Digging trenches

The phrase “classic with a twist” is right up there in the pantheon of sartorial cliches, but the thing with the “twist” is that, were it any cop, it would surely by now have made itself a de facto part of the “classic”.

Otherwise, you might say, the twist is mere frivolity, detracting from what makes the classic so timeless. Such is the conundrum when setting out to do something not wholly classic with a classic — none of which come more copper-bottomed than the trench coat.

The new trench coat has been in development since July. The order of play began with the coat block — a conscientiously no-messingly classic one, with regulation length, one-piece sleeve construction, and low back-yoke — before plunging deeper and deeper into the great rabbit-hole of increasingly nuanced trench coat considerations. The more nuanced these considerations become, the less visible they are to the naked eye. So nuanced are some, indeed, that they are borderline arcane. And arcane can be lot of fun. Arcane for a trench is in the inverted knife pleat versus the arrow inverted pleat, the one-fifths versus three-tenths jigger-shank length, and arcanity-to-end-them-all, the worm.

Lighting the way through the pitfall-laden world of trench minutiae is a pattern-cutting maestro incomparably well-schooled in the subject of trench coats. A man who, legend has it, once reached the semi-final of Mastermind with trench coat as his specialist subject. A man who, if you ask him the time, will tell you it is always trench o’clock. A man so at one with his trench work that he draws strength from it; exists in man-trench symbiotic revelry once he really gets stuck in. A man who, it must be said, much happier on the classic side of “classic with a twist”; the twist sometimes skating close to sacrilege.

The t-word, then, round these parts, is forbidden. No t-words here. But what there is, with the new trench coat, are deliberate breaks with tradition. These breaks replace or evolve hallmarks of the classic trench — the gun-flaps, epaulettes, and d-rings, for instance — which, taken out of the 12-feet-deep trench context, can get in the way and are sort of vestigial. Breaks with tradition, then, which complement the still-relevant parts of old-school trench-dom — trying to uphold the genuine everyday usefulness of a classic.

There is more to development than patterns and blueprints, of course. There are fittings, like the brass buckles blathered on about here. And then there is the small matter of the cloth — most likely a heavyweight cotton-twill synonymous with the trench in the short period of time before gabardine. Then comes more prototyping sampling — the sample a safe bet given that the infallibility of the pattern-maestro’s work is one of the eternal verities of factory life — and then onwards to completion, towards the end of the month.