Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Trenches: The Market for Basic Raincoats Is Drying Up

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Trenches: The Market for Basic Raincoats Is Drying Up

Article excerpt

ONCE UPON A TIME, nearly all raincoats were khaki-colored, and most of them were either trench coats (awash with collars and tabs and epaulettes and double yokes and belts and even the D-rings for attaching map cases and canteens that had survived from the trenches of World War I) or else they were the simpler raglan-sleeved, fly-fronted Balmacaans, adapted from an overcoat named for an estate near Inverness.

They ignored fashion - or transcended it.

They were useful. You could wrap yourself in one and go to sleep on the deck of the overnight ferry from Iraklion - then shake it out in the morning and go to lunch at the Grande Bretagne in Athens, and look fine, as the man who writes the J. Peterman catalog might say. Or, if you weren't the J. Peterman type, you could throw it over your shoulder and head out to work on a day that, judging from the sky, might go either way weatherwise.

Only several years ago, nearly everybody had one. You needed one. Not only for rainy days, and cloudy days when it might rain, but pretty much any day that wasn't cold enough to call for a heavy coat or hot enough to go without one. You could wear a good trench coat for years, until its cuffs and pocket flaps frayed and its belt's leather buckle began to decompose, and its fine cotton gabardine acquired a comforting, delectably silky patina.

Then, mysteriously, over just the past few years, the necessity of raincoats began to evaporate like puddles in the sun. People started saving their raincoats for a rainy day. Which meant it could be a whole lifetime before they wore them out and had to buy new ones.

Or they tossed their raincoats over their shoulders on partly cloudy days and absentmindedly left them on the bus - and, if it turned out to be sunny, didn't notice they were missing for weeks. And, even when they noticed, sometimes they didn't buy new ones. They bought storm coats, or parkas, or pea coats, or bomber jackets instead - what people in the industry call outerwear as distinguished from rainwear.

What outerwear has going for it: It's more casual and it tends to be zippier.

"IBM announced a couple weeks ago they'll be dressing casual every day - they don't even have a dress code," London Fog men's design chief John Baranowski says, explaining the decline of the basic raincoat. …

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