Trench coat vintage Burberry Saint Laurent Dior Hermes Marlene Dietrich Audrey Hepburn

The history of the trench coat, a vintage icon: from Burberry in the trenches to its timeless status


The origins of the trench coat: the mack, Burberry and Aquascutum

The origin of the trench coat goes back to the 1820s in England. The "mack" designed by Charles Macintosh and Thomas Hancock from rubberized cotton was exclusively designed for men's clothing, for outdoor sports enthusiasts - riding, hunting, fishing - and military service.
Both Burberry and Aquascutum claim authorship of the trench coat. In 1853, John Emary marketed an improved raincoat under the Aquascutum brand. And it was Thomas Burberry who invented the "gabardine" in 1879, by waterproofing each cotton and wool fiber rather than the finished textile. The success of this breathable fabric was immediate for the men of the time.


The trench coat, military clothing

During the First World War, the two companies Aquascutum and Burberry adapted the trench coat to meet the needs of the army and give it many features.
Made of 26 pieces of gabardine, the belt is equipped with rings to hang accessories and grenades, a cape in the back to facilitate the flow of water in case of rain.
Its function is also protective, with buttons on the collar to protect against toxic gases, a warm lining against the cold, detachable to serve as a blanket. Its khaki color allows its wearer to better camouflage.
The trench coat is then a sign of social status. The soldier's rank was sewn onto the epaulets to indicate his rank.

Burberry trench coat WWI

The trench-coat in Hollywood

From the 1940s, the trench coat gradually loses its military functionality and is appropriated by Hollywood and the entire film industry. Humphrey Bogart in "Casablanca" made it a cult piece of men's clothing, a symbol of virility and adventure. It is adopted by women thanks to Marlen Dietrich in 1938 who wears it elegantly in the film "A Foreign Affair", and later Meryl Streep or Audrey Hepburn.

Marlene Dietrich trench coat foreign affair
Marlene Dietrich in "Foreign Affair", 1948

The trench coat and designers: Saint Laurent, Jean-Paul Gautier, Dior... 

Yves Saint Laurent made the trench coat a symbol of the "Rive Gauche" spirit and propelled it to the rank of timeless, notably by dressing Catherine Deneuve in "Belle de jour" in a black vinyl trench coat. The success is immediate.
The trench inspired many designers, who transformed it according to the times and their visions: Christopher Baily with a leopard print, Jean-Paul Gaultier,  Dior, Margiela, Rei Kawakubo, etc.

Catherine Deneuve trench coat vintage Belle de jour Saint LaurentCatherine Deneuve in Saint Laurent trench coat in "Belle de jour", 1967


The vintage trench coat, a basic

Unquestionably, a quality trench coat is the vintage piece par excellence, which is passed on from generation to generation without losing its look or its functionality.
At Lysis, we select for you second-hand trench coats of the finest quality and fit that have been around for decades.

To discover ici.


Source: Hélène Altmann, author of a “Des Habits Et Nous”, a must-listen podcast for French speakers:

Hélène Altmann dans son podcast “Des Habits Et Nous” fait parler le trench pour nous raconter son histoire et nous expliquer comment il est devenu “perméable à la mode”.

De sa naissance en 1820 en Angleterre aux deux guerres mondiales en passant par sa féminisation et toutes ses déclinaisons mode, cet épisode partage les anecdotes clés du trench qui l’ont rendu iconique.


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