Menswear is nothing without the military. Most staple pieces, from your suit to your T-shirts, have served time in the ranks before transitioning to civvy street. The trench coat is, unsurprisingly, no exception.

It found favour in the First World War, when soldiers sought something waterproof that wouldn’t weigh them down. In the ensuing century it’s become the go-to piece of outerwear for transitional weather, when you’re battling showers but it’s too warm for wool.

Yet staple needn’t mean samey. Look beyond the traditional double-breasted khaki trench to style yourself as an officer and a gentleman.

1. The Iconic Option

Burberry produced around half a million trench coats for British troops in the First World War. After veterans returned home still wearing them, founder Thomas Burberry recognised an opportunity to market them away from the front line as well. Though Aquascutum claim to have trumped him to the coat’s invention, it remains the checked brand’s most iconic piece.

Which means traditionalists should reach for Burberry’s timeless design, which has barely changed in the last century. Crafted from lightweight but waterproof gabardine, it’s double-breasted to keep weather at bay and boasts an oversized collar to protect against rain and epaulettes for displaying your rank – although simply owning this classic will do that job off the battlefield.

Image: Burberry

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Sandringham Long Heritage Trench Coat, available at Burberry, priced £1,295.

2. The Statement Option

It’s perverse in an actual trench, admittedly. But in the street style war, eye-catching outerwear is a potent weapon. With most men ditching colour as the evenings draw in, swapping khaki for burgundy or cobalt (last year’s big hitter, coming round for a second swing) ensures you stand out on a drab commute.

It also means your trench coat works for more than just keeping your suit dry. But the key to punching up your dressed-down outfits is veering muted elsewhere. Anchor bold colours with neutrals like black, grey and and, of course, khaki, to prevent your outfit from becoming a form of psychological warfare.

Image: Aquascutum Spring/Summer 2016

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ASOS Trench Coat In Blue, available at ASOS, priced £60.

3. The Versatile Option

Not every boss is enamoured of blinding hues. If your office tends towards the sober, neutrals provide a background for interesting accessories; a brighter tie or subtle check to your suit. To maximise your trench’s versatility, keep detailing as minimal as the colour – that means steering single-breasted and avoiding epaulettes or belted waists, which hark back to the actual trenches.

Outside of work, less obnoxious outerwear gives you scope to experiment with what’s underneath. A contrast roll neck will help dress things up (and fights biting wind), or you could leave your trench coat unfastened over tailored joggers and Reebok’s eye-catching Insta Pump Furys to pitch battle on the streets.

Image: Charles Tyrwhitt

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Blue Single Breasted Slim-Fit Raincoat, available at Charles Tyrwhitt, priced £159.

4. The Cropped Option

Away from the mud and horizontal rain of war, knee-length fabric isn’t super practical. If you’re shorter or want something less cumbersome, a cropped trench – which slices the fabric off at your upper thigh – makes moving around easier, and elongates your body.

Just take care to avoid anything fussy. With less material to play with, overdosing on buttons, belts or military detailing can make you look like a haberdasher’s sample book. Stick to darker colours and maintain the minimalism in the rest of your look with raw denim and white trainers. Leave the cargo trousers to the actual soldiers.

Image: Zara Autumn/Winter 2015

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Double-Breasted Trench Coat, available at Zara, priced £69.99.

5. The Military Option

The original trench coat’s khaki colouring was camouflage during campaigns in India. Under pressure from new, long-range rifles, the military ditched the bright uniforms that turned its soldiers into targets. But the effect’s the same back home. When everyone else is sporting a khaki trench coat, you blend in.

Step instead towards the fashion front line by adopting a more on-point shade: military green. This season’s trending hue nods to your outerwear’s heritage even as it updates it.

On a more practical level, it’s also perfectly in tune with the navies and neutrals that populate your winter wardrobe.

Image: AllSaints Spring/Summer 2014

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Smart Double-Breasted Trench Coat In Dark Green, available at River Island, priced £75.

6. The Practical Option

Though most trench coats will withstand a heavy shower, necessity means that Scandinavian brand Stutterheim have engineered one that could probably keep you dry in your actual shower as well. Crafted from rubberised cotton, it’s tested in foul conditions at sea and back on not-so-dry land, to ensure whatever you layer underneath stays safe from the elements.

It’s also unlined, which means you can pile on those layers without overheating. Keep the on-the-water vibe going with a cable knit jumper and finish with commando soled boots, to ensure you keep your footing on deck – or the puddle-dashed pavements.

Image: Stutterheim Autumn/Winter 2015

Get The Look

Skeppsbron Black Coat, available at Stutterheim, priced £385.