By Alex Holder
Cotton is arguably the most classic fiber of all – it’s used in everything from coffee filters to gunpowder to our favorite fashion must-haves. This famous fiber gave way to one of the most widely accepted trends yet: the trench coat.
Used by British soldiers during the Boer War and World War I, trench coats were designed to keep soldiers dry while lying in, well, the trenches (pun intended). After the war, the trench coat became hugely popular among civilians and even made its silver screen debut in the 1940s.
But let’s rewind for a minute, all the way back to 1895 when Thomas Burberry, yes that Burberry, created this novel waterproof garment. Most of his clients at this time were farmers, so he began experimenting with our good friend cotton.He discovered that by producing tightly woven twill made from long staple Egyptian cotton, this new fabric was not only water resistant, but also weatherproof and virtually untearable. In 1897, Thomas Burberry patented this fabric, called it gabardine, and the rest is history. Nearly 14 years later when Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian explorer, conquered the South Pole, gabardine and Burberry stood up to the test.
As I said earlier, after the war was over, soldiers continued to wear their trench coats on the street and other civilians wanted in on this hot commodity. In the 1940s, women swooned over Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca and again, the classic trench coat was an integral wardrobe staple. You’ve all heard the saying… “women wanted to date him and men wanted to be him”.
Flash forward two decades and the world saw Miss Holly Golightly herself, from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in an unforgettable sight wearing none other than her Burberry trench coat. Audrey Hepburn was a fashion icon and if she wore it, you better believe everyone else wanted to wear it. Around the same time, Pink Panther came on the scene giving way to a whole new look for detectives – complete with an oversized magnifying glass, leather gloves, and of course, his trench coat.
When the trench coat was first created, it was calf-length and beige – not unlike what you probably still imagine a trench coat to look like. However, over time and through the many changes of fashion, trench coats have taken on slimmer shapes, shorter hemlines, and a variety of colors.
Some wonder why the trench coat has remained popular for over 100 years now. I think it boils down to three main things: it’s weatherproof, it’s timeless, and it’s effortless. Again and again we see this fashion staple showing up everywhere from my hometown of St. Louis to the Upper East Side a la Blair Waldorf. It really has stood the test of time and even though design continues to evolve with its wearers, the form, the fabric, and the purpose all remain the same. This classy coat has been seen throughout history on runways, war heroes, movie stars, and everyday fashionistas making trench coats truly timeless.
Are you intrenched? Find out more:
Fletcher, M. The Burberry Trench Coat. Retrieved from http://www.mrporter.com/
History of the Trenchcoat. Retrieved from http://www.traditionalrainwear.co.uk/
Horrocks, S. (2008, Nov 23). The Timeless Trench. Retrieved from http://www.so
Want To Know It. Uses of Cotton. Retrieved from http://wanttoknowit.com