The elegant trench coat has been a staple in men’s wardrobes for decades. It’s a stylish, classic, and practical piece of outerwear that can work with many different styles, and for many different occasions. It’s definitely a worthwhile investment if you’re looking for a coat that will make you look sharp while also keeping you warm. There are many variations of the trench coat. They can come in a variety of colors and fabrics, plus you can choose a single or double breasted silhouette. Below is our guide to help you find the perfect trench coat.
What Is A Trench Coat?
You might be wondering exactly what a trench coat is. What differentiates it from other types of coats and makes it special? Essentially, a trench coat is a long, belted, waterproof coat. It is another type of outerwear with military origins so trench coats very often have details like epaulettes, gun flaps, raglan sleeves, a back yoke and vent, and storm pockets. A traditional trench coat will be made of 100% cotton gabardine, a lightweight yet durable and waterproof type of worsted Egyptian cotton. However, the style has evolved a lot over the years and can also be made of different fabrics like wool, leather, or different varieties of cotton. As for the length, a trench coat can reach anywhere from mid-thigh to ankle. Due to its practicality and versatility, a trench coat makes a great layering piece during the fall, winter, and spring.
The History Of The Trench Coat
The trench coat was created by Thomas Burberry in the late 1800s as a more lightweight alternative to Aquascutum’s rubberized Macintosh raincoats. In fact, it was Burberry who patented gabardine cotton. To this day the Burberry fashion house is still best known for its trench coats. Because of their comfort and durability, soldiers began wearing Burberry and Aquascutum coats during the Boer Wars. By World War I they had gained solid popularity and many soldiers wore them while on duty in the trenches, which is where the name originates from. Soldiers continued to wear trench coats in World War II, and the style retained popularity after the war. There was a surplus in military clothing after the wars so it was common for regular civilians to wear military styles. Hollywood popularized the trench coat after featuring it in Humphrey Bogart’s iconic outfit in Casablanca, and the trench coat has basically remained in style ever since.
How To Style Trench Coats
Though trench coats today can come in a variety of colors, the main ones you will find are navy, grey, and black. Traditional trench coats were double breasted, but nowadays you can easily find single breasted versions if that’s the style that you prefer. So which kind of trench coat should you choose?
Navy Trench Coats
Navy Trench Coat. Navy is a rich and elegant color that looks amazing during the fall and winter. If you like wearing navy suits, a navy trench coat is the perfect cover up as it will definitely cover the suit jacket leaving with you with a stylish monochrome look. Another formal way to wear a navy trench coat is with a grey suit.
Navy trench coats also work well with more casual styles. They look great with blue jeans and a shirt if it’s warm enough, or a sweater if it’s cooler. You can also swap the jeans for tan or grey chinos in the fall/winter, or white in the spring for a brighter look. Some colors that look great with navy (for shirts and sweaters) are white, hunter green, brown, beige/tan/camel, grey, olive, or lighter shades of blue. And in case you were wondering - yes, you can wear navy with black. Add a something grey for a cool and smart color palette, for example a grey sweater with black pants and accessories (shoes, scarf, gloves).
Grey Trench Coats
Grey is a versatile shade that works well for any season. A grey trench coat is an excellent layering piece for a lighter colored suit, like beige or pale blue in the spring. You can also use a dark grey or charcoal trench coat to pair with dark suits (black, navy) or create a monochromatic effect with a grey suit in a different shade - this works well both ways.
For a more casual feel, use your grey trench coat to dress up your favorite jeans and t-shirt combo for a stylish weekend look in the fall or spring. If you prefer chinos, a grey trench coat will work with just about any color: beige, navy, black, khaki. As for shirts and sweaters? White, black, burgundy, olive, blue, mustard, or beige. Grey also works as a great neutral backdrop for checks, so you can always wear checked chinos or trousers are a great bet if you like prints. You can also add bright pops of color like red or cobalt blue via accessories (scarves, ties) if the rest of your look is fairly neutral.
Camel Trench Coats
Camel or beige is the most classic style of trench coat. This light neutral color works perfectly for fall or spring. It looks great with any color of suit, but especially with light colored or check suits. In the fall, camel looks amazing with traditional earthy colors as it falls in the same color family. You can combine your camel trench coat with colors like khaki, rust, mustard, and brown - this works for shirts, sweaters, or chinos. For example, a mustard or rust sweater with dark khaki chinos and a camel trench coat. Alternately you can treat camel as a regular neutral during other times of the year and wear it with white, black, grey, or navy. Wear your camel trench coat over a crisp white shirt and navy, black, or grey chinos for a timeless outfit.
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Black Trench Coats
Black is a classic that goes well with everything. You can wear your black trench coat over any color of suit, solid or printed, or with more casual types of outfits. Stick to all black everything for the dark and mysterious look. For easy neutrals wear a white/beige shirt or sweater with black bottoms, or if you prefer something brighter choose a more colorful piece instead. For a great transitional look, layer your black trench coat over a light-colored outfit (white or beige). Create contrast with checked or colored trousers. Depending on how casual or formal you want to look, you can wear a t-shirt, shirt, or sweater on top.
Single Breasted vs Double Breasted
Modern trench coats come in both varieties, so which should you choose? If you want to stay true to the original trench coat style, go for a double breasted version. A double breasted version offers more chest protection and warmth as it has the extra fabric to cover you up. A double breasted silhouette may also make your chest look bigger and your waist look smaller. However, on some men it may end up looking too bulky in which case they should stick to single breasted. A single breasted trench coat would also be a better choice if you don’t need the extra fabric protection, if you’re looking for a light spring/fall coat.
How Should A Trench Coat Fit?
A trench coat is meant to be a layering piece, so it shouldn’t be too tight. You want to have enough room to comfortably layer a thick sweater or a lighter jacket (such as a suit jacket) underneath. That being said, you don’t want it to look too loose or big either. If it’s starting to look baggy, it’s probably too big. The sleeves should reach just above your thumb so that any long sleeves underneath are well hidden. The length doesn’t really matter as there is no standard length for a trench coat. Just bear in mind that an above-the-knee coat will elongate your legs, while longer ones might make your legs look shorter. Remember to use the belt on your trench coat, as it will taper in your waist while making your shoulders and chest look broader. If it’s a warm day and you want to wear your trench coat open, neatly knot your belt in the back rather than leaving empty beltholes for a more polished look.
Now that you’re a trench coat expert, which style will you pick?