Our History

Since 1856

Discover our brand history, including the invention of gabardine and the evolution of our signature trench coat design.

Thomas Burberry

Thomas Burberry

Born in 1835, he became an apprentice draper before establishing Burberry in 1856 – at the age of just 21 – initially specialising in outdoor clothing.

The invention of gabardine

The innovative fabric was invented in 1879 by Thomas Burberry. Breathable and weatherproof, it revolutionised rainwear – which up until then had typically been heavy and uncomfortable to wear.

The company moves into its first London store at 30 Haymarket in 1891.

Origins of the trench

Origins of the trench

The trench coat began as the Tielocken. Patented by Burberry in 1912, it was an unbuttoned style made from gabardine and fastened with a belt.

The trench coat was developed to serve the needs of the military in the early 20th century. Epaulettes displayed an officer’s rank, while the belt’s metal D-rings were used to attach equipment.

Burberry was the outfitter of choice for several polar explorers, as our gabardine fabric’s protective and lightweight qualities made it well-suited to cope with inhospitable conditions.

Sir Ernest Shackleton

Sir Ernest Shackleton

The acclaimed polar explorer wore Burberry gabardine for three expeditions in the early 20th century, and is portrayed by Dominic West in The Tale of Thomas Burberry.


In the film Lily James portrays Betty, a fictionalised character inspired by the real-life achievements of Betty Kirby-Green. The blue flying suit she wears has been based on images from the Burberry Heritage Archive.

In 1937 Betty Kirby-Green and Flying Officer Arthur Clouston broke the world record for a return flight from London to Cape Town.

Betty and Arthur’s record-breaking flight lasted just over 45 hours.

The Tale of Thomas Burberry, 160 years in the making

Shot in England, the film was directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Asif Kapadia and written by Academy Award nominee Matt Charman.