A Brief History of Menswear’s Iconic Spring Jackets

Since their creation little over a century ago, foul-weather jackets with waterproof properties have become a cornerstone of the modern man’s spring wardrobe. Three iconic styles in particular stand out — the Mackintosh, the trench coat and the waxed jacket. Tough and capable of withstanding unpredictable weather, their timeless good looks make them classics whose designs remain largely unchanged even today. (And that’s a good thing.) Get acquainted with the iconic toppers below.

The Mackintosh

After developing the world’s first waterproof fabric, Charles Macintosh (for whom the Mackintosh is named) produced the first “mac” coat in 1843. Sartorial etiquette demanded that macs were only worn in rural settings, much like tweed jackets, but that didn’t last. The typically single-breasted raincoat became a formalwear staple when rubber became more affordable in the early 20th century.

Today’s more casual raincoats are built for stylish urban living. They are also much lighter and less stifling than their predecessors thanks to modern fabrics. However, macs are still widely produced with the same minimalist qualities found in their original design, ensuring they can slide easily over any outfit.

Stockholm Raincoat by Stutterheim, available at GotStyle

The Trench Coat

The trench coat became possible after Thomas Burberry developed a breathable and water-resistant fabric known as gabardine in 1879. Burberry produced his first coats for British officers during the First World War. They featured a generous cut, belted closure and double-breasted construction.

Since, the trench coat has become synonymous with the Burberry brand. Contemporary versions follow the original military standard, epaulets and all, but sport a slimmer silhouette and lighter fabrics more capable of withstanding the elements. Trenchcoats are appropriate attire whether it is raining or not.

Mid-length Cotton Gabardine Trench Coat by Burberry, available at Mr. Porter

The Waxed Jacket

Made with Barbour’s signature waxed-cotton fabric, the waxed jacket was first produced in the early 1900s as a foul-weather layer for dock workers, farmers and British sailors. In the 1930s, Barbour extended the tough fabric’s use to motorcycle clothing. Over time, its defining design characteristics took form: bellows pockets, brass details and a ringed two-way zip.

After shrugging off its industrial roots and entering the realm of upscale countrywear, the waxed jacket hit the mainstream in the 80s. Its increased popularity spawned many imitators, but the classic Barbour remains the eminent style of choice.

International Original Waxed Jacket by Barbour

 

For a more in-depth look at the history of menswear, check out one of my favourite reads — Icons of Men’s Style. Josh Sims’ book provides much of the context I use in this blog post.

Icons of Mens Style Josh Sims

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