Trench Coats in Hollywood – From Lovers to Superheroes | The Kewl Shop

Trench Coats in Hollywood – From Lovers to Superheroes

Posted on March 10 2013

hollywood trench coat

Hollywood has always had a torrid love affair with the trench coat. This iconic fashion statement has withstood the test of time and remains a must-have piece for everyone’s wardrobe.

Whether seen on-screen or off the screen, the trench coat is a timeless classic that can never go wrong. Immortalized by the likes of Dick Tracy and Humphrey Bogart, the coat has since gone through countless changes but will always exude style and mystery. Used in different settings to denote different characteristics, trench coats have been the fashion stars of countless movies over the years.

Origins of the Trench Coat

The trench coat was first designed during the First World War for English and French soldiers, as an alternative to the heavy and hindering greatcoat. Both Aquascutum and Burberry claim responsibility for this creation. The design went through many changes over the years, but remained a popular item among soldiers through the Second World War as well.

Following the UK, soldiers of the US and Soviet Union also developed trench coats for their armies. Many soldiers chose to use these coats when they returned to their civilian life and so trench coats began to pick up as a fashion statement for both men and women. The most iconic of these designs, which still stands strong today, is the double-breasted, ten-buttoned long coat in beige, tan, khaki, and grey, which is used to protect against rain and wind.

Film Noir – the Trench Coat’s First Big Break

It was in the 1930’s and 1940’s that the classic trench coat made its first big Hollywood appearance. Film Noir, with its mysterious characters and romantic heroes, made for a great platform for the coat. Many of these films featured detectives as the male lead and these heroes were never seen without a trench coat, collar turned up, and a fedora perched on their head.

From actors like Alan Ladd in The Gun for Hire and Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past, the romance between Hollywood and the trench coat began. Noir films carried this style through classic movies like The Big Sleep and Murder, My Sweet. It was also around this time that women started wearing trench coats. These were slightly altered, usually made a little shorter and more fitted to go with the dresses and skirts worn by the women of the day. Who among us haven’t been envious of the gorgeous Katharine Hepburn in her lovely trench coat?

Romance – The Trench Falls in Love, and So Do We

From the days of black and white cinema to today’s films, trench coats have followed through seamlessly, being ever popular and always adapting. They are considered, by more sentimental movie-buffs, to be the iconic outerwear for a romantic hero or heroine. This reputation all began in Casablanca, where Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart immortalized the trench coat with their passion, their jealously, and their timeless love.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Whether it was George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s – with their unforgettable kiss in the rain – or Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in Paris Blues, everywhere you looked, men and women were lighting up the silver screen with the ever-so-chic buttoned trench coat.

Other memorable romantic trysts of the trench coat have been in movies like Kramer vs. Kramer in the scenes where Meryl Streep’s character is lost in the park, and Say Anything where John Cusack showed a generation of girls what it meant to fall in love. One thing is for certain, Hollywood’s romance with the trench coat is here to stay.

Superheroes – The Trench Coat Fights Crime!

It’s not unknown that the trench coat has been a favorite with superheroes. Most often used to hide their super personalities, the coats were considered a staple of secret identities. How can anyone forget Clark Kent’s beige belted trench coat?

Many supporting characters like Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Dent (who went on to become Two Face) sported trench coats almost all the time, carrying the trend from comic pages to the big screen.

But the reach of the trench goes beyond the common man, and takes on the challenge of making superheroes immortal. From the unforgettable Hellboy to the dark and mysterious Rorschach, the trench coat has been taking superhero movies by storm. Characters like Blade, The Punisher and even John Constantine, the anti-hero protagonist of the Hellblazer series, are never seen without their classic coats.

In the comic world, Constantine’s off-hand remark about being in the “Trenchcoat Brigade” even led to the formation of a team of the same name. Written in 1999, the Trenchcoat Brigade, published by DC comics, consisted of Constantine, Doctor Occult, Mister E, Phantom Stranger, and Rose Psychic. Even villains like Sandman have gotten in on the trend!

It’s been time-tested and has gone through countless metamorphoses over the years, but the trench coat has always come out on top. From The Matrix to Inspector Gadget, it has become a staple of fashion and sensibility. Both on-screen and off the screen, Hollywood is in love with the trench coat, as we all should be.
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