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Style History: The Burberry Trench Coat

A piece of clothing that was never intended to become a worldwide style icon, Burberry’s trench coat is instantly recognisable for its sleek, classic and refined aesthetic. We delve into the archives of one of Britain’s most-loved brands to discover the history behind this iconic and covetable design.

Behind the design
Its name derived from the trenches where military personnel were stationed in WW1, the original Burberry trench coat was designed in 1912 by Thomas Burberry to keep officers protected against wind and rain.

Initially developed for the military, each feature on a trench coat has been specifically designed for a reason. The epaulettes were added to display the rank of the officers while the storm shield, found on the upper back, enabled water to run off the coat and keep the wearer dry. A pleat was also featured on the back which allowed for ease of movement when running or on horseback.

Made in Castleford, a town in the north of England, over 100 highly-skilled processes need to be completed to create a Burberry trench coat, the same processes that have been used since the design was borne, and in the same place. Each trench coat takes approximately three weeks to make.

The Burberry trench coat is crafted using gabardine, a tough and hard-wearing fabric invented by Thomas Burberry in 1879. Tight in its weave, gabardine is water-repellent yet allows for ventilation, and is still woven in Burberry’s English mill to this day.

The ever-recognisable Burberry check, a signature combination of camel, ivory, red and black, is used to line the trench coats, and this has been so since the 1920s.

Burberry’s trench today
Despite being designed for officers, the easy-to-spot Burberry trench coat gained popularity by film stars, artists and royalty, and today, is a style staple among the A-list elite due to its versatility; from office tailoring to decadent evening ensembles, the coat really does go with everything and acts as a perfect layer inbetween seasons. Sported by Alexa Chung and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley on numerous occasions, other style-setters spotted wearing the celebrated classic include Jessica Chastain, Poppy Delevingne and Clémence Poésy; Burberry’s Autumn/Winter 2014 campaign saw Cara Delevingne, Malaika Firth and Tarun Nijjer modelling the trench, proving how the brand is fast becoming much-coveted by a new generation.

For The Burberry Man
Relatively unchanged since its initial inception, the men's Burberry trench coat remains a style staple for the modern gent. From the classic Kensington trench coat to the slim-fit Sandringham in chic black, stone and timeless camel hues, the trench coat’s enduring appeal ensures it is just as well paired with sharp tailoring as it is with off-duty denim and cashmere. Loved by a celebrity clientele that spans generations and genres, the Burberry trench coat can count on David Gandy, Eddie Redmayne and the entire Brooklyn clan as fans. For those with a finger on the sartorial pulse, the launch of Mr Burberry, Burberry’s new men’s fragrance, celebrates the iconic design with a capsule collection of trench coats; for a riff on everyday style, the cobalt blue version – exclusive to Harrods – will instantly lift a year-round wardrobe with a rich dose of colour.

Take part in fashion history and choose from our wide, varied selection of Burberry trenches.

Want to know what else we’re loving? Discover our edit of Power Pieces.

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