The Mystical Birth of the Peacoat

The origins of the peacoat are veiled in mystery. This classic coat has left a huge impression on the fashion community worldwide, despite its obscure beginnings.

  • There is a claim that the jacket, commonly associated with seafaring, comes from the Netherlands early in the 18th century, which seems to be a reasonable origin story.

  • The Oxford Dictionary states that the words “pea coat” or “pea jacket” were most likely derived from Dutch words meaning “coarse cloth jacket”. Considering the Dutch wide naval power of the day, this is also a believable story.

  • A more questionable story from the UK involves a store founder by the name of Camplin in 1850 who claimed to have created a coat for the British Navy’s petty officers that was known as the P. Coat. As they sound the same phonetically, it is conceivable that the Pea Coat is a descendant from that naval jacket, but no reliable sources can corroborate this.

  • Some claim the peacoat was originally designed for sailors that climbed the riggings of sailing ships. These sailors, called reefers, preferred the double-breasted, close-fitting, short coats that allowed for ease in climbing.

  • It is believed the U.S. Navy adopted the Royal British Navy’s coat design in the 1800’s…but again, there is no historical evidence for this story, either.

  • In the late1860’s, a popular tailor trade magazine in England published a story that described a “Prince of Wales pea-jacket.” The magazine featured popular fashion trends of the day, and it described the variants of a loose, double-breasted jacket with three pairs of buttons, cross pockets, wide piping and made of wool, velvet and silk faced lapels.

Whatever the real origin, Pea Coats were undoubtedly designed to keep the wearer warm and were usually made of 100% wool. The double-breasted coats had extra large collars that could be used for extra warmth when pulled up against the neck and buttoned tight. The slit pockets, center vents and shorter length coats allowed for unencumbered wear. The pea coat remains a classic even today due to its comfort, elegance and timeless look. We love Peacoats, and know you will, too!