Tuesday, 16 February 2016

The Trench

Ooh, the Trench! Possibly the only clothing item that has remained fashionable since it became a wardrobe essential over 100 years ago! And while the design or even materials have changed very little over that time, it has really evolved from something only a selected few [white men] wore, to a truly universal piece of clothing, worn by people of all ages all over the world. 

While the Burberry trench remains the original (even if some may argue that Aquascutum got there first), nowadays we're not limited to that design, and most of all, we're not limited to the price-tag. There are many affordable options out there, either for the more traditional design or for different takes on it.

With so much to choose from, there are a few things you may want to consider to help you narrow your options down. These are the things I've found helpful when picking up a trench and I hope they help you too if you're on the lookout.

Fabric - trench coats can be made of different kinds of fibres - wool, cotton, synthetic materials, or even silk. Which one to go for really depends on whether you want a cooler or warmer item.

Beyond that, the key aspect is to check how these fibres were woven. Look for a trench made of a tightly-knit, heavy-duty fabric, such as gabardine, which makes it durable and weatherproof. Don't be put-off by words such as "heavy-duty" - this refers more to the durability of the item than its style.

My Okewa Birmingham Trench is made from a waterproof but breathable Japanese cloth (100% Nylon), especially selected and made-to-order, for the wildest Wellington weather.

Colour - this is really down to personal preferences but you'll never go wrong with beige tones. Olive or military green, navy blue and black are also safe options.

Length - shorter lengths are often associated with warmer weather, while a longer trench will be the perfect fit for those wild, rainy Winter days, especially when paired with gumboots. The slightly above-the-knee length strikes the perfect balance in my view.

Style - now, I won't lie, when it comes to trench coats, I am a traditionalist. There's something beautifully timeless about the way the original trench coats were designed. So timeless, in fact, that generation after generation have worn it over and over again. In some cases, literally the same coat - something to say about that quality too, perhaps?

Either way, when I'm going for an item that I want to wear for years to come, I pick the classic option, you know, just to play it safe.

That said, I don't dismiss contemporary takes on the trench coat - sometimes we may want to pick an item that makes us feel more present in our own times, rather than nostalgic about bygone eras we never even experienced.

If a trench coat with an unusual design has attracted your eye but you're a bit unsure of how it will age, try picking it in a classic colour - that should keeps things balanced.

Fit - whatever you choose, fit is everything; pay particular attention to the length of the sleeves - when standing with your arms relaxed, your hands are not supposed to be covered. I know it sounds obvious but, for some reason, we often ignore this simple rule.

If you've picked a more traditional style, also look at the shoulders - unless your trench is supposed to have drop-shoulders (like my five year old Mango trench below), the seam connecting the shoulder with the sleeve should be pretty much on where your own arm meets your shoulder, like a well-fitted suit. 

Ethical / Socially Conscious 
Finally, it wouldn't be me writing this post if I didn't end by encouraging you to be thoughtful about what you pick. I bought the Mango trench above well before I started to think more broadly about the provenance of my clothes - I cared that it was made by the same brand I had been wearing since I was fifteen, a brand I trusted for quality and fit.

Those are still things that are important to me, but nowadays I want to know more. For the Okewa trench, I spent weeks deliberating on many other aspects - from fabric provenance, to whether they coats are made locally.

The fact that I could talk to someone responsible for the production of the item - not a sales rep or a comms person - was really refreshing. With most brands, consumers can be so far removed from the makers it's easy to be complacent and not acknowledge our own responsibility in the current state of affairs.

A couple of places to explore:

Start with you parents or grandparents closet - I know my mum has a beautiful 90s black trench with my name on it...

Okewa Rainwear: Classic urban chic design made to withstand the worst of weathers (sorry Wellington).

Everlane: For a modern take on the timeless coat, go for their Swing Trench.

Do you have a trench coat? Would love to hear what you think of it! 


  1. This is great, I did a similar post on timeless ethical trenches a few days ago! I'm personally loving the trench coats from Kowtow :)

    Bee @ www.transparentisthenewblack.co.uk

    1. They have some really great-looking ones now. And Cuyana has also come out with a trench that is very unusual - worth having a look.