It may well be the glamorous coat of the polished military man or strong-jawed Hollywood
anti-hero, but it’s also earned a rather risqué name for itself as the undisputed coat of flashers and philanderers.
The trenchcoat of course, is the perfect vehicle for the job; easily repurposed with its tall collar, generous
double-breasted wrap, belt for extra security where required and even better, its two slit-through side pockets
which allow for one to reach beneath the coat to whatever lurks beneath. Small wonder then that it should come to be
the coat of choice for those who feel the irrepressible need to bare all in front of a crowd; whether that be a
jubilant celebration of your team’s success on the sporting field, or else to frighten eligible young ladies half to
death on the Subway.
But how should such an outré tradition come about? Put simply, as Hollywood pumped out
its impossibly glamorous silver screen framed dreams across the Western World throughout the forties and fifties,
the trenchcoat became the coat of choice for lovable rogues and disreputables, men of the world and irrepressible
femme fatales. For example, in 1941’sThe Maltese Falcon, Humphrey Bogart wore the quintessential beige
double-breasted Aquascutum trench, before wearing it again in Casablanca in 1942 as he bid Ingrid Bergman goodbye
with steely detachment, and again in 1946 as private eye Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep. Audrey Hepburn
famously dressed in a short tan trench for the closing scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961 and in 1971,
the brooding, embattled figure that Michael Caine cut in Get Carter, in his black double-breasted trenchcoat
has led to the coat becoming as synonymous with the modern British gangster as it has with the film itself. Alain
Delon, who wore his in the 1967 crime thriller, Le Samouraï wore his coat with similarly stoic élan,
positively smouldering his way through an impossibly stylish narrative.
It also, curiously, has become synonymous with the
cinematic sleuth, presumably because it also channels a subtle sense of mystery and quite literally lends itself to
concealment. The iconic (although admittedly not altogether rakish) image of Inspector Clouseau’s beady eyes poking
out between hat brim and turned-up collar, more or less sets the tone. There are nonetheless, cooler associations
between the trenchcoat and the super-sleuth; another of Michael Caine’s iconic roles from
the sixties, secret serviceman Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File, has Caine sporting a simple single-breasted
mac.In Blade Runner, boththeReplicantRoy Batty, played by Rutger Hauer and Harrison Ford’sRick Decardwore voluminous, futuristic trenchcoats (Hauer in a terrifying dark
leather number and Ford in a tan treated cotton single-breasted design) and likewise The Matrix trilogy
abounds with long, leathery, stature-raising trenchcoats as worn by the legendary Lawrence Fishburn as Morpheus or
Keanu Reeves’s Neo.
This association with secrecy, and the coat’s ability both to blend into a
crowd and hide a great deal in doing so, has also occasionally led a fair hearted maiden to do just that, using the
coat’s powers of concealment to invoke a serious amount of sex appeal; whether that be surprising a loved one with
nought but lingerie beneath her coat as he returns home from a trip abroad, or else playing dress up in order to
spice things up in the bedroom. Such risqué surprises are genuinely sexy, but there’s a great deal of difference
between a scantily clad secret which remains between a young couple and a middle aged man revealing his old chap on
the top deck of a bus.
In reality, nice though it might be think otherwise, wrapping a trenchcoat around your shivering gentleman-sausage
and sneaking about like some sort of nude assassin is not going to do your street cred a huge favour. In truth,
this enduring association with the smouldering mystique of Hollywood’s greatest hits has evidently filtered into
the realm of delusion. It seems that men and women, who invariably don’t look like Hollywood style icons have,
over the years, repeatedly seen fit to don and then un-don the trenchcoat to channel an air of (albeit
misguided) virility and excitement.
This rather entertaining assertion nonetheless belies a simple truth – although stripping beneath a
trench is seldom advisable, they have nonetheless endured as a symbol of sex appeal and suavity. Indeed, so potent
is the trenchcoat’s power as an aphrodisiac that it evidently compels a good portion of the populace to get naked
underneath. Which is why when all’s said and done, you could do a lot worse than invest in a new trenchcoat this
spring – it’ll increase your attractiveness ten fold – but for god sake, don’t feel the need to bare all beneath
it once you have. After all, as Mark Twain once said, “clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no
influence upon society.”