Man Up: The Belted Trench for Spring/Summer 2011
March 11, 2011 3 Comments
As the snowfall quickly morphs into torrential downpour, cities like Toronto start looking less like the North Pole and more like the set of Blade Runner. The rain comes on like a shift worker hitting us for several days straight before taking a few off and then repeating the cycle. One of my Spring/Summer Essentials for 2011 is a contemporary take on one of my favourites – the men’s belted trench coat. Designers have introduced a slightly more fitted, cropped version of the classic, that we are also seeing in a variety of colours beyond the traditional khaki.
Made famous by Hollywood icons such as Humphrey Bogart, Michael Caine, Paul Newman, and Peter Sellers, the trench coat has also been the coat of choice for foreign correspondents, Mods, mobsters, and flashers the world over. The history of the trench coat can be traced back to the Boer War of 1899-1902 and World War I, to a British designer by the name of Thomas Burberry. Ring a bell? The trench coat’s military origins reveal not only the genesis of the name as they were used in the battle trenches, but also in the design. Commissioned by the UK War Office in 1901, Burberry started mass producing the lightweight weather resistant coat for use by Class 1 officers. It was made using a rugged weather resistant fabric created by Burberry called gabardine wool. Trench coats came with shoulder straps for displaying military epaulettes and rank insignia, as well as D-rings to hold military gear such as maps and swords. By the end of World War I, over half a million soldiers wore trench coats in battle, many of them bringing them home for civilian use afterwards. The rest as they say, is history.
Burberry and Aquascutum are the original manufacturers of the trench coat, but many other designers have produced their takes on the classic over the past 100+ years. If you were lucky enough to get your hands on one, Lanvin for H&M made a beautiful taupe trench coat for FW10 and H&M also has a few nice inexpensive ones in stock for SS11. Some of my favourites from the SS11 collections are shown in the photo above. They include a mustard yellow (in addition to the classic khaki) trench coat by Burberry, a red belted trench by Z Zegna, dark taupe by Gucci, white/off-white by Joop!, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Moncler Gamme Bleu.
I prefer my trench coats with the shoulder straps, raglan sleeves, belted, modest-sized lapels, double-breasted, and stopping just at or slightly above the knees. Trench coats with the collars upturned are how they were originally designed to be worn. This way your neck, hair, and face are protected from the elements. It may work for most, but I find that it makes me look like Count Dracula, so I keep the collars down. You could try accessorizing with a fedora, but honestly, it’s probably going to look too Inspector Gadget or Inspector Clouseau. Great thing about a trench coat is its versatility. It can be dressed up or down and looks just as good with a pair of Hunter Wellies as it does with dress shoes, or a pair of sneakers. Best of luck on your hunt for a cool trench coat this season. You’ll be more stylish and drier for it.