Many a style icon has sported a version of the ruggedly cool blanket coat - not least of all Leanne Cloudsdale's own father. She examines the garment's enduring appeal.
Like most men, my dad is particularly protective about his shed. He’ll yell “Oi! What are you doing?” if I dare to venture within a 6ft radius, and seconds later the back door’s flung open and he’s striding out towards me with a furrowed brow. We don’t need to go into detail about why he (and others) are so vigilant about the fairer sex gaining entry to their fusty, tool-ridden paradise, but in a nutshell, rumour has it, that blokes like a private space to be untidy and ponder. In father Cloudsdale’s case, his wooden den has smart venetian blinds, number plates from his first VW Beetle on the wall, and shelves of washed out coffee jars assembled in ascending size order full of nails, screws and other DIY paraphernalia. I’m sure I’d have gleaned much more intel if I was ever granted permission to enter, but for now, you get the picture.
On days when he has free reign to undertake ‘outdoor tasks’ (which normally consist of washing his bike, pressure washing the paths or taking random junk to the tip) he tends to don a very specific outfit that includes a vintage Rangers F.C. bobble hat, threadbare Converse, dungarees and a blanket coat. It’s a look that tells us that he’s demanding solitude and permission to potter with absolute autonomy.
It’s worth noting at this point, that not all blanket coats were created equal. After some scrabbling around for details about the origins of this versatile perennial favourite, it would appear the first examples were worn by native and European trappers in the latter half of 17th century North America and Canada. Hunters needed to stay warm and be able to move quickly and quietly, so some bright spark started fashioning outwear from woollen trade blankets (true story). Most were tied at the waist with any leftover fabric or ribbon, which helped trap the air and insulate the back and chest. Many years later, lumberjacks in the North West and Alaska wanted a slice of the action, and by the turn of the 19th century the home-made, rough and ready blanket coats were becoming more functional, with pockets and buttons included. By the 1930s, the US Army was issuing them to the Jeep crews, and it wasn’t long before a young Marlon Brando was smouldering around 1950s Hollywood with his own zipped-up version.
Since then, their popularity has never waned. They’re an unpretentious, hard-working, but surprisingly lightweight cosy thermal insulator, that looks just as good when you’re sauntering to the pub as when you’re knee-deep in mud walking off a stinking hangover in the countryside. Rugged, practical and outdoorsy, the blanket coat doesn’t care if your cheekbones are chiselled, or whether you’ve got a six-pack – they’re designed to suit men of all ages, shapes or sizes. The Drake’s edition for Autumn / Winter 2018 is available in a muted check or bold red tartan, and made from an earthy, textured blend of wool, mohair and alpaca (with a pinch of nylon in there to strengthen and increase durability). With internal waist drawstring, cavernous patch pockets and four zipped internal ones to keep your essentials secure, there’s nothing faddy about a well-made blanket coat, because believe me, Mr. Cloudsdale wouldn’t be wearing one if there was.