No one can argue that the Pea Coat ranks among the most classic garments ever designed. First donned by European sailors in the 18th century, the Pea Coat got it’s name from Pilot Cloth, the material that the coat was constructed from. This was later shortened to P-Cloth, which lead to naming the piece, the P-Coat. Pilot Cloth was a thick fabric that was utilized because of it’s durability and warmth, two critical criteria for sailors in need of a garment that could withstand anything the elements had to offer.
During the early 20th century the Pea Coat was adopted by the United States Navy cementing it’s place in history as the classic nautical jacket. Chosen for it’s practical, effective design, it was an ideal choice for the midshipmen that required protection above all else. US Naval Pea Coats are constructed from thirty ounce wool, and feature a high collar that could be popped up to block the treacherous winds that were ever-present on the high seas. Eight navy blue buttons, detailed with signature anchors, allow the jacket to be sealed tight around the body to ensure warmth.
The standard Navy issue Pea Coats are still available on Ebay and various vintage stores, however, they can be outdated in both fit and details so many companies have updated the design with modern touches.
Woolrich Woolen Mills for example remained incredibly close to the original blueprint that has worked for centuries, but added two angular breast pockets that give the basic front a more contemporary look.
A.P.C. has kept the body intact while focusing more on the collar by adding a black Sherling wool collar lining for additional warmth around the neck where the wearer is most susceptible to getting cold.
Billy Reid also modified the collar by cutting down the height, adding peak lapels and leather details where the collar meets the body of the coat. They’ve also slimmed down the body of the coat, added breast pockets, and cropped the length resulting in a more modern fit.
Gant Rugger went in a different direction by extending the length of the coat, opting for additional coverage and warmth, alluding to the long overcoats of the past.
It is often the simplest of garments that last the longest, and the Pea Coat is no exception. Whether standard issue or a modern interpretation the Pea Coat is a versatile classic that can fit a variety of body shapes and look good in nearly any occasion.