It appeared on the shelves in the autumn of 2018 and I hoped it would die a swift death. It wasn’t that it looked particularly ugly, per se. Just that it looked like someone had gutted Paddington bear and was now wearing him as a coat. Didn’t they know Paddington already had a lovely, blue duffle coat? Couldn’t they simply rob him and wear that? Did we really need to dismember him and wear his pelt instead?
Despite its sudden emergence in retail stores, ushered in by an appearance on the cat walks of Christian Dior, the Teddy Borg coat has been around for quite some time. Thankfully it managed to stay hidden away for the last 40 years, out of sight and out of mind.
This fluffy monstrosity first came into existence in the 1930s. Back in the days when motorists were a trending topic and having a car was a sport and not just commonplace. These alpaca wool coats were the British version of the racoon fur driving coats that had become so popular in the US. They were a warm but light-weight coat that would protect one from the wind when racing down country roads at a whopping 30 miles an hour. These coats were not just marketed for motor travel, they were also perfect for air and ocean voyages.
It was named the Teddy Borg coat for one reason. It was made out of exactly the same material that was used in the manufacture of teddy bears, and the resemblance was uncanny. Luckily for the coat, its invention coincided with the popularising of the term ‘teddy’ for toy bears.
The coat had its celebrity moments too. Salvador Dali is famously pictured in a tailored high collared affair on the deck of the SS Normandie, outside New York. Winston Churchill was spotted sporting one as well.
But as air travel improved and cars were enclosed by glass they fell out of favour. They made a return in the 1950s aimed at a female audience, the slightly more affordable version of a fur coat, but they did not hang around for long. The 60s saw another revamp, inspired by the earliest beginnings of glam rock and a re-interest in dandy-ism. But again the trend failed to last and it was once again forgotten. A blimp on the fashion story of history. In faded photographs the Teddy Borg could easily be mistaken for just another fur coat.
Well, it’s back. Regrettably. It no longer has a home in the exclusive world of dandies and high fashion. In fact, the current dandy world hasn’t even made a pass at it. No, the Teddy Borg coat has now found its home in the fast fashion stores of the high street. With this comes variation to the style. The long coat is not the only option now. Nor is the traditional light brown. Any colour goes, from white to ketchup red.
The quality has dropped significantly as well. Gone is the alpaca wool, as cheap synthetic fabric brings down the price significantly, but provides a lower quality appearance.
The coats are popular because of their warmth and lack of structure, which allows for free movement. This doesn’t stop them from being the ugliest piece of clothing currently available on the market. And this lends itself to an interesting capitalist question. Who has the power here, the consumer or the corporation?
Are these coats in such a large supply because as consumers we have demanded them in great availability and variety? Or has the market been so completely over-saturated in this bobbly, fluffy coat that we have been forced to see it as attractive? If everyone is stocking it, must it be desirable?
Despite its vast availability in stores, the Teddy Borg coat has not yet found a complete home on the streets of central London. Too many politicians and businessmen stuck in blacks and greys, as they are every winter.
But we must give credit where credit is due and acknowledge that it does look very warm. Even if it looks like a fleece coat ruined by too hot a spin in the tumble dryer. To those who choose to wear it, wear it boldly and bravely – and good luck when it gets wet!