No more second trenches
Saturday, 12th January 2019
This is what happens when a company very fond of trench coats finds itself having already developed a trench coat. Where on earth to go next? Why, to the history books, of course: to those great and weighty annals of menswear past, when men were men and coats were coats.
Turns out the trench coat, at the start of the First World Wear, had a peer, and an evidently neglected one at that — who, while its younger brother found fame and fortune on civvy street, was relegated to obscurity and the occasional admiration of those in pursuit of menswear arcana. Quite why — well, that’s how history goes sometimes, but there is certainly no doubting its credentials. Tielocken is its name, and it was described on or around the time of its inception as having “the smartness essential in a topcoat allied to such dependable powers of protection as enable the wearer to face the worst weather without discomfort or risk to health.” And that, as ads in the old days used to do, about sums it up.
Most different about the tielocken versus the trench is its lack of buttons. Instead, it employs a multi-fangled belt system. (Described like that, it’s not hard to see why the trench coat won supremacy.) The belt boasts three sliders, which the wearer can move around for the perfect length and fit, and the belt is fixed to the body, thus very unlikely to go AWOL on e.g. the battlefield. It is a system somewhat counterintuitive on first impressions, but which with some effort yields a truly glorious result, and is thereafter nothing but hugely satisfying, as one slides and clunks oneself in and out and out and in.
This version of the tielocken differs from its wartime forbearer so that it may differ also from the trench occupying the same rail at the workshop. It is more formal, for one, in its collar and lapel. It has, too, a split-sleeve — because no block of construction better or indeed more literally combines the smart and the active than that inset-raglan hybrid — and the formalwear trapping of a turn-back cuff. It also has, at the risk of chucking the raison d’être of tielockens out the window, one or two buttons about the place. There’s no surcingle waggling in the wind here — instead, in the interests of simplicity, there’s a jigger button to keep underside in check — and the inverted pleat at the back is buttoned halfway down, so it behaves better when the coat is made in thick and springy tweeds.
No historical re-enactment here, then, nor a trench in all but name. Instead, a coat which, you might argue, marries smartness and weather-readiness — just like the ads used to say.