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Coats & Jackets

Four ways to wear a trench coat

Four ways to wear a trench coat

Few items in a man’s wardrobe have worked as hard as the trench coat. Invented in the 19th century by either Burberry or Aquascutum, depending on who you believe (the former claims the fabric; the latter the design) the trench coat swiftly replaced heavy, woollen greatcoats in the professional soldier’s wardrobe. They were light, waterproof and came covered in pockets and straps, which made them practical, too. The style became a common sight in the trenches of the First World War, where they protected officers from mud and rain and provided plenty of places to store maps, torches and ammunition. The name stuck.

Fast forward a century and the trench is now ubiquitous anywhere men are fighting the weather. “Although the term ‘staple’ is bandied around a little too much, the trench coat is undoubtedly that,” says Thread stylist Freddie Kemp. “It’s an instantly recognisable, iconic style.” And although the trench has been tweaked and reworked over the years, the best are still made to the original template.

“Though it can look similar to a mac, it’s differentiated by its double-breasted fastening, a belted waist and epaulettes,” says Freddie. “There are lots of imitations, particularly stripped-back versions that lose some of those details, but to get the most versatility, style and recognition you should opt for the original. That way, it can be worn in a huge variety of looks.”

The genius of the trench coat is that though it at first seems quite tailored, its heritage and flexibility means it can work with almost anything in your wardrobe. “A lot of men think it’s only a formal style and avoid wearing it with casually,” says Freddie. “But trench coats that are cut a bit shorter, around mid-thigh, work well with more relaxed looks.” They’re still smart enough to wear with a suit, but look just as good with jeans on the weekend.

Below, Freddie breaks down four looks that will let you wear one trench coat all week.

For a smart office

Smart trench coat with suit

Photographed: MVP trench coat (£90); Eton shirt (£120); Reiss suit (£550); Paul Smith brogues (£285)

Because a trench coat is lightweight, it’s a great layer for warmer weather. “You can wear it instead of a suit jacket, because it’s still smart,” says Freddie. “It keeps your silhouette slim, particularly if you belt the waist tight, which gives you more shape. But it’s also roomy enough to fit a blazer under, and even a jumper if you need one.”

It’s also a great neutral palette for adding brighter, more sun-ready colours. “White can be washed out by the trench when you’re wearing it this way. A blue or even a pink shirt adds something a bit more interesting.”

For a casual office

Casual trench coat

Photographed: MVP trench coat (£90); MVP shirt (£30); MVP chinos (£30)

“This is a look with serious versatility,” says Freddie. “It’s ideal for when you’re not sure what the weather’s going to be.” Because the trench coat nods to tailoring, it adds a dash of smartness to simple pieces.

“The key is a shirt in a heavier fabric, like flannel, which adds some texture and depth,” says Freddie. “Grey chinos are the finishing touch; they’re a nice break from the normal navy and stone.”

For a night out

Trench coat for a night out

Photographed: MVP trench coat (£90); Jigsaw shirt (£89); MVP black jeans (£40); Reiss chelsea boots (£195)

When you’re going to be in and out of restaurants or bars, the trench coat ensures the perfect level of smartness and comfort for any situation. “Make sure the jeans and shirt underneath are fitted,” says Freddie. “You won’t need any more layers and the look as a whole will stay slick and clean.”

The trench coat’s military roots mean that it looks particularly good with rugged footwear. “Boots are essential here,” says Freddie. “Formal shoes or trainers would take away from the perfect smart-casual feel of the look.”

For the weekend

Weekend trench coat

Photographed: MVP trench coat (£90); MVP hoodie (£30); Albam t-shirt (£45); Paul Smith jeans (£68)

Lightweight, rainproof and hard-wearing; all things that make a trench coat the perfect outerwear for days when you’re not sure exactly where you’ll end up. “Because the trench coat is a bit shorter, it looks great with casual layers underneath, like a hoodie and t-shirt,” says Freddie. “Then leave the coat open to show them off.”

Because the trench coat still has that little bit of smartness, you can afford to go even more relaxed with everything else, but still look refined. “Lighter jeans help the look feel more casual,” says Freddie. “They’re also a good background for trainers in a colour that you might not normally go for. That way, you can add a little bit more personality to the look.”