Television detectives have become cultural icons, captivating audiences with their brilliant investigative skills, complex personalities, and, quite often, their distinctive sense of style.
Among many fashion outwears that define these fictional detectives, none is as iconic as the trench coat. The trench coat has surpassed its functional origins to become a symbol of mystery, intrigue, and timeless sophistication in the world of TV detective dramas.
Its adaptability, blending flawlessly with characters from different eras and genres, highlights its versatility and timeless appeal, ensuring that the allure of the trench coat continues to captivate fashion enthusiasts and storytellers alike. TheUSASuits holds a vast collection of trench coats that you’ll be honored to own.
The Origins of the Trench Coat
The trench coat itself has a rich history, originating as a practical garment for military officers during World War I. Designed to withstand the rigidities of trench warfare, the coat quickly gained popularity for its durable and weather-resistant qualities. Its military origins advanced an air of authority and seriousness that would soon be co-opted by fictional detectives on the small screen.
The connection between detectives and trench coats can be traced back to the literary world with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic character, Sherlock Holmes. Though not obviously described in the original stories, many visual adaptations, including early stage plays and later television productions, featured Holmes in a long, flowing trench coat. Basil Rathbone, who portrayed Holmes in the 1930s and 1940s film series, solidified the association between detectives and trench coats.
Film Noir Influence
The trench coat truly came into its own during the film noir era of the 1940s and 1950s. This cinematic movement, characterized by its moody lighting, shadowy visuals, and morally ambiguous characters, embraced the trench coat as a visual shorthand for the detective archetype. Humphrey Bogart’s portrayal of private investigator Sam Spade in “The Maltese Falcon“, characterized the fusion of trench coat and detective, setting the standard for years to come.
In the 1970s, the trench coat took a slightly different turn with the character of Lieutenant Columbo, played by Peter Falk. Columbo was known for his wild appearance, including a crumpled trench coat that seemed out of place in the sleek world of crime-solving. Despite his unassuming demeanor, Columbo’s trench coat became an integral part of his character, symbolizing his unconventional investigative style and keen intellect.
The detective trope continued to evolve in the 80s and 90s, with iconic characters like Thomas Magnum in “Magnum, P.I.” and Jessica Fletcher in “Murder, She Wrote“. While Magnum embraced a more casual Hawaiian shirt style, Jessica Fletcher, portrayed by Angela Lansbury, favored a more refined look, often pairing her trench coat with a typewriter and a keen sense of deduction. These characters demonstrated the versatility of the trench coat as a fashion statement for detectives of various styles and personalities.
Modern Detectives and Trench Coats
As television entered the 21st century, the trench coat continued to be a staple for TV detectives. Characters like Adrian Monk in “Monk” and Patrick Jane in “The Mentalist”, showcased the enduring appeal of this classic outerwear. Monk’s obsessive-compulsive detective persona and Jane’s charismatic mentalist both found a perfect sartorial match in the trench coat, emphasizing the timeless connection between style and crime-solving.
The 2010s brought a modern twist to the classic trench coat with the BBC series “Sherlock“. Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes featured a sleek, tailored trench coat that added a contemporary edge to the character’s timeless appeal. This adaptation demonstrated that the trench coat could be both a nod to tradition and a symbol of contemporary sophistication.
The TV detective and the trench coat have forged a timeless and inseparable bond. From the foggy streets of Victorian London to the sleek landscapes of modern crime-solving, the trench coat has proven itself as more than just a practical garment—it’s a symbol of mystery, intelligence, and enduring style.