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What are Trench Jackets?

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  • Written By: Josie Myers
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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Trench jackets, also known as trench coats, are knee-length overcoats. A belt or tie cinches the coat at the waist. They are traditionally made of a waterproof material and can double as raincoats.

The coats are available in both single and double breasted versions. Some trench jackets have hoods, which further contributes to their usefulness in wet conditions. When first introduced, most were gray or beige in color, but they are now available in just about any color or pattern imaginable.

Outfitter Thomas Burberry is credited with the invention of the coat. In 1879, he developed a durable waterproof fabric he named gabardine. The material was first used for tenting by Roald Amundsen in his trek to the South Pole in 1911.

Burberry had been the British War Office's official service uniform designer since 1901. When World War I broke out in 1914, Burberry adapted his designs using the gabardine material. The adjustments he made to the design made the coat more useful to soldiers serving in the trenches during warfare. It was from this original use that trench jackets got their name.

The popularity of military styles among the public following the war made trench jackets a popular fashion item. The fact that they were in use by military officers made them a symbol of authority and power. Private investigators and other law-oriented figures could be seen wearing them in order to establish their authority and provide an air of intimidation.

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Hollywood picked up on this fashion trend and trench jackets became the signature look for stars of film noir. Much like other fashion trends, the public popularity of the coats expanded as more stars were seen wearing the coats. They were adapted for everyday use and some were given feminine lines. They could be seen just as frequently on glamor icons like Greta Garbo as on Humphrey Bogart.

Throughout the 1900s, the trench coat fit into many genres of fashion. From heavy metal artists to couture, the material and lines of the coat decided who was able to wear it with ease. The coats had one period of dark association in the late 1990s, following the Columbine school shootings in Colorado. The shooters there and in later copycat shootings wore black trench coats, causing them to be banned from many schools.

Trench jackets remain a staple of fashion in the early 21st century and show no signs of decline. Major outfitters carry them and alter the lines slightly as fashion trends demand. Consumers are able to find them in a wide variety of materials, from wool to cotton and even synthetic leather.

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anon37274
Post 1

trench coats are really a blessing for fashion and men,lets hope they come up with more inventive new fabrics and toughest trench coats ever made.and nice review for trench coats,cheers.

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