A short history of luxury : The trench coat, from the trenches via Hollywood to today

For this new episode of your series A short history of luxury, Luxus+ takes a look at the history of the iconic and mythical rain coat par excellence, the trench coat. Worn by soldiers during the First World War before being exported to Hollywood, the trench coat is still a wardrobe staple in the 21st century.


The trench coat was originally a descendant of waterproof coats created by Scottish chemist and inventor Charles Macintosh and British inventor Thomas Hancock in the early 1820s.


Quickly adopted during the First World War, it became a marker of social distinction. Indeed, the trench coat was generally worn by officers of the rank of officer.


© Getty Images


Burberry and the trench coat

Thomas Burberry, a Hampshire cloth merchant, founded his eponymous company in 1856 and created a lighter fabric made of a very tight, waterproof weave called gabardine. The Burberry trench coat was born and has been the company’s signature piece since 1879.


© Getty Images


Before being named as we know it today, Thomas Burberry gave it the name Tielocken but it was soon replaced by trench coat, which means “trench coat”, in reference to the soldiers who wore it during the war. Thanks to the invention of gabardine, soldiers were now protected from the harsh and rainy weather during the fighting. Its advantage during the war? Its beige or khaki colour, so that it could be easily camouflaged during fierce fighting.


The Burberry trench coat is made up of several elements that define it and have a specific function. What are they? A double-breasted front, a folded collar, an inner lining, the belt, D-buckles, shoulder tabs, sleeve tabs, a chest flap, and a back storm flap.


The trench coat and Hollywood celebrities


Once worn by officers in the trenches during the war, Hollywood and its celebrities helped to make it a staple in both men’s and women’s wardrobes. Hollywood dusted it off from its officer image and replaced it with that of the intrepid detective, the cunning gangster or the femme fatale.


Marilyn Monroe dans “Let’s Make Love” / © Presse


Jean-Paul Belmondo and his eternal trench coat in Tendre Voyou (1966), playing the role of Tony Maréchal, a man without any scruples and always on the lookout for a good deal.


© Tony Frank


Italian actress Sophia Loren in The Key (1958), Brigitte Bardot in Babette Goes to War (1959), Catherine Deneuve in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) – Hollywood transformed the trench coat, giving it a new image for the world.


Sophia Lauren dans “The Key” / © Presse


The trench coat and current fashion

A timeless and essential piece for the catwalks, the trench coat is now revisited and adapted by the greatest fashion houses, notably Burberry. It retains its initial characteristics, but is given more of the craziness of the wartime era. It has become avant-garde, with bright colours, new cuts, new prints and much more.


© Burberry


The trench coat has been revisited by many fashion houses such as Loewe, during the spring-summer 2022 show.


© Loewe


From Marilyn Monroe to Catherine Deneuve, Cara Delevingne to Blake Lively, the trench coat is and will always be synonymous with chic and elegance.






Featured photo : © Burberry

Grâce à une veille accrue et à une excellente connaissance de ces secteurs, la rédaction de Luxus Magazin décrypte pour ses lecteurs les principaux enjeux économiques et technologiques de la mode, l’horlogerie, la joaillerie, la gastronomie, les parfums et cosmétiques, l’hôtellerie, et l’immobilier de prestige.


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