Pardon the pun, but who better to cope in a period of luxury brand retrenchment than the hundred and fifty-something year old brand who invented the trench coat? That seemed to be Christopher Bailey's reasoning, as he looked (as ever) back to Burberry's heritage for a stomping, swaggering A/W 2010 menswear show. He had evidently been thinking about Thomas Burberry outfitting soldiers in The Great War: and its worth remembering that, while war by and large stifles and stultifies female fashion, it is often a catalyst for masculine sartorial transformation. Certainly, Bailey plucked a few gems out from the officer's mess wardrobe, dusted them down and gave them new relevance for next season. He opened with outsized, epauletted greatcoats in khaki or camel cavalry-twill, collars upturned, cut with a flourish in the back and bristling with thick brass buttons - hefty, heavy and with investment stamped all over them. It was surplus deluxe - imagine an haute couture Laurence Corner, and you're halfway there. Of course, Laurence Corner couldn't have the covetable clunky sheepskin-lined boots - halfway between galoshes and combat boots, and perfect for squelching through swampy marshes (or several feet of snow). Equally, I dub they could rival the precious evening pieces - when the brass buttons started to crust like oversized palettes into tinkling shoulderpieces and cuffs in an oddly logical conclusion to well-buttoned peacoats and mess jackets. For slightly more casual moments, Bailey sliced huge swathes of shearling into chunky double-collared aviator jackets, belted around the neck and wrists with thick leather straps, echoing the texture of these pieces in fabulous tufted-wool cardigans and sweaters, and a coat tricked out in a densely curled fabric that ended up looking like astrakhan - veering into Keith Richards territory, but safely so.
What this collection offered, quite simply, was an enviable wardrobe of coats for any modern man. Frankly, the outfits they were slung over were inconsequential - simple indigo denim shirts and narrow trousers - but, one suspects, this is what Bailey intended. It's already becoming a cliche of A/W 2010 that brands are going back to their roots: ignoring the staid house check, the fragrances, and the preeminence of handbags in their advertising campaign, Burberry is first and foremost an outerwear house. Christopher Bailey wisely decided to run with exactly what they - and he - do so very, very well.