Written By: RH Lott
As a named article of clothing, the coat has existed since the fourteenth century (derived from the Old English cote, which stems from the Old High German kozza, a rough, woolen cloak). From chainmail of the middle ages to skirted frock coats of the Victorian era to the simple yet elegant coats and ties of today, the coat has taken on many jobs over of the years. It has offered protection, warmth, and pure, unadulterated style. Strangely, its humble, helpful partner, the coat rack did not appear in the English lexicon until 1915.
That is not to say that prior to this year everyone just threw their coats wherever struck their fancy. Indeed, the coat room and coat hanger cousins first appeared in the language in 1870 and 1895, respectively. The coat room evokes sepia-tinted scenes of improprieties between servants and masters, and the coat hanger came into the universal consciousness of popular culture as a symbol of irrational fastidiousness thanks to the 1981 film Mommie Dearest. Yet, the coat rack tends to recede into the corners of rooms and imaginations.
Thanks to the uninhibited creativity of the Internet and the advent of image sharing websites like Pinterest and Tumblr, the coat rack does not have to remain covered and forgotten. A coat rack can stand proudly in a foyer, hang artfully on a wall, or even team up with a bench for a convenient winter wear station in a mudroom. With a little ingenuity or shopping, a coat rack can announce as much about you as the coat itself.
If you are a nature lover, for example, you could sand and varnish a small tree trunk with sawed-off branches for pegs, or hang a knobby branch on the wall as is. A reader? Try a sturdy, hanging shelf for books with hooks on the bottom, or save money and space by adding hooks to your existing bookcase. A gardener? Give some old rake teeth a bright coat of paint, and hang them up. A chef? Bend old forks and spoons into hooks with pliers to adhere to a plank or a stand. A plumber? Vintage hot and cold water knobs attached to a horizontal length of copper pipe. A rock climber? A ninja? Experiment with grappling hooks or throwing stars (preferably with dulled blades and padded tips, unless you are looking for a way to ward off unwelcome guests). While none of these visions may sound like coat racks in the traditional sense, ultimately, a coat rack is defined as such by its ability to rack a coat.
If, on the other hand, you are more of a shopper than a builder, you might check out the sleek, modern designs offered in stores like Ikea and Target, or scour thrift shops and flea markets for more ornate, vintage looks. Whatever your style, a coat rack gives a room a more polished, welcoming look, and as hard as the coat has worked over the years, perhaps it deserves a nice place to rest.