In Review: Burberry Prorsum Cotton Garbardine Trench Coat
There's no question the trench coat is a menswear staple. Worn for over a century, it still holds its own as arguably something every man should own at some point. No other name is tied to it in the public consciousness as much as Burberry, a British company which grew its reputation and company over this very item through multiple world wars and beyond into the commercial arena.
To be honest, I wasn't even really looking for it at the time, though of course I've always wanted one. It's hard not to lust over such a pillar of menswear history and style, but the MSRP on Burberry has always made my eyes glaze over. Then I randomly came across a fresh rack of Burberry Prorsum trench coats a couple of weeks ago down from a list of $2195 to $529.99 at Century 21. Sometimes I have time to go home, research a particular item to exhaustion, and then make a choice. But some deals you know will not last long, and this was one of them.
Here's what I found.
The cut is double breasted like the original, and is constructed of 100% gabardine cotton in "stone" color. Gabardine is a tough, tightly woven twill fabric invented by Thomas Burberry for the express purpose to use in his coats - in the years following it has subsequently been used to make suits, overcoats, and many other garments. It's a bit stiff in hand and feels like it could take a beating.
Now it's in the details that the coat really starts to shine.
Now it's in the details that the coat really starts to shine.
There are a lot of original details preserved from its original military roots that I love - shoulder epaulets, D-rings on the belt placed originally to hold your gear and your sword, and raglan sleeves for greater mobility. A storm flap sits over the right shoulder to stop water from entering the jacket, storm pockets, as well as sleeve straps to do the same. The buttons are all dark, thick matte buffalo horn.
|Neck Detail and Throat Clasp|
The throat of the jacket has a metal hook-and-eye system to keep the neck closed and an enforcing throat latch that stores on the back of the collar. The belt has eight lines of stitching for structure and resilience, and all buckles are covered in leather. In the back you have a classic single vent (that can be buttoned) with a wedge back - a detail that allows the coat to protect against wind and the elements without restricting movement. The sum of all these little details result in an end product where you can tell it was designed originally to do a job, and to do it well. The finish on those details in general is as good as anything I've come across. I will say, however, that I rifled through the entire rack at Century 21 when I was there, and there were a couple loose buttons here and there - something I would have hoped would be absent in an item commanding such a high original asking price. The rest of the stitching throughout, however, is tight and clean, and you can see in the detail pictures it really holds up under close scrutiny.
With so many classic features, it actually struck me as odd that this coat is made under the Prorsum name, Burberry's premium "runway" and generally fashion-forward inspiration line (see the picture to the right). The Heritage collection of Burberry trenches seems to be more in line with Burberry London aesthetics, the more classically tailored branch of the three (Brit being the other). So what makes this particular piece fit the Prorsum model? To be honest, I have no idea. There's nothing that seems crazy or experimental to me. If anything, this version seems to be a bit more restrained and minimalist than even the Heritage in some ways.
Researching the archives of forums I've read that the Prorsum has better fit/finish than the London or Heritage models, but given that I haven't examined those up close I can't substantiate that claim. There are some clear differences, though. Unlike the Heritage's Burberry check cotton lining (a place where I like the check), the lining on the Prorsum model is a dressier, beautiful cupro (aka Bemberg) - long considered the superior lining vs. silk in fine clothing. The double breast seems to be a slightly narrower 6 x 2 button instead of a 5 x 2, which creates stronger visual lines from the arrangement, and the belt has more lines of stitching that the original. For me, I like this belt more, and the 5 x 2 of the original slightly better, though that part I could go either way on. The back yoke on this jacket is also quite a bit shorter in comparison to the classic models as well. This is the only change that I flat out don't like, as it sort of hangs off like a vestigial appendage that once had a purpose. I don't think it's a huge deal, but I much prefer the original in this case. The Prorsum model is made in Italy vs. Britain as the Heritage models are. To me, that's neither a plus or a minus, but thought it should be mentioned.
The biggest discrepancy to me is the conspicuous lack of Burberry check anywhere on this Prorsum coat. This all comes down to personal taste, but I hate having that sort of thing on my clothes where someone can see it. Don't get me wrong - Burberry's check is actually quite nice in certain situations, but it's so ubiquitous and synonymous with the Burberry name you might as well just have stamped "Burberry" everywhere it it is. Similar to LV branding, Gucci, etc, I feel like it shouts at everyone "Look at how expensive my clothes are!" If your clothes are expensive, they should be made and designed well. People should be able to tell that without you needing to write your brand on it. It's often a deal-breaker for me, and if this jacket had included it on the collar (yes, even the underside) or somewhere else that people see I would have really struggled with the purchase.
Sizing and Fit
For reference, I'm 6 ft, 155 lbs. Generally I wear 36R (J. Crew, SuitSupply, etc) and was happy to find a 36 sitting there. I put it on and it was a just a body condom - I could barely move. Thankfully, they had a bunch of 38's available also, which is what I went with. The coat is definitely still on the slimmer side of fit, but I have plenty of room to twerk if I wanted to. While I was trying it on in the mirror at the store, a couple of walking by told me how beautiful it looked and how well it fit me. That's a small sample size, admittedly, and I have a general rule of limiting the amount of style input I take from random passersby, but certainly it's no bad thing. I'm not sure I could wear a suit/blazer under the coat - I haven't tried, but to be honest I'm not that excited about the experiment in the middle of summer. If I give it a shot when the weather transitions I'll update this with new information.
Overall, though, I have to say I'm really happy with the fit and sizing. Every now and then I come across a beautiful piece of clothing at a very low price and am subsequently let down when I try it on, which is thankfully not the case here.
Impressions and Value
When I first posted this sale on the sale alert forum, someone asked me "what makes a $530 coat so appealing?" I'm assuming he meant that's a lot of money to him, and it is to me too. It's a good question, and one with a complicated answer.
At an MSRP of $2195 (with most Burberry trench coats ranging from ~$1700-$2400), it's a bit of a kick to the crotch. Can it be worth that much money? Is it 10x better than a generic one you could buy at Banana Republic, etc. at 1/10 the cost? I used to wear a trench coat I got at Topman years ago I bought for ~$120, and another from Uniqlo I got years ago. At the time I liked them and the design was decent, but next to each other the Burberry would have absolutely slaughtered them in every facet - from fabric/materials, construction, to functional design and fit it would be so unfair and brutal of a match up to make me almost feel pity for an inanimate object. How much better is that? It's hard to quantify, but you simply can't find the level of detail, materials, and craftsmanship on a budget model. That being said, I wouldn't have paid MSRP for it. Once you get past a certain pricing level in most things you generally start to get less return on your money in terms of large improvements and have to look more at design and details rather than is it going to fall apart or not.
I can totally understand someone not wanting to spend this kind of money on this, even at the price I paid. But If you can afford it and you aren't willing to make any sacrifices to cut costs on a more budget-friendly model, I think the Burberry trench coat delivers on all fronts. There are a lot of fashion houses that hype their brand up and charge exorbitant amounts for uninspired, poorly-constructed garments made of mediocre materials. This is not that. Plenty of people pay MSRP for these, and I don't think that's necessarily a "bad" purchase, even if I wouldn't do it. There are literally hundreds of alternatives, if not thousands, and yet when people are looking for recommendations for a trench coat most of the time people will say invest in one like Burberry and it will last you your entire life. I think of it in very similar way to leather. It's also something I will be able to wear both casually and with more professional-looking attire in any weather that isn't either extremely hot or cold. Burberry has a pretty cool customer gallery called "Art of the Trench" showing just how versatile it can be.
At $529.99, it's a tremendous buy. I'm going to wear this for decades hopefully, and I don't doubt that it'll last that long. If you can find one around this range or below your personal spending threshold, I give it a strong recommendation.
Things I LikedOverall good trim fit
Time-tested classic design
A lot of functional features
Lack of obvious branding/loud check pattern
Things I Didn't LikeShort back yoke (vs. the classic Heritage line)
Could have used another inch or two in length
Throat latch is cumbersome
Saw some loose buttons on other coats
Others to Consider in this Range