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The Burberry Trenchcoat: an Icon of enduring British style


The Burberry Trenchcoat is recognised worldwide as an icon of British style. More than a mere article of clothing, the Burberry Trenchcoat is a home grown classic with a proud heritage and a distinct provenance.

Thomas Burberry opened his own business in 1856 in Basingstoke, Hampshire. His commitment to both form and function in apparel design has been significant throughout the development of the company and its products. Noticing how local shepherds and farmers wore linen smocks, which were cool in summer and warm in the winter, he attempted to apply the same principles to other clothing. In 1879 he developed a fabric which was weatherproofed in the yarn before weaving, using a secret process and then proofed again in the piece, using the same undisclosed formula. The new material was untearable and weatherproof, whilst cool and breathable. He called the cloth ‘gabardine’ and registered the word as a trademark.

With the invention of the motorcar at the turn of the century, the Burberry business capitalised on its reputation for producing functional sportswear. Long draught-proof coats in fabrics such as tweed and leather were created. Men’s styles were generously cut so they could be wrapped around the legs like a travelling rug when driving.

In 1901 Thomas Burberry designed a raincoat that became the regulation style during the First World War. Adapted to include functional epaulettes, straps and D-rings, it was named ‘The Trench Coat’. At that time, officers in the army took to wearing a Burberry raincoat as part of their uniform. The lightweight cotton was preferred to the heavy rubberised mackintosh that was supplied at the time.

The success of the military Burberry was ensured after Lord Kitchener took to wearing this style. With the beginning of the trench warfare in 1914, Burberry weathercoats with added epaulettes and “D” rings for the attachment of military equipment, were so popular with the officers that the style became known as the “Trenchcoat”. Later it was copied in other countries, in particular France and America. The pattern is no longer an official one, but has been copied widely for general use.

The Burberry Trenchcoat continues to be an essential part of outerwear collections. Authentic details remain even to the metal “D” rings on the belt, which are now purely decorative. However this is interpreted from season to season according to whether fashion dictates a slim or full fitting silhouette together with a long or short hemline.

The Burberry Trenchcoat is offered in a variety of colours and fabrics, undreamed of when it was first designed. Each of the coats crafted today in our tailoring facilities in Yorkshire is emblematic of such a proud heritage - evidencing exacting quality standards, an unwavering attention to detail and an extraordinary calibre of artisanal workmanship.

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