There are few items of clothing that can claim to have remained consistently relevant as the men’s trench coat. For the well-dressed man it is a must-have, offering the practical benefits of a winter coat that will keep him dry and clean while adding a sophisticated touch. For over a century, the trench coat silhouette has remained largely unchanged. It has received minor updates over its history which has ensured its continued popularity amongst smart-dressed gents.
The real benefit of investing the time and money in finding the right trench coat is the versatility it can bring to your wardrobe; it looks equally comfortable over a suit or a sweater. Whether it be the classic double-breasted design in a traditional colour, or something more contemporary and bold, every man’s wardrobe should stock at least one.
Related: Men’s Guide to Wearing a Pea Coat
What is a Trench Coat?
Although today’s trench coat has been reimagined into a few variations, the basics have remained largely the same. It is a long coat made to be worn over other clothing in the winter months. The traditional style is double-breasted with ten buttons often with a belt at the waist. The trench coat has its roots in army clothing, garnering its name from its wide use in the trenches of World War I. To this day you can see the military inspiration in its style, with many coats featuring ornamental epaulettes (shoulder straps) and sometimes even gun flaps near the lapel.
1. Burberry Trench Coat
Trench coat aficionados will tell you that Thomas Burberry invented the original trench coat (although it’s probably best not to get into any conversation with somebody who introduces themselves as a ‘trench coat aficionado’). He invented them as an alternative for French and British soldiers to the heavy serge coats they were wearing at the time.
Originally only made available to Army officers, they grew in popularity when veterans returned and began wearing them as part of their everyday getup. This combined with the fact that the British Army ordered far too many, interest in the style piqued and the big surplus was made available to the public. Today, Burberry still make the classic double-breasted style although they also sell a range of single-breasted coats.
2. Double-Breasted Trench Coat
The heritage choice, a double-breasted coat with between six and ten buttons and wide lapels. Many double-breasted designs come with a waist belt which can make the coat appear a better fit. It is important to consider the fit of any trench coat you buy, especially if you plan on wearing the coat buttoned up and with fewer layers underneath. If you’re someone who likes to wear lots of layers beneath a coat, a more relaxed fit could be a good choice. As with any coat, you may need to have adjustments made to ensure you’re looking your best. The double-breasted design epitomises a classic look while sending the message that the wearer is a little more elegant.
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3. Casual Trench Coat
If you plan on having just one trench coat in your wardrobe’s rotation, then choosing a versatile, classic look is a better option for both casual and formal looks. That being said, there are some trench coats that work well for a dressed-down style. Even when buying a casual trench coat, flexibility is still important, you may be wearing the coat with jeans one day and a tie the next. For a casual style look for a thigh-length trench coat in beige, stone, navy, or khaki. Single-breasted coats that are left unbuttoned will appear more laid back.
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4. Office Trench Coat
An open trench coat is a terrific item of clothing to add to your winter office rotation. Able to walk the line between stylish and practical and complementary to a tie, suit, sweater vest or open shirt. Choose a more conservative style and colour, with beige, tan and black the best choices for office wear. By choosing a design without the waist belt gives you more options when styling.
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5. Military Green Trench Coat
Considering the trench coat’s origins in the military, it makes sense that the coats were originally all khaki. The colour was chosen so that soldiers would remain camouflaged amidst similarly coloured landscapes. But if you’re wanting to put a twist on the original khaki, while still giving a nod to its military roots, military green is a head-turner. The colour is at once contemporary and classic in style and sympathetic to many of the neutral tones in your wardrobe.
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6. Cropped Trench Coat
While the classic style’s length drops down to at least the knees, cropped versions of the trench coat are becoming increasingly popular. A cropped trench coat will fall just below the belt line, making something that’s less cumbersome and a bit less of a statement. Having the coat cut off at around the thigh can make you appear taller while drawing more attention to the lower half of your body. Simplicity is the key with a shorter-length trench coat, avoid waist belts and too much detail. Keep in mind with any smaller coat, any embellishment looks bigger and more exaggerated. The shorter coat is a great autumn option, or for anytime when you’re wearing fewer layers.
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7. Bold Colour Trench Coat
At one point, the trench coat was available in a wide range of khaki options. Nowadays, you’re afforded a little more choice, although most colours available sit at the conservative end of the pool. Think navy, grey, black and beige. Those sartorial mavericks out there might want a little more than these boring choices, and with eye-catching tones now gracing the racks, there is some excitement to be had. Obviously, choosing a trench coat in a bold colour is not going to give you the kind of versatility you get from a more conservative option.
Of the brighter-coloured trench coats out there, royal blue seems the most popular, although you can find many more options. Trench coats in bold colours become the focal point of your outfit, so pay close attention to how your colours coordinate and complement it. You should also consider the situation in which you will be wearing the coat, a bright red trench coat will be a statement, so choose carefully when and where you wear it.
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