In the years since the inception of the trench coat, popular culture has influenced the way society views this simple, classic piece of apparel. Movies and television shows often showcase people exposing themselves by opening their trench coats to reveal they are not wearing clothes. If you’re confused, watch this scene from Monty Python or this one where Michael from The Office pretends to be a flasher. There are even actual flasher Halloween costumes you can buy. Surprisingly, there’s a lot more to the trench coat and its origin than most people realize.
Developed by luxury manufacturers Burberry and Aquascutum as a waterproof sport coat adaptable to military use, the trench coat was invented to be worn by French and British soldiers during WWI. Though initial designs date back to the 1850s, an official raincoat design was sent into the United Kingdom War Office in 1901. The British Army implemented the trench coat as an optional item of dress that could only be obtained by private purchase. Officers were the only rank permitted to wear them, and as you could probably guess, they wore them in the trenches.
During WWI, the original coat design was altered to include shoulder straps and D-rings. The straps were for the attachment of rank badges, while the rings were near the waist and used for map cases, swords and other miscellaneous necessities. A popular, though incorrect, belief was that the rings were used to attach hand grenades. A small cape draped across the shoulders allowed water to run off and large, deep pockets were used to hold additional supplies. The coat’s collar buttoned high to the neck to double as protection from the weather, sun and even poison attacks. Gas masks were able to be tucked into the collar for more efficient use.
During WWII, British officers continued to wear trench coats while other countries adopted similar styles for their armies as well. Over time, shorter variations of the coat were created such as the Denison smock worn by British paratroopers and the M1941/M1943 field jackets worn by the US.
The trench coat has come a long way since its creation. After wartime, it became popular civilian wear. It was common to see both men and women wearing these coats out and about. Trench coats are still popular today and will remain a classic wardrobe staple. Obviously, anyone is allowed to wear a trench coat whenever and wherever they want but the whole flasher thing really puts people’s minds in the gutter. Just try to think of the badass history behind the coat instead.