September 27, 2016
By Candace Longfellow
FROM SOLDIER TO STREET STYLE: HOW THE TRENCH COAT BECAME AN ICON
While today’s top designers are often less concerned with efficiency and practicality, many of the most iconic fashion pieces we’ve come to love were born out of necessity and have origins in the World Wars. When fumbling with pocket watches during battle proved inefficient and dangerous, World War I soldiers attached clocks to their wrists, and thus the wristwatch was born. When resources were under restriction during World War II, Gucci replaced their metal hardware with bamboo cane — a brand signature that remains an integral part of its repertoire today. And when their mobility was hindered by thick and cumbersome wool coats, British soldiers found relief in the now iconic trench coat.
These days the coat is thought of as a building block of a chic capsule wardrobe: a classic, utilitarian piece of outerwear that’s easily tossed over nearly any look. From Marlene Dietrich’s androgynous glamour to Françoise Hardy’s ultra mod look, the timeless coat has seen numerous style interpretations on the screen, on the street and on the runway, but in reality, the trench coat was designed for spending hours and sometimes days in a giant hole in the ground. While many of us would never dream of rolling around in mud pit, sweaty and unshowered, while sporting our Burberry trench, these coats were tailor-made for the World War I soldier who was doing just that. Every feature of the coat was specifically designed to make life in the trenches more comfortable and more efficient, and though our modern lives are significantly less trying, the same details still serve a multitude of purposes today.