Blade Runner
Image courtesy of Colombia Pictures

Blade Runner – the trench coat’s massive impact on men’s style

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This article was originally published on _shift London.

Sci-fi sequel Blade Runner 2049, hit cinemas last week. _shift takes a closer look at the first film’s trendiest piece, the trench.

Picture the scene – it’s rainy Los Angeles in 2019, a hard-boiled ex-police officer is wearing a tawny brown Bogart-like trench coat with a stand-up collar and is on a mission to track down bioengineered beings.

Rick Deckard, aka Harrison Ford, is the most sought-after replicant hunter of the future, who made it his duty to kill rule breakers, specifically cyberpunk androids that escaped from outer space colonies who pose a danger to humanity and the dystopian metropolis.

Three and a half decades later, the Blade Runner sequel is here.

The features are much the same – remarkable men’s costumes, a sci-fi fashion atmosphere and the fact that they still look like the future. “The whole vibe of the film including the costumes was very retro future. Rutger Hauer’s costume was presented across his character as hard and unethical whereas Harrison Ford’s costume is a recollection of his body, so you have this superhero cape,” says Steven Wright, Fashion Design lecturer at the University of South Wales.

From left to right: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer. Image courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures

Ford’s so-called superhero cape was crafted by costume designers Michael Kaplan and Charles Knode. It was a 1940s and 50s inspired trench coat with big shoulders, heavily weathered on set to appear worn out yet mega futuristic.

“His shirts and ties and suits were remarkably discreet,” director Ridley Scott told the New York Times in an interview. “I didn’t want diagonal slits. We were always talking about Philip Marlowe and [1953 novel] The Long Goodbye.”

Witches raincoat and belt, Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, 1983, England. Image courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum

With punk and cyber fashion taking centre stage, it is worth noting that Vivienne Westwood encouraged punk culture from the beginning – just think of her Punkature collection at Paris in 1982 and the oversized iconic witches raincoat – delivering punk fashion as we recall it today. Westwood has been a punk trailblazer, and now other designers like Raf Simons are taking on the aesthetic.

According to Simons, his menswear collection for spring 18 was a juxtaposition, “It’s about cultures sliding together — that’s the most important message for me,  Asian culture and the culture of the West coming together. And you know there was a bit of new wave, punk attitude, but not aesthetically, more in the attitude like taking different kinds of things. I wanted it to be energetic,” the designer told Vogue.

Resulting in a Blade Runner lookalike scene, featuring a Chinese market in downtown LA, the show’s atmosphere resembled a scene in the movie, when Harrison Ford walks down the rainy streets in his trench coat eating Chinese takeaway.

“Harrison Ford’s jacket is a real crossbreed, with its large patch pockets, button strap pocket fastening and extended collar closure. There are no storm flaps or waist belt fastenings, and the cuff closure is high,” says Jade Rozenbroek, menswear designer of her namesake brand.

Raf Simons spring 18. Image courtesy of Vogue

Blade Runner style looks at Raf Simons came in hyper-sized black leather trench coats accompanied by transparent umbrellas, paying homage to the master villain Roy Batty. Extra wide sleeves and distressed tailoring were seen throughout the collection, not forgetting that Rick Deckard’s tawny trench coat made an appearance as well.

Besides Raf Simons’ endorsement, trench coats were also spotted at multiple spring 18 shows. Coming in leather silhouettes and V-necks at Alexander McQueen, grey with asymmetric stripes at Lanvin and mid-length at Prada, the classic piece still upholds its status as an essential wardrobe staple.

“It’s nostalgic… it’s a fashion classic. It’s like blue jeans, it’s just one of the items that have become part of our clothing vocabularymov because it is a very functional item that is also stylish,”  Jane Tynan, lecturer in design history at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, explained to Smithsonian Magazine.

From left to right: Lanvin, Prada, Alexander McQueen. Image courtesy of Vogue

Emerging designers in London took on the space-fiction trend at Fashion Scout. “We’ve seen high top padded trainers and heavy prints on the runways this season and shoulder pads from Neo Design that clearly resembles 80s style”, says Wayne Noir, Editor-In-Chief at RION Magazine.

Ryan Gosling aka Officer K in Blade Runner 2049. Image courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures

Now with Blade Runner 2049 and Ryan Gosling appearing as Officer K on cinema screens, the costume design has changed, moving away from the trench coat towards the shearling jacket as future’s signature piece.

Collars were designed to pop up over the chin covering half of the face, similar to a pollution mask. The jacket itself appears sleek, buttonless with magnetic closure resulting in a clean yet futuristic look. “It’s the same world, but it’s worse. It’s dirty, it’s slushy, it’s not a nice place to be,” Renée April, the costume designer of Blade Runner 2049 told Esquire this summer.

Officer K costume draft. Image courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures

Will the sequel’s shearling jacket impact fashion the same way as the trench coat did?

There are a couple of versions that men should keep their eyes peeled on. “The beautiful silhouettes at Raf Simons are fun and modern yet still recognisable pieces. Fendi debuted a more wearable and mature collection with beautiful detailing, and McQueen focused on the use of luxury fabrication and embellishment in leaner silhouettes,” explains Jade Rozenbroek.

“There are key moments and key pieces in male order that define motions of maturity, like the classic trench coat,” Steven Wright concludes. “They are the idea of a man being fully mature.”

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