What is a Trench Coat, and Why Get One?

It’s hard to project the right aura of power and masculinity when the weather is dire. Not only do you feel dull, but we tend to reflect that same dinginess in our dress and bearing. Luckily dressing with sartorial elegance doesn’t mean you have to suffer for it. The trench coat has been a go-to in elegant men’s wardrobes for over a century, and today the expert tailors on the Oliver Wicks team are here to show you why- and why every man with an eye to smart dressing needs one.

Trench Coat - The Classic Statement for Men

As with so much of the elegant man’s wardrobe, the story of the trench coat starts with the military. As the British Empire expanded, the bright red iconic coats became less and less practical. Working in hot climates where red stood out all too much, soldiers needed a garment that was more practical in color and fit while also being robust and able to stand up to rain and the weather. And so the trench coat was born. Made from tough and resilient gabardine, a type of wool, the trench coat would then become the go-to overcoat of choice in the (you guessed it) trenches of World War 1. Once only open to officers, they became a practical and coveted fashion item then, only amplified as it became the look of choice for a plethora of Golden-era Hollywood stars. Today, they have almost as much practicality and worth in the modern man’s wardrobe, too, offering a light and easy-to-wear coat that still holds up to the elements.

Why Get a Trench Coat?

So, why should you have a trench coat in your wardrobe? A practical and resilient overcoat is an absolute necessity for interseasonal weather and colder days. While you have several styles open to you, few are as iconic or practical as the trench coat.

  • Ease of Movement: The single back vent, or split, in the trench coat, makes it simple to move in. Perfect for throwing over your suit for a dash through drizzle or sleet! The Raglan sleeve style also allows for greater movement without constriction.
  • Versatility: In many ways, the trench coat is the most versatile men’s coat. Perfect for business casual, it fits seamlessly into a variety of settings with grace and class and transitions through most seasons.
  • Practicality: Unlike heavier winter coats, the trench coat can easily be worn in inclement weather without overheating you. It provides enough warmth to greatly extend your summer wardrobe without adding bulk to the mix. Meanwhile, the precipitation-proof nature of the coat will keep you dry and cozy no matter what Mother Nature throws at you. Gusty wind and chilling raindrops down the back of the neck will be a thing of the past!
  • Elegance: Not only is the trench coat design historic, but it’s also iconic. Keeping enough of its military background to look powerful and imposing, it’s also smart and classic.

Trench Coat - the Specifics

But what makes the trench coat a trench coat? This is a mid-length coat, sitting between the midpoint of the thigh and the top of the knee. Other key features include:

  • The Belt: Unlike many men’s overcoats, the trench coat has a belt, typically attached with a D-ring.
  • Double Breasted: Classic trench coats have the double breasted style, with its unmissable two rows of buttons. This creates an elongated and elegant silhouette that’s easy to wear and practical as well as warm.
  • Single Vent: We mentioned this feature above. Trench Coats always have a single slit, or vent, at the back to facilitate movement.
  • Raglan Sleeves: This is a sleeve style made in one piece from collar to the wrist.
  • Epaulets: Sometimes called shoulder tabs, these ‘add on’ flaps at the shoulders are a characteristic part of the trench coat look.
  • Cuff Straps: Similar to the epaulet, but at the wrist, this was initially added to the trench coat to allow soldiers to tighten the wrist and prevent rain from seeping up the arm.
  • Storm/Gun Flap: An extra piece of material at the neck to stop rain from finding its way in.

Together, this creates an immediately recognizable look that cannot be mistaken.

a man wearing a beige trench coat

Trench Coat Colors and Fabrics

Traditionally, the trench coat is made from hard-wearing and robust gabardine, a type of wool. Today you will find some made from canvas, cotton, leather, or even nylon (though we’d avoid that as it wears poorly and traps odors). Unlike the thicker wool of the peacoat, a trench coat should always have a malleable, ‘thin’ construction better suited to dreary days than snowy winters.

The original trench coat was beige, allowing it to blend into the environment easily. While that’s still a classic choice, today, you will find trench coats in other classic colors like navy, gray, and black for added elegance. Some modern trench coats even have a slimmer fit for aesthetic reasons. So you can even find the fit that suits you effortlessly!

How Should a Trench Coat Fit?

Unlike a suit jacket, a trench coat is designed to go over your clothes, including jackets and winter woolens. And yes, you can wear one over a suit! It should always be able to button up, even with bulk underneath, so you might want to consider that fit when purchasing your trench coat. You may even want to wear your favorite Oliver Wicks suit when purchasing yours, just to be sure. The shoulders should be about an inch to an inch and a half broader than your natural shoulders to accommodate other garments. The sleeves should also reach your hand, past your shirt and jacket underneath, and cover them completely. Choose the precise length to suit yourself- shorter men may want them shorter to match so that the coat doesn’t dwarf you. Taller men may want to opt for the longer length for the elongation effect.

Still not sure how to style your trench coat? Our regular Oliver Wicks newsletter is packed with tips and tricks to help, and you can sign up in a flash from any page on our website.

a man wearing a beige trench coat


The trench coat is effortlessly stylish, immensely versatile, and practical to the core. There’s no more perfect addition to your seasonal wardrobe, and it’s a timeless piece every man should consider for himself. If you’re looking for any more information on Oliver Wick’s elegant coat options, you’re welcome to reach out to us at custom@oliverwicks.com, too!