The 5 most iconic outerwear pieces which should never leave your wardrobe
In the fashion world, things seem to change on a near daily basis: the new black can pretty much be any colour you can think of! One minute your trouser length trails the floor picking up whatever you’ve left on it, the next it’s grazing your ankle and then it’s over the knee (these usually find themselves on the sale rail at the end of the season!).
But some things transcend all this, and it is usually the things that have a reason for existing. By this I mean that they were conceptualised for a purpose, a function and a fit. They stand the test of time, offer notoriety, a confident ageless sophistication, and in the days where throwaway fashion and culture must be coming to its end for the sake of the planet, have longevity.
The Mac or Trench
The trench coat is one example. It is possibly the style that has beaten all others in terms of its popularity over the decades. The Mac, or Trench coat, has been worn by style icons around the globe. Bridgette Bardot famously using hers as a dressing gown, Twiggy, Audrey Hepburn and latterly Kate Moss all regularly donning their Macs oozing style and sophistication, rather than a need for weather protection.
However, the Mac/Trench, actually originated, yes you’ve guessed it, for wear in the trenches and it was used throughout the 19th century by army personnel as a garment with a specific function – this was performance gear which could actually save your life. Camouflage in colour, and water-resistant (but not that breathable), the design features were specifically constructed to “work”. Shoulder epaulettes carried a rank and provided padding for the butt of a shotgun. D-rings held map cases and swords, ventilation flaps were for expelling unpleasant odours, cuff straps allowed binoculars to be stowed, large pockets were made to hold military gear, and all cut to a length and fit which stopped fabric dragging in the mud and offered a degree of freedom of movement. There may never be a creation again which so effortlessly has transcended functionality and iconic fashion. The Mac truly reflects British history.
The Protected Species Waterproof Mac
The Parka was originally invented by the Inuit people as a functional way to protect themselves from the freezing polar conditions. Traditionally worn by women, this practical cold weather coat included a baby pouch, a fur-lined hood and had a longer fitting body shape to snuggle into in harsh conditions. Later on, in the 1950s, the Parka became the style of choice for the US military.
Typically in sage green with the eponymous fur-lined hood, it was simple and practical. Further variations such as the fishtail parka were developed during the Korean War, again out of climatic necessity. Since this time, the Parka has been well and truly placed in British subculture – during the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Parka became synonymous with the Mod culture and a symbol of youth rebellion. It was warm, durable and had a longer length design making it perfect for wearing over sharp suits whilst riding a scooter. Today the Parka is still connected with the music scene and pop culture – an incredibly practical garment offering full protective coverage, and an enviably rich heritage.
The Pea coat
Again no surprises here, the Pea coat’s history is deeply rooted in the military and naval backgrounds. This slim fitting double breasted outerwear piece has been around since the 1800s and was first worn by the Dutch naval officers. The name pea coat originated from the Dutch word “pije” (they pronounce their j’s oddly), which was used in the Dutch language to describe a coat made from coarse wool fabric.
The British took this coat and made it their own – similarly designed for naval duties (hence the image of an anchor on the brass buttons), side welt pockets were applied for easy access to wallets, a flared hem to allow unrestricted movement to climb the ropes, and a fitted body to reduce the effects of the wind. The Pea coat fuses warmth with a smart, tailored look – think Tom Ford’s creation for Daniel Craig in Spectre, or Alexa Chung pairing hers with her signature Breton stripe top and white skinnies – sophisticated, stylish and timeless.
The Bomber jacket
The Bomber is a wardrobe staple. No gender, shape or style restrictions may be the reason this piece has made its way into the upper echelons of the fashion world of late. Created for the American air force and originally appearing in a midnight blue hue, (later switched to a sage green after the Korean and Vietnamese wars for camouflage reasons) this style took over Britain starting in the late 1960s and continuing into the 1980s when skinheads wore one example of a version of a bomber.
The Bomber jacket has a deserved place in every iconic outerwear style lists. Marlon Brando was an early adopter. James Dean’s iconic red bomber is as identifiable as the man himself. Steve McQueen in the Great escape rocked his leather version. Gosling smoulders in his sateen version in the late 90’s film “Drive”. And then there was Marilyn Monroe wearing her pink version over a tight, skinny dress – a look which will be forever elegant, feminine and cool all rolled into one. The bomber jacket trend isn’t going anywhere. It has firmly planted itself as a wardrobe staple re-inventing itself for every generation across both genders.
The Protected Species Rain Bomber
The puffer is one of the only styles in our list whose history isn’t linked inextricably with the military, however its story again is of unwavering practicality and function, and like all the others in this list has an iconic status, standing the test of time and transcending fashions.
Eddie Bauer invented the first puffer jacket in 1936. He called it the Skyliner, and created it out of personal necessity after nearly losing his life to hypothermia whilst on a fishing trip in mid-winter. Patented in 1940, his creation was entirely about keeping the wearer warm. It was the first goose down jacket, an alternative to the heavy wool garments of the time.
Since its inception, the practical garment has appeared over and over again in fashion houses throughout the world. Technical performance brand Moncler trended this piece in the 1980’s with the Milanese youths.
What is brilliant about this jacket, is it is used universally despite cultures, class and sexes. Popularised in streetwear on the rap scene in NY, it was borne out of low income, cramped conditions driving the desire to be out of the house all year (if you’ve been to NY in winter you’ll understand!). Nowadays, this piece is as suited to a horse rider in Harrogate, as a North face “Nuptse” puffer on the streets of Manchester, or a Channel ski puffer gliding down an Italian slope – a jacket which will be around forever, worn by everyone, a true fusion of fashion and function from Kanye to Kate. After all we all need warmth.