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Article: Vintage Raincoats: Trench Coat or Mac?

Vintage Raincoats: Trench Coat or Mac?

Vintage Raincoats: Trench Coat or Mac?


The trench coat and the Mac are the original raincoats. Whilst the names are often used interchangeably, there are differences in both the origins and design of the two styles.


The Mac Raincoat

Grey mac coat


The Mac was the first waterproof raincoat.

The name comes from the inventor Charles Mackintosh, a Scottish chemist who patented a technique in 1823 for making cotton fabrics waterproof. He managed this by fusing the cotton with rubber.

This created a heavy coat that was practical rather than stylish. It was simple, long, and did its job well.


vintage macintosh coat

 Woman wearing a Mackintosh coat


Features of a Mac coat

The key components in the style of a Mackintosh coat are:

  • Usually single-breasted
  • Zip or single button front
  • Optional belt
  • No shoulder epaulets (straps with buttons) 
  • No storm flaps
  • No back vents

 Overall, the Mac coat has a sleek and simple design.

Mac coats from our collection of vintage coats




The Trench Coat

Beige trench coat


The trench coat gets its name from being worn by soldiers in the trenches during World War I. The trenches were exposed to the weather, and soldiers were always cold and wet.

The WWI design was long, double-breasted, and belted. You can still see the military design in modern trench coats by the shoulders and lapels.


WWI Trench coats

WWI Trench coats


 Features of a trench coat

The key components in the style of a trench coat are:

  • Large lapels
  • Epaulets on the shoulders
  • A storm flap on the shoulders and upper back to prevent water from entering
  • Vent in the back for ease of movement and ventilation
  • Double-breasted buttons
  • Pockets, usually with flaps
  • Belted waist

Overall, the trench coat style is still military-inspired with utilitarian details.

Trench coats from our collection of vintage coats




Comparing the look of a Mac and a trench coat

These two vintage raincoats are similar, but one is a Mackintosh style, and one is a trench coat. Let's take a look at what you can notice about them at a glance.

The Mac features a single row of buttons compared to the double-breasted buttons of the trench coat. The Mac has no lapels or epaulets. The trench coat has large lapels.

If you were browsing vintage coats, these are the easiest and quickest thing to look at to identify what style of coat it is.

A Mac coat next to a Trench coat


What materials are vintage raincoats made from?

Rubberized cotton was the original fabric for the Mackintosh coat. This was a layer of cotton fused to an outer layer of rubber.

This material was heavy and durable. Think of wearing a pair of rubber rain boots as a coat. Not breathable but very waterproof, even in the heaviest rain.

Trench coats were made from gabardine, a tightly woven cotton twill. Even though it was cotton, the weave was so tight that water would bead up and run off the fabric, making it waterproof.

This is the fabric that gives trench coats that slight sheen you often see.

But as both styles of coat moved from being purely practical garments into the fashion world, they started to be made from a variety of materials.

You'll find vintage Macs and trench coats made from anything from cotton to polyester to leather and silk.


Should you choose a Mac or a trench coat?

If you're looking for a coat that's practical rain protection, a Mac is usually your best choice.

They more frequently have hoods and necks that zip higher to protect your hair, neck, and face from the rain.

A trench coat is the perfect choice for a coat that looks smart, but still offers you protection from changeable weather. It can be thrown over anything, rain or shine, without looking out of place. 



Why should you buy a vintage or secondhand raincoat?

  • Quality

Vintage raincoats are made from higher quality materials than modern fast fashion coats.

From the original cotton gabardine of the earlier decades to the quality polyester of the 1970s to the 1990s, these fabrics were not only woven to be waterproof but also made to last years of wear rather than just as a seasonal throwaway piece.

Vintage trench coat labels
A vintage trench coat label showing the quality that was made to be rain and stain-repellent.


  • Durability

Vintage raincoats were not only made with higher quality materials, but they were constructed with sturdier patterns and sewing methods.

Even the polyester from vintage coats is thicker and tougher than modern polyester, as production was about creating quality products to last.

These coats stay waterproof and can handle a beating without getting torn or ripped at the seams. They won't crease, stain, or leak in the rain.


  • Sustainability

Anything that reduces the production of new textiles is always a win, especially when it comes to materials like polyester. As useful as it is for weatherproof coats, polyester doesn't decompose and cannot be recycled properly.

Buying a vintage or secondhand raincoat gets you a quality piece of style that never gets dated, without adding more waste to the landfills.


  • Cost

A high-quality coat can usually set you back quite a bit of cash! But with a secondhand or vintage coat, you are investing in a quality design that will last you years of wear without having to pay the price it would cost brand new. 


Where can you buy vintage Macs and trench coats?

At ThriftTale we're all about secondhand and sustainable style. Browse our collection of vintage and secondhand coats to find your perfect vintage trench coat or Mac.