What Is a Trench Coat and How to Wear It?

what is a trench coat

Not many wardrobe items have had quite a history, like a trench coat. A couple of brands claim to be pioneers, but that’s not our focus. Besides being lightweight and waterproof, the coat also has multiple pockets and straps, making it functional as well.


The classic trench coat has a much more interesting history than most people think it is. To find the trench coat’s origin, we have to rewind time to an era before world war I, or back then known as the great war. 

This piece of apparel became a common sight in the first world war, where soldiers would use it in trenches to shield themselves from the rain and mud. Hence the name “trench coat.” Hollywood then adapted this style in its movies, and thus it came to the mainstream.

Before and during WWI

In the early days, the trench coat served the purpose of a stylish raincoat. The trench coat was originally made out of gabardine fabric praised for being waterproof while also looking good. If we were to ask a person back then, “what is a trench coat, and what purpose does it serve?” They’ll most likely tell you that it is used to cover the whole body against the rain & dirt. 

During the great war, the hooded trench coat design was modified a bit and was sent to soldiers fighting in the trenches. Since carrying an umbrella in the middle of a war was not really an option, the trench coat quickly found itself on every soldier’s back. This is also where it got its name, which stuck with it to this day.

After the war and Hollywood

After the war, many actors and performers started appearing in Hollywood movies with trench coats. The useability of this coat combined with the style and looks made it an instant hit. Everyone was asking, “What is a trench coat, and where can I get one?” Men, especially business folk, were some of the biggest customers for trench coats. When we think of 20th-century cities and urban areas, men with long trench coats and hats, going about their life, come to our mind. 

After a while, several female actresses and movie stars started wearing trench coats in movies and TV shows, which cemented the idea that anyone can wear a trench coat, no matter what gender they belong to.

Modern era

Unlike some other clothing items from the previous century, the trench coat has remained relevant to this day. It is not a relic of the past that puzzles the modern generation into asking what is a trench coat. Some can even argue that it is more popular now more than ever, and their argument might be true. A trench coat is much more than a fancy raincoat now. It is a fashion icon and a centerpiece of any outfit you pair it with. 

With the endless style, material, and color possibilities, the trench coat has found a firm place in an ever-growing fashion market, and it is not going anywhere, anytime soon. 

Trench coats and media:

Trench coats have had a very lustrous career in all sorts of media, ranging from movies, TV shows, music videos to video games. That being said, the roles and characters whose look are defined by this coat are as varied as they can be. 

On the one hand is the world-famous and confident detective, Sherlock Holmes, and on the other is a talented hacker, Aiden Pearce from the Watch Dogs game. On one side of the coin is the chosen one, Neo from the matrix, and on the other is the Spiderman villain, The Punisher. This varied and interesting depiction in media and fiction is one of the biggest advocates of the fashion importance of a trench coat. 

Trench Coat: What it is and How to Style it: 

A trench coat is an elongated version of the coat with some defining features such as double-breasted, belt waisted, and epaulets. These particular features give the trench coat its unique look that we all love. Gaberdine was the fabric that was initially used. Gaberdine is a tightly woven fabric constructed to resist the rain and other weather elements. 

Similarly, if we look at what is a trench coat’s original color, it was a khaki trench coat.

However, over time, the trench coat has taken multiple shapes and forms, and the definition of what is a trench coat and what isn’t has changed. You can find trench coats in almost all the typical colors and with numerous cuts and designs—versatility being its best feature. 

The trench coat has an intrinsic tailored look to it, which means it can look formal or dressed down, unlike other standard pieces. It brings an aura of luxury and sophistication to any outfit design you wear. 

Understanding color combinations-what to do?

To answer this question, you should keep in mind these two crucial concepts to make your outfit trendy and elevate it to the next level.

Being monochromatic

men's black trench coat

It’s all about color matching. Meaning, the color of each piece of your clothing should match around the central. For example, if you have a black trench coat, your shirt, shoes, and pants should be in the same color family and should complement each other as a group.

Color blocking

men's blue trench coat

The focus here should be on the centerpiece, and the rest of the clothing elements should be very color neutral. Say you have a beautiful blue trench coat, then your focus should be to wear a simple light-colored shirt and pants. The idea is to make the trench coat the focal point of your outfit.

Ways To Style a Trench Coat

Now that we know about a trench coat, we can focus on how we can style a trench coat? Here are some ways you can do so:

Wearing it above the suit

A trench coat over a business suit is the look businessmen have been using for decades. Ever since the popularization of a trench coat as a fashion item, it is used by suit-wearing people in combination with a hat to protect against rainy weather. It looks stylish and classy while also doing the work of a raincoat.

Nowadays, there are many styles and options you can opt for and level up your suit-wearing game. If you want to rock a traditional suit while also being safe from the rain or the cold weather, a detective black trench coat is a perfect choice. 

If the reason you want to wear a coat over your suit has nothing to do with the weather, then you have even more options and even more looks that you can go for. A well-matched and well-fitting trench coat will enhance your overall suit-wearing look dramatically.

Formal office

Because of its intrinsic formal cut, it’s best suited for this look. You can wear it over a simple shirt and tie or with a full-on suit; the trench coat will make you look like a millionaire. Its large size and adjustable waist make it possible to be used for both looks.

Casual office

Similarly, if you want to mix things up and look formal, this look is perfect for you. Slap on a flannel or any textured shirt with a heavy or light collar, pair it with any dark-colored pants and loafers, and you’re dressed to impress.

An Evening out

This look ensures comfort while not compromising on style. Wear matching and fitted pants with either a casual shirt, sweater, or a turtle neck under your trench coat with boots of your liking, and you’ll be sure to catch many eyes.

A relaxed weekend look

For this look, wear a hoodie, jeans, and your favorite sneaker. Bring it all together with a short-cut trench coat, and your good to go for any weather.

Mix different prints

You can mix up different textures and patterns in your looks to create a contrasting harmony. For example, using a checkered trench coat with a striped shirt of slightly different hues will create interesting and fun combinations that’ll make you the center point of any room you enter.

Embracing the color

If you feel particularly confident, you can try out an attention-grabbing bright neon trench coat with a similarly bright shirt under it. The only thing to keep in mind is to not overdo it. Keep the focus on the coat and shirt combo by wearing neutral or light-colored jeans.

Go neutral

Not every occasion allows for a brightly colored neon pink trench coat. Luckily, the khaki history of men’s trench coat makes it a perfect clothing piece for monotone and neutral colors. This look also allows you to put emphasis on a vibrant accessory or other pieces of clothing.

Go all black and white

The solid black and white look with no patterns and prints neatly represents the modern minimalistic look. Unlike a neutral look, trench coats’ style can be used for both, blending in with the crowd and standing out from everyone. 

Trench Coat VS Raincoat; The Polarity

While a standard trench coat is well equipped to keep your body dry during rain, they are not a replacement for traditional raincoats. Raincoats are made of plastics and polymers. In contrast, when we look at what a trench coat is made out of, it turns out to be usually fabric or even leather in some cases.

Another major difference is the addition of a hood. Unless you are wearing a hooded trench coat, your head is going to be fully exposed, and you will need an umbrella to stay dry.


Trench coats are one of those clothing pieces that can have near limitless styles and combinations attached to it. Answering simple questions like “what is a trench coat?” does not expose the whole picture. So, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding trench coats.

What is the use of a trench coat?

Trench coats are used mostly to stay dry and protect ourselves from the wet weather. It can also be used for staying warm if it is lined with wool on the inside.
 But, with the modern iterations, a trench coat has also become a fashion symbol. Spawning its own category and place in the fashion world and is worn just for its aesthetic properties as well.

What material is a trench coat made out of?

Unlike winter coats, which need to be made out of warm materials, trench coats lend the designer far more flexibility in the materials department. There are classics such as wool trench coats for men and cotton trench coats. But there are also modern designs that utilize synthetic fibers and leather as their primary material. The used material doesn’t need to be water-resistant to become part of a stylish trench coat, nor does it have to be warm.

What is the difference between a woman’s and a man’s trench coat?

For starters, the shape of the coat is the biggest clue. Coats designed specifically for men tend to be boxy in shape with straight-line cuts. On the other hand, women’s trench coats are designed to fit the curves and are usually wider around the hip area. Other small differences include wider shoulders on men’s trench coats, and the arms are proportionally longer on men-oriented trench coats.

What is a good male trench coat?

The best trench coats are stylish and functional at the same time. There are many options to go with, such as a long trench coat, a winter trench coat, and a leather trench coat with a hood. Each style has its own unique selling point and works best in different situations.

What is a good height to wear a trench coat?

There is no ideal height for wearing a trench coat, both for men and women of any height. No one is allowed to gatekeep the looks and beauty of a trench coat behind a certain height limit.
Do not listen to people who say that you can only wear a trench coat if you’re over this height or under this height. Everyone can wear one. The only thing to keep in mind, however, is to avoid oversized or undersized coats. Always find and wear a trench coat that is according to your height and fits you perfectly. 

What is a good length for a trench coat?

There are no hard and fast rules for the perfect length of a trench coat. In the old days, the coats were longer, just above the feet, to better protect against the elements. But as the trench coat changed from a functional accessory to a fashion piece, the standards have changed. 
A typical men’s trench coat is somewhere between 37 and 45 inches long. But this is more of a suggestion of what looks good on average. You might have to adjust the length based on your height. Tall men should wear trench coats that are longer and fall below their knees. Wearing shorter trench coats will just make you look like a giant. 
On the other hand, guys on the shorter side of the spectrum should wear trench coats shorter than knee height. Shorter trench coats would look more proportional and make them look taller. 

What is a gun flap on a trench coat?

Many people assume that a gun flap was used as padding for rifles when carrying them on a shoulder. But, if we take a look at the trench coat’s history, the gun flap was added to prevent water from getting inside the coat. 
Army men were reporting water seeping inside after using a gun on their shoulder, hence the name “gun flap.” A gun flap gets on top of the button section and protects it from the downpour. It is located on the right side for men and on the left side for women.

What is a double-breasted trench coat?

The word “double-breasted” is used to describe jackets and coats with two symmetrical columns of buttons that overlap in the middle. When we look for a trench coat’s most common configuration, we find that double-breasted coat design trendy. In the old days, this design was utilized to ensure a better seal against the weather.
If we look at the rest of our wardrobes, we’ll quickly notice the lack of this design in any other form of clothing. So, it is usually recommended to go for a double-breasted trench coat, since it acts as a unique piece in your wardrobe.

What is a single-breasted trench coat?

In a single-breasted design, there is only one column of buttons on the trench coat. The overlap between both sides is also reduced. This removes extra fabric from the coat, which will look better on petite men and women.
This form of trench coat is more common in coats made for women. Since a single-breasted coat fits them and compliments their bodies more. The lack of excess fabric is also better in warmer seasons because a double-breasted design looks more packed. 

What is the overlap on a trench coat?

The overlap is the section in front of the trench coat that contains the buttons. One side of the overlap goes under the other. The area that is overlapped depends on the design of the coat. A double-breasted coat has a bigger overlap than a single-breasted one.

How to wear a trench coat without looking creepy?

Media has always associated long trench coats with shady criminals and detectives. This has created a stereotype in the public eye that is constantly reinforced by TV shows and movies.
Luckily, there are ways to avoid looking like a weirdo while rocking your trench coat.
There are two main points to keep in mind. Don’t wear oversized coats with a lot of fabric. This makes it look like you’re trying to hide something under your coat. And utilize the power of accessories such as scarves and hats to make the trench coat blend in.

Is there a trench coat in Style 2021?

A short answer to this would be yes! There are several trench coats style in 2021. As the winter is approaching, the fashion community’s focus is shifting toward leather trench coats.


The trench coat continues to be an icon in the fashion industry. Its place in consumer clothing is irreplaceable. It is crazy to think a military item from so long ago is so relevant today, yet its place in fashion is getting stronger by the day. 

The trench coat has a very different meaning for us than it did for the previous generations.

Ask a soldier that was a part of the great war, what is a trench coat, and they will tell you that it is a reminder of their time spent in the trenches of war. 

Ask a businessman in the latter half of the century, what is a trench coat, and they’ll say that the trench coat represents the economic growth and progress that was made after the cataclysmic wars. 

But for our generation, the answer to this seemingly simple question, “what is a trench coat?” is very different and difficult to explain. For us, it is a part of how we represent ourselves to society. How we visualize our beliefs and personalities through our clothing.