The Art Of The Trench Coat
OK, I admit it; I am officially bored of winter. Those late summer/mild autumn days I spent babbling on about how I couldn’t wait until I was able to immerse myself in heavy layering and just how eager I was to break out the newly acquired outerwear, well, they truly are a very distant memory. I am openly and eagerly willing spring to hurry the hell up, and much to my delight, a very slight increase in recent temperatures means that I can certainly envision that brighter future at the end of this long wintery tunnel. I am now in fact getting so impatient that I’m already ruthlessly purchasing with spring/summer 2011 at the forefront of my mind, and at the top of my shopping to-do list, I must update my outerwear.
Following on from my last article titled the essential jeans guide, I felt it was exactly the right time to reveal my next in depth autopsy of a top-of-the-list staple piece. So without further a-due…
The Trench Coat is without a doubt one of my favourite garments within menswear fashion. Practical, flattering, smart, chic, timeless, versatile, accessible – need I continue? As I am sure you are already aware, trench coats come in great deal of different textures and fabrics, but in keeping with the tone of all things spring, today my article is concentrated more towards the classic cotton styles.
Cut & Style
Ok, so the double-breasted trench coat. Great for adding a more classic feel to your outfits, they look extremely smart and can also be a great tool to use for those who wish to add a bit of extra bulk to their upper torso. But of course, that also then means that they aren’t always quite as well suited to the slightly fuller man. A single-breasted style – which probably comes more under the title of Macintosh – will be a much greater aid in lengthening the torso, drawing the eye downwards as opposed to across. Wear the coat unbuttoned from the sternum area and fold the collar down and out to create a V-shaped neckline that will lengthen your neck and add width across your shoulders. A single-breasted style will also fall a lot cleaner if you choose to wear the trench open.
The waist belt on a trench is an absolute godsend. When worn tied into a effortlessly home-made knot, not only will it help to break up the torso it will also nip in that waist, therefore accentuating the shoulders and giving the impression of that perfect triangular shape we are all told to strive for. Epaulettes on the shoulders are great for giving a more structured, stronger shoulder and of course, portraying that military trend that is looking to stay with us until the end of time.
As for the length of the coat, I personally wouldn’t advise any man under the 6ft mark to wear a trench that finished far below their knees, and although a trench coat can be just as easily worked into both smart and casual outfits, baggy trousers/jeans just don’t quite fit that slim-line, sharp look that we have just created. Sleeve length is somewhat down to personal preference but I favour them sitting as the sleeve of my blazer would, just above the wrist bone. If people can see your under-layers poking out through your sleeves or maybe even a cheeky glimpse of watch, well, that’s just perfect!
For a staple trench coat that will work with both a smart/smart casual/casual looks, my number one choice in terms of colour would be a navy blue every time. It doesn’t look quite as formal as a black trench does and isn’t half as contrasting against other colour. Brown shoes, black shoes, jeans, chinos, trousers, city shorts… they all work perfectly.
My second choice would be a neutral tone such as a stone, camel, khaki or a light brown. If wearing louder colours/prints as a base layer, a trench of any of the above tones will help to re-neutralise the outfit. The only thing to be slightly weary of when choosing lighter tones is to avoid washing yourself out (much like grey does) – oh, avoid grey at the moment by the way. If of a lighter skin tone, opt for a slighter stronger, deeper stone or camel colour in order to add a bit of contrast against your skin tone.
Bold colours such as electric blues, burgundy reds and forest greens will add a much-needed burst of colourful energy into yours outfits during these final winter months. This possibly isn’t the route to go down however if you are looking for a staple trench, but if you are in fact looking to add to an already established collection, now is the time to take the leap my friend.
With a garment such as a trench coat, I believe it is worth spending just that little bit extra – or in some cases a lot extra – for quality. However, realistically not all of us are in a financial position to be splashing out on Paul Smith trench coats and Aquascutum macs as we please, and so turn to our local high street retailers for guidance.
For those of you like myself, who watch the Burberry shows every season sighing in bitter jealousy at a collection of trench coats that I will possibly never be able to afford, don’t give up all hope just yet, as there are a few little tricks we can pull to turn that high street trench into your very own high fashion creation.
Trick 1: Change your buttons. A massive give away that most high street pieces are in fact high street, are those poor quality, plastered on every garment, plastic buttons. Replace them with a whole new set of vintage wooden buttons and your final garment will be almost unrecognisable from that basic Zara trench it once was.
Oh, that reminds me actually. Trick 1 Part b: Learn to sew on a button. It’s really rather easy once you’ve attempted it a couple of times and will save you a fortune in tailoring expenses.
Trick 2: Update your lining. In exactly the same way that a fully lined blazer looks that ever much more the finished article than one that is unlined. Firstly make sure you know of a good tailor that is capable of re-lining coats, next take a trip to any good quality fabric shop and simply choose the cloth that you can not live without. Also, if you often tend to wear the collar of your trench stood up then you might even want to consider buying a bit of extra material to add a strip to the back of the collar? Just a thought.
Trick 3: Vary your belt. Instead of sticking to that matching material belt that comes along with your coat, try adding a thick leather jeans belt instead. I have even seen men rocking – and successfully pulling off – patterned scarves and even pieces of rope hooked through those belt loops. I am fully aware that this one won’t be a tip suited to all as it is sometimes deemed to be too ‘girly’, however, it really can look great.
Of course there are a number of other ways to personalise your outerwear, adding brooches/badges, customising the epaulettes etc. But by simply changing your buttons and adding a completely different lining to your £70 Topman trench coat, the chances of someone else having that exact trench, with that exact lining, with those exact buttons drastically reduce to near impossible – you now own a one-off piece.