The Trench Coat

It was made to keep the rain out but evolved into a timeless fashion item. Through history it’s been a favourite with royals, movie stars and modern day fashion icons. This is how you should wear it this season.

The trench coat at Michael Kors FW 2015, Getty Images.

In the 1870s, a British clothier invented the rugged fabric gabardine. The fabric was a mix of wool and cotton and was chemically processed to repel rain. But it wasn’t just water repellent; it was also untearable, crease-resistant and breathable. Several years later – in 1901 – the same clothier presented a gabardine raincoat to the British army. The coat was adopted as a part of the officers uniform.

The clothiers name was Thomas Burberry and the coat became a part of fashion history. As a matter of fact, when you look up the word “Burberry” in an Oxford English Dictionary, it reads “A kind of lightweight belted raincoat, typically beige in colour, with a distinctive tartan lining.” 

During the First World War the coat was part of both the British and the French uniform. To fit the troops' needs, the coat was modified with shoulder straps and D-rings. When returning from the trenches of the French frontiers, soldiers continued wearing the coat in their daily life. This is when the coat became mainstream – and got its name. The trench coat was born.

Since then, the now timeless design has been an outerwear essential in both men’s and women’s fashion. In comparison to many other classic items, the trench coat has stayed true to its original design with little to no edits over the decades that have passed. The trench coat is probably the most iconic outerwear of them all – worn by royals, movie stars, fashion icons and everyone else.

Even though Burberry’s trench coat is the most famed of all, the history of the coat is debated. Before Burberry, the British luxury brand Aquascutum [Latin for water shield] had manufactured coats for officers during the Crimean War in the 1850s. The Aquascutum coats were also worn during the world wars.

Opened, buttoned up, hanging on the shoulders or tied at the waist. It’s hard to go wrong with a timeless trench coat, but there are good ways and great ways to wear it. A great way is to tie it at the waist and wear it with tight trousers for a beautiful silhouette. 

Stylist Columbine Smille tells H&M Life about this, a little less traditional, trench coat, styled with this season’s hottest jean trend: the flare.

“This coat is a little longer and wider than the standard, and perfect to grab and go when you’re in a hurry”, she says.

“I absolutely think so! The trench coat is such a timeless item, so I recommend trying an updated version of it.”


Photographer Tobias Lundkvist’s favourite items are the classics: a black t-shirt and Chuck Taylors. Stylist Columbine Smille’s favourite item is the perfect black silk dress. Our model is the lovely Chiharu Okunugi. Hair by Mette Thorsgaard and makeup by Josefin Scherdin.

Phylicia Rashad as Clair Hanks Huxtable in The Cosby Show, Meryl Streep in the classic 70s film Kramer vs. Kramer, Amy Adams, french singer/actress Francoise Hardy, Kate Moss for Burberry, Sophia Loren in The Key, Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard in matching Burberry trench coats from the final scene of Breakfast at Tiffanys and Goldie Hawn, Getty Images/All Over Press.
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