From the Trenches to the Red Carpet

BURBERRY – from 1914
“This iconic design originated from a commission by the British War Office to create a coat for soldiers on the front line.”


My Uncle and at least one of my Aunts wore Burberry trench coats in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. That check pattern on the inside was so swishy when I was a child. In later years you could get different linings! In my family, we spent all our spare money on boats, but other people wore fabled Burberry coats.

Gradually over the years the product came to seem a bit stodgy, and that check pattern was ripped off by others and then adopted by football thugs, giving the brand a kind of cheesy reputation, but they turned it around and now their fashions are frequently seen on red carpets as well as rainy streetscapes.

I didn’t realize this but Burberry was the outfitter for the Amundsen expedition to the South Pole in 1911 and then for the 1914 Shackleton expedition to Antarctica. They had an existing officer’s coat which they adapted for contemporary trench warfare at the beginning of World War I in Britain, and this is the iconic coat pictured on the card, thus bringing the term “trench coat” into English vocabulary.

The check pattern was created in the 1920s, and seems quietly dated now, but they still sell it on select items. I remember seeing it as a child and thinking how fancy it was. Imagine a check pattern on the inside of a coat? Wow.

I find it interesting that a company that existed in the 19th century has managed to keep going, and they still sell the trench coat, along with perfume, handbags, boots and shoes, watches, and many kinds of accessories, some for children. I started to take notice of them again when celebrities on red carpet occasions wore clothes from the Burberry line. Illustrated by Erin Petson, this coat seems so fresh and fashionable on the card.

I was getting ready to pack these cards away, but had to have a browse of them, and just felt like talking about Burberry today. It’s so interesting what happens to companies through the decades and how they are often resurrected with the right leadership.




4 thoughts on “From the Trenches to the Red Carpet

  1. I was just listening to an online retreat by Kevin Griffin, and a line he said seemed to connect with your post:
    “But because of impermanence, everything is never okay. It’s constantly changing. We get to a place of comfort and it changes.”
    His solution was to stay engaged rather than run away or look for a magical fix.

    • I’ve been reading about uncertainty and impermanence for months now in an effort to feel better about it. I really think that these are terrible things in the minds of people, probably because we’ve been taught that we can be comfortable and secure. Ha!!! No such thing for humans.

      I stayed engaged today by talking to utility companies for 40 minutes to cancel our accounts. Navigating bureaucracy is always a fun thing to do: Touch 1 for billing, touch 3 for technical service, touch 5 for “I want to scream because I can’t talk to a real person” and touch 16.5 for “If I hear that canned music one more time I’m going to beat my head against a wall.”

      Then I’m staying engaged by wrapping tiny little 1/2-inch dollhouse things in tissue paper for hours and hours. Whee.

      • Heehee, after spending hours “talking” to robotic voices about health care, I can relate to the: touch 5 for “I want to scream because I can’t talk to a real person” and touch 16.5 for “If I hear that canned music one more time I’m going to beat my head against a wall.”
        Hang in there friend – humor helps!

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