serve as a raincoat or topcoat in warmer climates. If it has a buttoned, zippered or non-detachable lining, it will come in handy in cooler climates.
Trench coats are rain wear and their initial purpose is to be rainproof. Mackintosh uses rubberized fabric or rubber laminated material. Gabardine, developed by Burberry, makes their pieces water resistant, yet breathable. Cotton, poplin and sometimes leather; are other fabrics designers like Reiss, Banana Republic, J. Crew and Ralph Lauren experiment with. Waterproofing is the best protection from the worst that rain can inflict on the wearer. A great trench coat manufacturer puts that at the top of their priority list.
The on-going revival of the trench through the generations is confirmation that a great design is stylish and timeless. The point of this classic piece is there is a pattern a design canâ€™t stray too far from. The trench coat is resilient, durable and now more fashionable than ever. From corporate offices to formal events to trips to the barbershop on Saturday mornings, the trench coat is appropriate for all reasons and seasons.
Weekly tip: The belt of a trench coat can be worn tied in the front or back. If you opt to wear the belt in the front, tie it donâ€™t buckle it.