Like many enduring fashion icons, the Trench Coat was borne out of military need.

In England during the First World War, which was fought mainly in the trenches, a need arose for an alternative to thick wool overcoats that would become too heavy when water soaked and covered in mud.  Enter Thomas Burberry, of the house of Burberry, inventor of an innovative, lightweight, tightly woven, water repellant wool fabric he dubbed Gabardine, that perfectly suited his new, soon-to-be iconic overcoat design for the British army.

The original Trench Coat was a double breasted, 10 button, mid-calf length coat with gun flaps on the shoulders, wrist straps, brass D-rings, a storm collar, and, of course, a buckled belt at the waist; all design elements that signify a traditional Trench Coat to this day.  Although not regulation military dress, the coat was immediately adopted by British Officers (lower ranks were not allowed to wear the design) and became a symbol of the Allied forces.  After the war, officers continued to wear their Trench Coats with pride.

Further cementing the Trench Coat in sartorial history is Hollywood’s obsession with the coat, from Rick Blaine in Casablanca to Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther, the Trench Coat is as synonymous with these characters as the actors wearing it.  Over the years the Trench Coat has been through subtle changes here and there, different lengths and fabrics, but the classic design has always remained.  As much a legacy of men’s wardrobes, the Trench is also notable as being one of the first menswear items to be adopted as a women’s wear staple.

Consider adding a classic Trench coat to your wardrobe today, and you’ll still be wearing it twenty years from now, which makes it worth your while to spend a little more.   It’s hard to beat the allure of the traditional dark khaki Trench, but today’s Trench comes in a variety of colors and fabrics.

Click through as we reveal five great Trench Coats worth snagging. Not surprisingly, most are from British tailors.