The Evolution Of The Trench Coat

Dating back to the early 1800’s, the trench coat became widely popularized during World War 1.

By Roger Stone

Today, one of the most iconic garments for the well-dressed man is a quality trench coat. You probably imagine the film Casablanca when thinking about trench coats. However, trench coats were not always so sleek, breathable, or marketed to the masses like the modern trench coat.

In 1823, Charles Macintosh began using rubberized cotton to make trench coats for the military, in particular military officers. Nearly 100 years before World War 1, where the coat was mass-marketed, trench coats would soon become a way of recognizing military officers.

According to an article from Smithsonian Magazine, these early trench coats developed by Charles Macintosh had a very foul rubber smell. They even melted when worn for long periods of time in the sun.

Though the “Macks” had multiple drawbacks, a market was born for the garment, and by the mid 1800’s, another clothier created a much better water repellent fabric. John Emary’s “aquascutum” company, which translated means “water shield”, quickly took off and further popularized the trench coat.

Emary’s company would rule the roost for nearly two decades, a must-have for any well dressed gentlemen, before an up and coming clothier named Thomas Burberry developed an even better fabric.

Burberry’s gabardine allowed was the most breathable of any fabric used for to make trench coats yet, and Burberry was a first class marketer who soon had his trench coats in the closets of the upper class, aviators, explorers, and adventurers.

As was common with the earlier “macks” and then aquascutum trench coats, Burberry’s gabardine was utilized for creating trench coats for military officers, often times very colorful.

When war tactics evolved, trench coats became less high-key in terms of their colors (to draw less attention to officers), and became closer to what we recognize them as today… the traditional khaki.

Even with Burberry and Aquascutum starting to mass market their products leading up to the World War 1, the first world war is responsible for truly solidifying the style and functionality of the modern trench coat.

Climate and terrain during WW1 made it difficult for the common-man in the military to move around in their greatcoats, a more bulky and less evolved relative of the trench coats that military officers wore.

Because of this and other reasons, the trench coat was slowly but surely introduced to the masses in the military and popularized with marketing campaigns highlighting the trench coats long history of serving the military.

What we know now as the trench coat started out as a smelly stuffy fabric that melted when exposed to the sun. Now, we have hundreds of variations of the trench coat, with the most popular and recognizable still being the one Thomas Burberry developed over 120 years ago.

Humphrey Bogart made it iconic in Casablanca, and the rest is history. If you consider yourself a well-dressed gent and don’t currently own a trench coat, get to it!

The winter months give you the perfect excuse to put this on your Christmas list.


Roger Stone is a longtime political operative and close confidante of President Donald Trump. He is the Men’s Fashion Editor for The Daily Caller and publisher of Stone on Style. He can be reached at