THE HISTORY OF THE TRENCH COAT
The history of the trench coat should be a binary story that started with the slaughter in trenches in Norther Europe during the 1st World War and finished with a garment that was once a uniform, becoming a badge of elegance and individuality yet whilst still always priding itself on its broad appeal.
It is not as simple as that however, and the story of the Trench reaches back in history to the early 17th century when the coat was a relative newcomer and the outer garment of choice was the mantle. When looking at the ancestry, its lineage should start with the coachman coats of the 18th century from which the greatcoat*, a more gentrified garment was derived. In pre-rail Britain the greatcoat was ubiquitous and in similarity to the coachman and later trench coats, the architecture of the garment lent it an accidental glamour that men of fashion were quick to exploit.
During the latter stages of the 18th century, overcoat styles were produced in increasing styles and quantities and then in the early 19th century, advances saw the introduction of gas lighting to big cities which was in turn to have an effect on the development of rainwear. In Glasgow, this gas was derived from coal and one of the waste products was a liquid called coal tar napitha which was used in-between two layers of cloth to create a waterproof fabric. Shapeless, and stinking, the Mackintosh was born but was heavy, went rigid in the cold and sticky in the heat.
ANATOMY OF THE TRENCH COAT
The architecture of the trench evolved out of utility and practicality: to protect against the weather, or serve its wearer in the inhospitable environment of the trenches. Each of its defining features can linked with a function, rather than the flourish of a tailor or designer.
One of the cornerstones is the raglan sleeve, which made its debut in the 19th century, it was the first Baron Raglan who gave his name to the style of sleeve that reaches the neckline, and is characterised by a diagonal sleeve across the front of the garment. This unique cut allows the garment an increased ease of movement which can be shrugged on and off opposed to being got into (the reason why a raglan sleeve appears on all sorts of sportswear).
Other classic identifiers of a trench coat are welted pockets, two rows of 10 buttons in all down the front of the coat, and a storm flap at the shoulder under which the lapel can be buttoned in inclement weather, A hook and eye fastening closes the coat at the neck, while the collar can be raised to cover the chin and secured using a strap and buckle system called a throat latch. Further weather protection is found at the wrist with another strap and buckle.
The waist belt has D Rings, which were originally used to suspend items of warfare such as grenades, swords and ordinance maps. The shoulder straps were used to secure shoulder slung items such as binoculars, gas masks and whistles, or to hold gloves.
Today the Trenches are handcrafted using a 21 point process, which involves 38 specialist using hand operated machinery and no automated processes to ensure the quality fit, functionality and luxurious handle of the product is evident and stays that way for years to come. Garment assembly is carried out using specialist sewing machines with each element of this process being carried out by an operative who is skilled in this particular process. Having had the lining sewn together and inserted, the front button holes are marked and machined with great precision to ensure they are in the correct position to ensure the coat drapes and fits correctly to keep out the elements.