Now regarded as a timeless style, the origins of the trench coat date back to the 1820s.
In the early 19th century, Charles Macintosh crafted coats from rubberised cotton for the British military. The coats were waterproof but lacked breathability and had a distinctive smell.
From this, other clothiers developed new waterproof fabrics that addressed the need for greater ventilation. Thomas Burberry created gabardine fabric, which coated individual fibre strands, rather than the whole fabric – resulting in a lightweight more breathable fabric.
Source: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis // British soldiers in trench coats, 1914
The classic trench coat’s design developed from the needs of soldiers during WWI. Soldiers had previously worn long wool overcoats which could be itchy, ill-fitting and heavy. The trench coat offered a silhouette that was shorter, lighter and waterproof.
The design details were functional as the storm flap on the shoulder enabled ventilation, whilst at the back a small cape allowed water to roll off. Deep pockets and D rings on the belt for attaching tools finished off the practical design.
Source: Naval Historical Center // Lieutenant General Omar Bradley and Major General J. Lawton Collin, 1944
The trench coat's design made it practical in war, but also in everyday life. The length and cut, with the adjustable belted waist made it a flattering shape for men and women. A popular style in Hollywood films, it was worn by detectives, gangsters and femme fatales alike.
Source: A Foreign Affair // Marlene Dietrich, 1948
Today, the trench coat is recognised as an iconic British design and a wardrobe staple. Our Gloverall women's trench coats put a modern spin on this timeless style. The Audrey Trench Coat features all the classic trench details with a contemporary oversize fit, whilst our Freya Trench Coat is available in rich autumnal shades and made from a chunky corduroy.