Leanne Cloudsdale traces the roots of this season's teddy coat back to the social (and sartorial) upheaval of 20th century Britain.
Social mobility shake-ups have always challenged the old-world order. Nothing unnerves the establishment more than the fear of blue-collar workers hurling a brick through the metaphorical glass ceiling in pursuit of a life less ordinary. Britain in the early 1950s was a hotbed of revolt and upheaval; bananas were back in the family fruit bowl, and anecdotes about dried egg powder and contraband nylon stockings were already becoming tiresome.
Over on Savile Row, tailors were busy asserting their sartorial dominance after years of rationing, and business was booming thanks to orders from wealthy young gents requesting Edwardian style suits and overcoats. These post-war, early adopting dandies were drawing influence from over the pond (as usual) and blending details from the gamblers and gunslingers of the American West with the flamboyance of King Edward VII. The shawl collared, generously proportioned drape coats quickly became the outerwear of choice for well-paid city workers, and it wasn’t long before the Woodbine smoking proles in café bars across the country wanted a piece of the action.
Rumour has it, some hack from the Daily Express newspaper was the first to coin the phrase ‘Teddy boy’ in 1953. Of course, by the time the tabloids had cottoned on to their existence, the velvet-trimmed hedonistic subculture had already gripped the slums (and suburbia) of post-war Blighty. Brylcreemed quiffs made it easy to spot the Teddy community, who roamed the streets in their distinctive knee-length coats and weren’t afraid to brandish a flick knife if a skirmish broke out after last orders. Sex, violence and a love of rock & roll aside, these elegantly dressed menaces kick-started a trend that remains just as relevant today.
Now before you take heed and dash out to buy a Wurlitzer or Eddie Cochran’s back catalogue, I want to make clear that there’s nothing chic about a man playing dress-up (and if the Mark I Cortina driving Teds I remember from my 1970s childhood in Hull are anything to go by, it’s not the look you’re after), but there is, however, something very alluring about a beautifully tailored coat. Drake’s have nailed it for winter 2018 with their own, modernised version of the drape – skilfully box-cut with integrated raglan sleeves to allow unrestricted movement and ample space for a chunky knit. With low slung patch pockets and a single vent at the rear, this two-button coat made from 54% virgin wool and 46% cotton is ideal for when the mercury hits single figures. An unstructured, practical design, the fabric has a short-pile teddy-bear texture (think Sooty as opposed to Steiff) and two concealed zip pockets inside. Available in a shade that sits comfortably between builder’s tea and tobacco it’s a cocooning, fuss-free update to an iconic piece of tailoring history.