The French Flashing Detective

Trench Coat

I’ve heard them all.

“What are you, a copper, a detective?”

“He’s one of them sick flashers ain’t he; gonna flash his willy aren’t ya?”

‘You one of them city folk, big business types…”

“He’s French.”

“He’s a journalist.”

Well, I am a journalist, but that’s besides the point.

Who would have thought that the trench coat would attract so much attention seeing as the mac – in one incarnation to the other – has been ubiquitous in popular culture for most of the twentieth century, as well as being a sartorial must for a lot of men of a particular age and profession. I assume that because it has generally been absent from the wardrobes of teenagers and twenty-somethings throughout its history, the sudden trend for a younger audience to embrace the look has really taken people by surprise. It’s like the resurgence of the cardigan – again worn with steadfast enthusiasm by your grandpa and his peers – which was another slow-burner for style-conscious men. I got battered by it from contemporaries, but like a good suit, the strong deep V of a cardigan was always a triumph of design.

Nevertheless, in the last two years, trench coats have emerged as a popular item, from the regular waterproof styles to cropped versions to heavy duty cotton pieces. However, as aesthetically pleasing a mac is, the way you wear can either make you look like insouciant and cool, or like a uptight psycho with something to hide. The latter is never a good look.

In this month’s GQ (June 2009), style shrink Robert Johnson gives a poor hapless reader unsuitable advice as to how best wear a trench coat. Johnson sits in the camp of formality, and adheres for the most part to the code of tying up the belt in the correct and tidy way. It looks smart, it looks neat, but it doesn’t look good. Its very forced, too delicate, and hints at obsessive compulsive traits whether you are OCD or not. The other camp is the occupied by a coterie of men with style. The Swedish acquaintance that Johnson mentions sits in this camp. His belief is that the belt should be tied at the back and the front left completely undone. I agree on both accounts. The belt should be tied at the back with little attention – sometimes two knots – and when having the buttons undone, make sure yours is a tench coat where the double-breast isn’t so dramatic that it flaps about excessively. This gives your whole look some depth, especially if you’ve layered up underneath with, for example, a contrasting coloured cardigan and a white motif t-shirt.

However, that said, I do prefer to do up the buttons, leaving at least the top two undone. It’s casual and relaxed and with trench coats being sharply designed these days, it gives you a more informal and relaxed look that might just stop those hackneyed phrases from making an appearance.

And always have the collar up.

Be a man.

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