Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Commanders, Clouseau & Casablanca

When are you too grown up to consider, what you want to be when you grow up? A Destiny's Child would be my first choice but when people say, 'dreams can come true', I've always felt it implies that they may not always. Following that, I want to be a detective. Hidden beneath a trench coat, collar up, I would make like a chameleon and evade the eyes of my prey.

There's something truly British about a trench coat that I feel should be celebrated. It's not merely a protective piece of outerwear on a rainy day but a symbol of heroic feats established a centenary ago, this year. Be it Burberry or Aquascutum who truly were the creator of such an iconic item, I am unsure if many people are aware that the trench was created as a lighter alternative to the heavy serge overcoats officers wore. Easily modified during World War I to cater for insignia & medals as well as gun straps and other weaponry (modifications that are still used today but now purely for ornamental reasons), it continued over into the Second World War. Eventually being pushed aside for shorter jackets that gave practical mobility for snipers and paratroopers, among others.
Even after the 8th of May 1945, it's design lived on and soldiers returned home with them, popping them over their blue flannel suits as they set off for their mundane, unfulfilling new careers at the office. A lot had changed for the men but the regimented and professional respectability that had been associated with the army officer's uniform meant that they could continue to wear their pride & bravery after the war, just from slipping on their coats.

It was a focus of mine to zone in on the history of an iconic piece of clothing after a brief conversation on Harris Tweed, with an elderly chap whilst I was at work. Iconic clothing has history and quite often originally was invented for a practical purpose. Nowadays, the straps, fasteners or even the fabric an item is made from, may seem as though it is just merely there for show.
This year on the 28th of July, it will have been exactly a hundred years since WWI began. Yet, there are items that surround us, after all this time, that are reminders of the lives sacrificed. People see clothes as being a materialistic desire but with an understanding of their origins I think it can be viewed as a sign of respect, in the same way we wear poppies. With all the people who died preceding the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, it may seem quite insignificant to hone in on something so tenuous as a coat but it is 2014, a 100 years on and it is still here. It lives on and with it, so does it's genesis.
It may seem a relatively far cry from how this connects me to wanting to be a sleuth but without the importance of it's past, it wouldn't have existed and what would Peter Sellers have worn then? Not to mention, Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca would have found his clothes needed an awfully long time to dry when it rained.

Christopher Bailey over at Burberry, has proven he can continuously reinvent the wheel and show there's life in the old overcoat yet, as season by season it is still a sought after item, a staple item for any wardrobe, wanted by both men and women.


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