Page 18

W

hether you’re fighting for Burberry or Aquascutum, one textured history is shared by both of these iconic companies of the fashion industry. Originally tailor‑made for use by soldiers, trench coats were a necessary solution to military obstacles created by the heavy uniforms worn by the British and French armies. Specifically during World War I, trench warfare was highly prevalent and created difficult conditions for soldiers to navigate as they held ground against opposing forces, such as bitter winds and thick mud. A lighter, shorter, and less noticeable coat was needed. Emerging from the fashion industry in 1879, Thomas Burberry pursued a solution for this matter by developing gabardine, which became a standard for Tielocken coats. Unlike previously worn coats that had been waxed or rubberized, gabardine is a very tightly woven and water-repellent cloth of lightweight and breathable form. First tested in a military setting with the Boer War in 1895, the coat proved successful and led to the distribution of half a million during World War I.

Across the table, Aquascutum sat, claiming to have developed a design as early as the 1850s. With waterproof wool patented by the company, their trench is claimed to have been fitted to soldiers fighting in the Crimean War. Being mass-produced by these very dominant companies, the trench coat seemed to be a standard to a soldier’s uniform. While the coat appeared to be a solution to the mobility problems of a soldier, the warmth and protection it offered military personnel was also needed at the time. The coat began to be used outside of the military realm, and money was meant to be made from the design which would later become one of the most iconic articles of clothing in modern fashion. With multiple fashion companies emerging, trench coats became a trend noticeable among the public rather than military. The khaki coat originally meant to thwart the discovery of foot soldiers became a sleek and “cool” look because of many Hollywood personalities, such as Audrey Hepburn and the detective characters of Humphrey Bogart.

This celebrity endorsement formed a sense of heroism and honor in wearing the new fashion, and in turn the public became a nationalistic figure resembling the military. In today’s industry, the trench coat iconography splashes across many campaigns by Aquascutum and Burberry as supermodels form the body of individuals now wearing the military design. Withstanding the test of time and wars subsequent to the first World War, the trench coat has remained a powerful article of fashion that much of the world’s population holds in its closet. Whether you know military history or not, the true victor of late 19th and early 20th century warfronts has been the trench coat’s unmistakable image. +

1 LINDA RODRIGUEZ MCROBBIE, “WORLD WAR I: 100 YEARS LATER, THE CLASSY RISE OF THE TRENCH COAT,” SMITHSONIAN, 2015. 2 SIMON ARMSTRONG, “THE TRENCH COAT’S FORGOTTEN WW1 ROOTS,” BBC NEWS, 2014.

TRENCH from wartime to wardrobe, ­­­the evolution of the trench coat

WRITTEN AND PHOTOGRAPHED BY CASEY FRANKLIN

Profile for ellipse magazine

Positive Negative Magazine Volume 9  

Positive/Negative Magazine is the result of a powerful collaboration between senior graphic designers and photographers in the College of Im...

Positive Negative Magazine Volume 9  

Positive/Negative Magazine is the result of a powerful collaboration between senior graphic designers and photographers in the College of Im...

Profile for posnegmag