Everyone needs a Burberry trench in their wardrobe, that's a given. But to understand why this iconic piece has become such a quintessential piece of modern fashion, it is necessary to unearth the history of the Burberry trench coat. The classic shape, perfected by the luxury heritage label in 1912, was originally designed as part of Britain’s official military uniform.
Since 1912 the Burberry trench coat has kept its wearers warm, dry and shielded from the wind in iconic style. In its lifetime, the classic Burberry trench coat has been adopted by wartime soldiers, Hollywood actors and world-renowned models.
While the classic Burberry trench coat might be neutral in colour, it has a vibrant history. From the trenches of Normandy to the sandy plains of Dubai, we’ve delved into the journey of this quintessentially British design.
History in the making
The Burberry coat first made an appearance on the battlefields of WW1, taking its title from the trenches of Normandy. Thomas Burberry was tasked with designing the British soldiers’ outerwear to protect them from the elements.
With many of the trench’s original details firmly in place today, it takes three weeks to meet the high-quality standard it has come to represent. The coats are carefully crafted from gabardine, a hard-wearing fabric invented by Burberry himself in 1879. The water-resistant material, which is ideal for protection against spontaneous spring showers, is still woven at the brand’s mills in England.
Several of the recognisable stylistic details that set the Burberry trench apart come from its militaristic roots. The pleat at the back, revealing a slither of the signature check lining also seen on Burberry bags, was added to make movement easier for soldiers when riding horses or running. On the shoulders, the epaulettes allowed officers to display their rank.
A Burberry classic
Throughout the history of the Burberry trench coat, the soft neutral colour palette has remained synonymous with the highly acclaimed design.
The beauty of this coat is that it transforms itself depending on what it’s teamed with. A belted Burberry Prorsum mac wrapped around a lace-embellished Red Valentino cocktail dress looks graceful. Yet a Burberry Brit trench thrown over a pair of tapered Y-3 track pants and a crop top, is equally as stylish.
This world-renowned coat has also starred in countless classic cinematic moments. It has become a refined symbol of everlasting style on the silver screen. Worn with a sharp suit and topped with a fedora hat, Humphrey Bogart utters the legendary line, “Here’s looking at you, kid” in Casablanca while wearing a Burberry trench coat.
Hollywood leading ladies Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot sported the women’s Burberry trench coat. It also appears in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, belted around the svelte figure of Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly. The coat can be seen on the 60s socialite in the romantic finale, a passionate rainstorm kiss scene.
Return of the mac
Under the direction of the brand’s Chief Creative Officer Christopher Bailey, the silhouette has been reinvented season after season. It was given a modern twist on the AW16 London Fashion Week catwalk in a variety of bold hues, patterns and textures, including patent moss green and vivid blue snakeskin prints.
A year earlier, Burberry Prorsum coats were designed with a sultry patchwork of dark-blue suede featuring long fringing on the sleeves, or quilted with autumnal floral prints.
The latest generation of Burberry trench coat can be seen on the front row and the red carpet, as well as the catwalk. Suki Waterhouse slipped a camel Burberry Prorsum in suede over a double-layered white knee-length dress with lace detailing in 2015. Ever the style chameleon, she donned a buttoned-up mac on top of an inky ankle-grazing gown at the brand’s Art of the Trench event in Dubai, April 2016. Actor Tom Hardy has also been seen in classic neutral-tone Burberry trench coats with ebony buttons.
A new chapter in the history of the Burberry trench comes in the form of innovative digital campaigns, such as the aforementioned Art of the Trench, which collates street-style photos from around the world into an elite online community of Burberry coat wearers.
Whether it’s a boundary-pushing trench on the Burberry Prorsum runway or a tailored classic from the Burberry London collection, the brand continues to conjure up exceptional coats. Featuring elongated lines coupled with exquisite attention to detail, including contrast buttons and fastenings around the cuffs, the Burberry trench is as resplendent as ever.