Wednesday, September 29, 2010

763 The Trench Coat

763 The Trench Coat

It's the mid 80s and your correspondent wanders into Brooks Bros. at Madison and 44th looking for a raincoat. Peter, "his" sales representative has learned not to question the ragged blue jeans, the ragged beard and the pre-fashionable messenger bag, knowing that there's a "store charge" card behind the hideous outfit.

He shows the coat and it's perfect in fit and look. The price? $300. "Three hundred dollars?" whines the customer? "That's a lotta bucks for a raincoat, Peter." Peter says the thing will last ten or 15 years. He lied. Twenty five years later, it was still going strong, if you ignored the belt buckle with the leather cover that had worn down to bare metal. No sign of fraying. No broken or missing buttons and the epaulets, unadorned, but unscathed and ready to accept the number of bars or stars should the customer suddenly gain rank above "citizen," requiring military decoration.

We're often told that every man looks great in a tuxedo. Maybe. But there's no doubt that every man (or woman) looks swashbuckling in a trench coat. Even cartoons. (Think Dick Tracy.) Even slobs. Think (Columbo.) What most of us moderns can't figure out is how these things were useful in trenches. Sure made Murrow look handsome, which many thought he wasn't. Even crooked politico Jack Abramoff looked less ugly in one, though his choice was black and he should have gone for the tan and a size that didn't make him look fat.

And Peter Finch as Howard Beale proved to millions of moviegoers that even a battered, mud-splattered, rain soaked trench coat could look good.

But like almost everything else, they don't make 'em like they used to. Brooks Bros. seems to have forgotten that "trench coat" is not interchangeable with "rain coat." Apparently, so has Lands' End. Burberry has not. But for more than two grand, who'd buy one?

So, the "original" from the mid 1980s is long gone but well remembered. And in its place is a simple, epaulet-less, unbelted, rain coat. It, too, will last a zillion years. But that's only because it's never worn.


--Speaking of trench coats, globe trotting Nancy B. reports from Cambodia that the famed Foreign Correspondents Club in Phnom Penh now specializes in pizza and mojitos. She says she arrived too late for lunch hour and too early for happy hour. She may look great in Burberry Tan, but we gotta get this lady a better watch!

--Heaven forbid the money's not there when you've arranged for an electronic auto-pay from your checking account. There often is no way to change the date or even reach the people at the account. The local electric company doesn't cut you off on these occasions, it soups up the voltage and blows up your computers, TV sets and heating and cooling system.

--Segway, hell -- it's fast fade to black. Jimi Heselden, 62, liked Segway transporters so much, he bought the company (like the electric shaver guy,) and then drove one off a cliff and died. Should have stuck to owning rather than using, alas.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

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