Timeless and tailored, a trench coat is a classic wardrobe staple for both men and women. The trench coat, for all its utilitarian trappings, is inexplicably linked to drama. From “Casablanca” to “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” to “The Matrix,” the trench coat looms large in pop culture as a cinematic signifier of intrigue and romance. Due to its cultural associations with everyone from hard-boiled detectives to glamorous socialites, the trench coat adds style and flair to any outfit. When it comes to wearing a trench coat appropriately, it’s best to consider the time of day, occasion and the weather.
In the Trenches
Transitional seasons like fall and spring are the best time to wear a trench coat. Trench coats are typically made of gabardine, heavy canvas or cotton, and while they can repel raindrops they do little to keep out a heavy winter chill. Their length and relative bulk make them impractical for summertime heat. When wearing a trench coat in the fall or spring add lightweight pieces like long-sleeved cotton t-shirts, cotton-wool blend sweaters, button down shirts and slacks or jeans for a layered look that provides additional warmth. Women can pair skirts with trench coats, but choose a skirt that extends past the hem of the jacket to avoid looking like you aren’t wearing one.
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night …
British designer Thomas Burberry first invented the trench coat as a military garment at the beginning of the twentieth century. Made in lightweight gabardine, another Burberry invention, the trench coat protected military men from wind and rain. Rainy weather is the perfect time to sport a trench coat, though some cotton and twill versions do little to repel rain and water. Spritzing a water-repelling spray on fabric will make your trench coat rain-ready.
A trench coat is an elegant option for evening, especially for women. The belted trench coat defines your waist while the silhouette adds drama and flair. A khaki trench coat is appropriate regardless of the time of day, but an evening trench coat is an especially glamorous option. Choose a coat in a heavy satin in a bold hue, or woven cotton with a subtle metallic finish. Evening trenches may also up their inherent drama by including dramatic folds, beaded trim and statement buttons. When slipped over a little black dress, an evening trench coat completes a timeless look.
We’ll Always Have Trenchcoats
Toss on a trench coat whenever you feel like adding a dose of mystery to your everyday style. Sunglasses up the drama factor, and while trench coats give even jeans and sneakers an elegant edge, sophisticated separates, impeccable grooming and a trench coat create an outfit that will make onlookers stop and stare for all the right reasons.
References and ResourcesGQ: When to Wear a Trench Coat
The Sunday Times: Trench Coats for Men -- How to Wear Them
"Effortless Style"; June Ambrose et. al.
"The Classic Ten -- The True Story of the Little Black Dress and Nine Other Fashion Favorites"; Nancy MacDonell Smith