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How to Wear a Trench Coat With Style Plus Some Inspiration

Sometimes, you need more coverage without adding weight, and that’s what a trench coat delivers.

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One of the many military-originating menswear garments out there, trench coats provide more body than a blazer but eschew the heavier feel of wool, giving you something that’s easily worn over a suit and built for rainy, overcast conditions.

Especially if you’re in the process of building a capsule wardrobe, understand the origins and design of a trench coat, and how to wear one.

What is a Trench Coat?

Trench coats are a three-season piece of outerwear that’s designed to repel moisture and offer more space for a suit jacket underneath. 

Trench coats originally appeared during the Crimean War – developed by Aquascutum as a waterproof outer garment for soldiers. More prominently, Thomas Burberry devised one out of gabardine for the British Army at the start of the 20th century with a similar purpose in mind.

In either context, the garment could handle the often-muddy conditions of war yet transitioned to civilian life in the years following World War I. 

Today, men’s trench coats bear a similar assortment of features alluding to its military origins: wide lapels with a double- or single-breasted front, an adjustable waistbelt belt held in place with D-rings, epaulets, and a length that falls around the knee. You’ll also typically spot a storm shield on the back and venting. 

man wearing a stylish trench coat

Beyond these, gabardine – a tightly woven yet light- to medium-weight cotton fabric with a diagonal ribbed pattern – remains the most traditional construction. Yet, material variations have expanded to encompass polyester on the fast-fashion side, leather for a more Matrix-like vibe, and twill variations for more substance. 

As trench coats have reached classic status among the menswear pantheon, colors veer in this direction. You’ll have more luck pairing the garment with your suit or a sports coat and chino ensemble with a khaki, camel, taupe, or charcoal shade. (Need help with what colors go with beige?)

However, just as with suiting, designers look beyond this core, and today, you’ll spot them in navy, green, and burgundy, as well as select, often darker-hued prints. 

How to Style a Trench Coat

Especially if your style errs more casual, you might be tempted to just throw over any trench coat you see and have it envelop your form. Instead, you’re advised to think about:

  • Form: The question is single or double breast? The latter runs more formal and gives off a more prominent military air. The former reflects modern suiting conventions. Due to their commanding presence, double-breasted coats tend to better suit taller men, while single-breasted designs appear less overpowering and torso-widening for someone shorter. 
  • Color: Grays and greens, especially olive, allude strongly to the garment’s military history, while khaki and camel shades reference classic movies – from Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca to Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther films. 
  • The Belt: You’ll see men wearing their trench coat fully open, no belt in sight, and others making full use of the belt and D-ring – a feature added initially to hold a weapon. Between these two, open suggests a more casual vibe – you’d likely wear it this way with jeans and a hoodie underneath. Belted automatically adds more structure and plays up its more formal notes. 
  • Fit: You’ll want a trench coat that’s loose but not too spacious. Specifically, it should fit over your suit jacket or blazer without adding excessive fabric on top. 
  • Length: Select a trench coat based on your height. Full-length designs tend to be reminiscent of The Matrix, while for everyday wear, you should look for something that covers the torso and hits at least at mid-thigh, based on the length of your suit jacket. 
  • For the office: Whether it’s a typical day or you’ve got a job interview scheduled, make sure your trench coat matches your suit or suit separates, ideally with the coat in a lighter shade. 
  • Layering: As a practice, layering lets you put more transitional garments in rotation. Trench coats are no different. The slightly roomier fit is perfect for wearing a bomber, hoodie, or even denim jacket below in a cooler, blustery day requiring more coverage. 

Ideas for Wearing a Trench Coat

Turn to tradition or venture off in your own direction with the following suggestions:

Banana Republic Trench Coat

Banana Republic Classic Trench Coat

Classic meets cropped in this traditionally styled trench with a shorter hem and water-repellent organic cotton. A more relaxed fit makes this ideal for wearing over a suit jacket, sports coat, or blazer, while epaulets and a vented back play up its military origins. Lining gives you choices for three-season wear.

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Brooks Brothers Trench Coat

Brooks Brothers Water-Repellent Cordura Trench Coat

Without the belt, some might call this trench coat a duster. Either way, a blend of merino and Cordura nylon adds more substance, while a water-repellent finish and removable lining prepare you for rain and colder days.

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Cotton Trench Coat

Zara Oversized Trench Coat 

We’ve reached the point where everything is oversized – even the coats we wear. This roomy single-breasted style front falls past the knees for a look that’s best described as peak effortlessness. 

Lacoste Trench Coat

Lacoste Men’s Heritage 3-in-1 Check Trench

Subtle windowpane checks add a grid-like print to the front of this three-in-one non-belted trench featuring a cotton/nylon exterior, straight mid-length silhouette, and quilted liner vest. 

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Burberry Trench Coat

Burberry Cotton Gabardine Car Coat

If you intend to go classic, get close to the original. Burberry simplifies and shortens its familiar silhouette with this straight-cut cropped car coat constructed out of gabardine. 

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Indochino Trench Coat

Indochino Heywood Khaki Trench Coat with Detachable Lining

Get three-season wear from this shorter-length custom belted trench that comes with a detachable quilted lining.

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RL Water-Repellent Silk Trench Coat

Purple Label Water-Repellent Silk Trench Coat

The Water-Repellent Silk Trench Coat by Ralph Lauren is a high-quality and stylish outerwear piece, blending classic trench coat design with modern functionality. The trench coat is made from silk, a luxurious and lightweight fabric known for its smooth texture and elegant drape.

Hawes & Curtis Trench Coat

Hawes & Curtis Men’s Khaki Trench Coat

Lightweight, lined cotton in a tan hue captures precisely what you seek for a capsule wardrobe.

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Bottega Veneta Trench Coat

Bottega Veneta Trench

With a point collar and belt with a triangle buckle, this solid-black trench coat throws in a few angles, and a touch of shimmer through silver-toned buttons.

APC Cotton-Twill Trench Coat

APC Cotton-Twill Trench Coat

This APC style toes the line between trench and chore coat through its beige hue and boxy, cropped form with minimal embellishments.

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How to Wear a Trench Coat

Ivan Yaskey is a Philly-born menswear fashion blogger and copywriter. When not writing about men's style he's also an EDM and synthpop enthusiast.