Re-trenched: keeping the coat a fashion necessity

26 07 2010

Who ever turned the trench coat into a fashion item, anyway?

When I think of a trench coat, images of days long past come to mind… I think about movie stars and glamour; Dick Tracy hitting the streets; people standing in the cold mist under the zooming rotors of a plane about to take flight; private eyes waiting for that big case to land up on their desks… and memorable ‘real life’ people like Jackie O and where she fits into both the micro- and macrocosm that is society (our history).

But even my take on it is wrong, already filled with glitz, already making it a part of popular culture and turning it into a beautified item with both mystique and appeal.

The fact of the matter is, the trench coat, like any other item of clothing (okay, maybe not any other, as a lot of clothes are simply designed and produced for reasons of being fashionable) was created out of necessity. It was created as an “alternative to the heavy serge greatcoats worn by British and French soldiers in the First World War”. For the full article/summary, check Wikipedia – not exactly a literary reference, and especially not something university professors deem a worthy source, yet concise enough for the purposes of informing the general public nonetheless…

Anyway, the item became “optional dress” for members of the British Army, who certain members could obtain it by private purchase. Veterans returning from the war kept their coats, which started to turn it into a sort of fashionable item to have, and later the trench coat was even used during World War Two, as well. Of course modifications were made to the design and pattern, and the item wasn’t exclusive to those participating in just the two World Wars. Other nations and armies developed their own sort of trench coats, and from a post-WWII standpoint, it started to become ‘trendy’. To quote Wikipedia:

“Their original role as part of an army officers’ uniform lent the trench coat a businesslike respectability, whilst fictional heroes as diverse as Dick Tracy, Mike Hammer, Jack Harkness, The Crow, The Phantom, Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blaine from Casablanca and Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau kept the coat in the public eye.”

I suppose it’s from this “keeping it in the public eye” vantage point that I have come to find my notions of the trench coat validated. It gives it a bit of glitz and glamour, true, but still (I feel) within some sort of contextual point where romanticizing the image of the coat is ‘all right’. Nowadays it’s all about fashion trends, and even people who look ghastly in the trench buy and wear it because it’s a ‘must have’ *sigh*

In a way, I guess the fashion statement comes close to all the various forms of media that have influenced my thinking of the coat. Comics, television series, movies, science fiction… even wrestlers (?!!)… the trench coat has found a home in some many places, it’s no wonder it always comes back as a reliable item of both stylishness/trendiness and durability.

You know who else wears trench coats? The cast of THE MATRIX… there is no spoon… or, should that be ‘coat’?




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