MR PORTER’s Ultimate Guide To Trench Coats

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MR PORTER’s Ultimate Guide To Trench Coats

Words by Mr Stuart Husband

18 October 2020

“Be a man, get yourself a trench coat,” sang Ms Debbie Harry in Blondie’s song “The Thin Line”. Now, we’d probably follow Ms Harry’s injunctions even if they entailed great personal risk to ourselves, but this one’s a no-brainer. The trench has been a symbol of mature utility and style ever since Mr Thomas Burberry invented rain-repellent, breathable gabardine in the 19th century and the long, light coats made from his material became battle-dress staples at the Somme and beyond (“Suitable for every war zone”, ran an early Burberry ad). Today, the trench retains its martial rigour, but has attained civvy-street-classic status, thanks to its unique combination of practicality, polish and – a development Mr Burberry probably didn’t envisage – panache. Can we dig it? Yes we can.

01. Dive into the details

If the devil is in the detail, then the trench is a fitting garment for Beelzebub himself – it’s a feat of engineering to rival the International Space Station or the Hoover Dam: from the buckled wrist-straps; button-fastened pockets – large enough, when originally devised, to hold maps of contested territory (or, these days, for iPhones that are MapQuest-enabled); and of course the strategically placed flaps and vents to keep air circulating round its rubberised interior. The trench has earned its enduring classic status by putting the “nice” into niceties.

02. The classic trench coat

“Trench coat, wing tip, going to work/And you’ll be pulling a train like Captain Kirk,” said the Beastie Boys on their classic album Paul’s Boutique, and they surely had someone very much like this gentleman in mind. We’re not sure about the whole Captain Kirk thing – it looks like he might prefer the ease of a yellow cab rather than the effort of hopping on the A-train – but this man shows great enterprise (ba-dum-tss) in opting for a belted trench that facilitates maximum nip at the waist, thus accentuating the line of the shoulders and showcasing the flair, not to mention the flare, of the skirt. To deploy a time-honoured split infinitive: this is a coat in which to boldly go to work, or to any place you please.

03. The khaki trench coat

The trench coat’s classic plays-well-with-others khaki shade makes it a natural for offsetting the palette of tints and tones you’ve scrupulously combined in your seasonal layering; it adds counterpoise to this gentleman’s black rollneck and Borsalino hat (and while we’re on the subject, there’s nothing like the latter accessory for bringing out your inner-Mr Alain Delon-style seasonal elegance). It also enlivens the grey jacket, while ramping up the contrasting-lapels and DB-frontage action. This is the trench as a lighter, brighter alternative to the overcoat.

04. The military trench coat

As the trench coat began life as a military staple, you can underscore the officer-and-a-gentleman stylings – as demonstrated here by Mr Nick Sullivan, creative director of US Esquire – by opting for double-breasted frontage, wide lapels (with cavalry-style fastening, in this instance), storm flaps, wrist cuffs and even some rank-pulling regimental-style insignia. This gentleman is perhaps wise to forgo the D-rings that, legend has it, were originally for the attachment of hand grenades; that might be too hardcore, even for a New York commute. The design is one to grace any passing out parade (in the style-graduation sense, rather than the fainting sense).

05. The patterned trench coat

We hesitate to use the term “badass”, but no other epithet will do when it comes to this gentleman’s sheer Blue Steel-busting elan. It’s there in the rakishly upswept knitted-shirt collar, the insouciantly draped scarf, the omni-slouch of the suit, the bearded swagger and the eye-popping plaid of the trench. The complete look serves to remind us that the right kind of bouncing check – one that adds dash to an outfit of perfectly balanced neutrals – is one that anyone would be happy to cash. The style proves that a trench can look just as cool open as buttoned, particularly when worn in such a laid-back, Mr Hugh Hefner-esque style.

06. The minimalist trench coat

“Never trust a man in a blue trench coat/Never drive a car when you’re dead,” Mr Tom Waits says, in his song “Telephone Call From Istanbul”. Now, we’re totally behind Mr Waits on the second piece of advice – insurance might be tricky to procure if you were definitively deceased – but we think he might reconsider the former homily if he were to clap eyes on this sleek, streamlined, single-breasted navy number. A minimalist marvel of a trench that combines maximum style with minimum fuss.

07. The bold trench coat

The trench wouldn’t have been around for more than 150 years if it hadn’t demonstrated an endless capacity for reinvention. Short or long, single- or double-breasted, military or civilian, haute or utilitarian, minimal or accoutrement-laden, classic khaki or… well, any shade in the spectrum, really, from mustard yellow to the refined wine-red shade sported by this gentleman. The close fit (and the laissez-faire approach he adopts to buttoning and belting) lend it a more “overshirt” than “overcoat” feel, enhanced by the turned-back cuffs. We’ve got a feeling that, like a fine barolo, this is one trench that will only improve with age.

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