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Trench Coats

Classy and romantic, the sophisticated trench coat has remained virtually unchanged for over 100 years and for good reason, too.  It's perfect!

Originally designed for military use, this coat has been cherished by men throughout history.  From soldiers needing to stay warm and dry to big screen movie stars like Humphrey Bogart – the trench coat is an understated, classic coat that enhances the wardrobe of everyman who has one hanging in his closet.

In the mid 1800s, Thomas Burberry invented gabardine – an amazing type of wool fabric still around today that is warm, water repellant, and very breathable.  Gabardine, coupled with a very functional design, put trench coats on the map as one of the most prized military coats of all time.  It was a truly utilitarian piece of clothing that found its way into several armies and wars across the globe, with few minor changes imposed on its' style over the years.  Military fashion eventually crossed over into everyday civilian fashion when veterans returning to civilian life continued wearing their beloved trench coats.  In time, due to its mass production and expense, other fabrics replaced gabardine; however, original trench coats, still known as the "Burberry" can still be purchased.  I should warn you the price tag matches the quality!

Today's trench coats are typically made of cotton blends that incorporate man-made materials like poplin, gabardine, and heavy duty cotton drill for durability and maintenance.  Since trench coats are raincoats, the fabrics used are tightly woven in order to be waterproof.  Trenches can also be found in leather and wool to be worn as overcoats, but the majority are cotton blends that serve as raincoats.  Regardless of the fabric, most trench coats come with a removable inside liner.  The liner serves to make the coat warmer during cold months, and when removed, lighter and cooler during warm weather.

The trench coat style is very basic and doesn't vary much from one manufacturer to another.  These timeless coats that never lose their fashion status come in various colors, with khaki being the classic and most popular.  Still, black, brown, green and navy are fashionable and acceptable colors many men prefer to the traditional color.  One advantage these darker colors have is appearing more formal and dressy; however, they can still be worn with all the same outfits beige trenches can be worn with.

Depending on the brand, you may find subtle differences in buttons or belt buckles; otherwise, all trench coats should be true to the one and only trench style.

Regardless of the fabric or color, the following description applies to all standard trenches:

  • Typically, trench coats are double-breasted with ten buttons.  However, depending on the length, trenches can also be found with six buttons.  There is also a single-breasted variety that is consistent with the classic style.
  • Sleeves are always raglan style.  Raglan sleeves are relaxed, and do not have a typical shoulder seam where the sleeve connects to the jacket.  This looser, rounded fit allows room for multiple layers, so suit or sport jackets, sweaters, and vests can be comfortably worn underneath.
  • Once functional, shoulder straps, cuff straps, and a detachable belt are identifying features still present on today's trench coat.  Shoulder straps or tabs provided a place for military rank emblems to be attached, while cuff straps and belts tightened the coat for protection from the cold and wet, which we still use today.
  • The Storm or Gun flap is located across the back of the shoulders and extends over the right shoulder of a man's trench coat, and adds an extra layer of protection that shields the wearer from cold and rain.  This additional layer of fabric was added to the coat in order to protect the soldier from getting wet after shooting a rifle.
  • There should be an outside pocket on each side of the coat slightly below waist level.
  • Trench coats have a single back vent for ease of movement.  It allowed soldiers to move easily during battle and be protected from the wind.


It's safe to say every classic style trench coat should have these distinguishing features.  I've seen some hybrids that have modern, alternative designs to them, but if you want the real deal, make sure any trench coat you're considering meets the standard.

Trench coats, like everything else, have guidelines on how to best wear them.

Following these simple rules will ensure you look as dapper as Dick Tracey in your trench!

  1. A trench coat is an overcoat; therefore, it should fit comfortably over a suit or any outfit with multiple layers.  When purchasing a trench, try it on over a suit or sport jacket.  Completely button the coat and make sure you can easily move your arms without any tightness or fabric pulling.  If you opt to size one without wearing a jacket underneath, be sure the raglan shoulders extend .5 to 1 inch past your natural shoulders in order to accommodate a jacket.  Sleeves should be a couple inches longer than a suit jacket's, but not so long that your hand gets swallowed up by the sleeve.
  1. Today's trenches are normally between 37 and 45 inches.  Although there is no rule regarding proper length, the preferred length should be based on a guy's height.  A safe principle to follow is shorter men wear shorter coats, and taller men wear longer ones.  Short men will look best in a trench that ends a few inches above the knee, which will give the leg a longer appearance.  Tall guys want to look proportionate by wearing a coat that's several inches below the knee, or at the very least, at the knee.  Long trenches with lengths that meet mid-calf or lower should be reserved for the very tall guy whose long legs and torso can accommodate the length.
  1. Double-breasted trench coats are the classic style, but single-breasted trenches are available, and a better choice for some men.  Short and small framed men, who would get lost in a coat with excess material, should consider the single-breasted.  Heavy men, who typically appear thinner and leaner in more streamlined clothes, may also look best in the single-breasted variety.  This version looks great, and is still, undeniably, a trench coat.
  1. The trench belt can be worn anyway you'd like.  It's often tied instead of buckled to keep the coat closed; however, tied belts give the coat a more casual look than when buckled, so keep this in mind and secure the belt suitably, based on your outfit and outing.  And, yes, there are beltless versions on the market now.
  1. Keep your trench coat clean and wrinkle-free.  Nothing undersells a great piece of clothing like stains and creases.  Most trench coats require and deserve professional dry cleaning to keep them looking their best.  Don't cut corners with upkeep and you'll have your trench coat for years to come.


Unfortunately, trench coats are not hanging in everyone's closet.  It's too bad, since it's an incredible coat that time and fashion have not been able to leave behind.  So, the next time you're in the market for a new coat, consider the timeless trench coat to maximize your wardrobe and image.  In the meantime... "Here's looking at you, kid."

by Aaron Marino

Past Topics

New Topics Added Weekly!
Finding a Good Tailor | Clothing Alterations -
July 11, 2012
Aaron Marino of alpha m. suggests methods of locating a good tailor. Tailoring is almost a lost art. Tailors specialize in the understanding the construction of clothes. Nowadays, it's harder to find a tailor you trust. He discusses getting recommendations or performing a Google for tailors. But the dry-cleaner also offers alterations. Does Aaron trust the dry-cleaner with his pants or suits? AbsoRead More»
How to Clean a Leather Jacket | Pressing Leather Jackets -
June 21, 2012
Aaron Marino of alpha m. discusses when and how to clean a leather jacket as well as how to remove wrinkles. Aaron, once a year, takes his leather jackets at the dry cleaner. The jacket is returned clean and unwrinkled. Wrinkles usually only happen with really thin leather. In this case, hang the jacket but don't iron. Steam is another option. Don't try cleaning or pressing on your own- take your Read More»
Leather Jackets | Timeless, Classic and Sexy as Hell! -
March 23, 2012
In this video professional male image consultant and style expert, Aaron Marino, talks about the men's leather jacket. The leather jacket is timeless, classic and ultra cool.  Aaron Marino has one goal... to help you look great and feel even better!  Men's style, fashion and wardrobe are all  areas that alpha m image consulting can help you.  We improve your confidence and self esteem from theRead More»
Custom Suits for Large Men | Big Boy Style -
February 16, 2012
Dressing Tips for Large Men Aaron Marino of alpha m. along with his friend, Matt, demonstrate the value of custom suits versus off-the-rack suits for the heavy guy.  Matt is 5 ft 9 in and weighs 245 pounds. He muscular but carries a lot of weight in his midsection. BEFORE: The shirt is big and baggy shirt making Matt look bigger. The jacket has a lot of extra room in order to accommodate his midsRead More»

Pea Coat Perfection | Stylish Men's Outerwear for Winter  -
December 30, 2011
At 1:50, Alpha starts to go over one of his favorite coats, the pea coat. Aaron Marino of alpha m. first goes over the history behind the pea coat. Today's commercial pea coats are made of a lighter wool or poly-blend. Pea coat is classic and timeless. Pea coats give a beautiful silhouette with the illusion of broad shoulders and slim waist. The golden rule of style is important - FIT! Outwear is Read More»
Men's Fall Coats | Lightweight Fall Jackets for Guys -
October 8, 2010
Aaron Marino of alpha m. is going to Macy's for a cool, light-weight fall jacket. Macy's has a great selection and are up-to-date with what's in style. Jackets add depth to a great outfit by layering. Alpha finds 7 jackets to try on, and he describes and assesses each one in regard to brand, fabric, style, and price. He ends up going with the nylon INC jacket for $69. It's lightweight in black. HeRead More»

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