In a previous edition of this series I discussed the field jacket as an excellent, versatile coat that can be worn for a better part of the year. However, now that winter has all but arrived the field jacket just won’t cut it for most men. With the temperatures steadily dropping most guys will be looking for something more than a thin cotton jacket to keep them warm.
Enter the pea coat.
The pea coat is a classic menswear coat that has been keeping men warm during the bitter winter months for over 200 years.
The pea coat has a long and storied history in menswear but gained much of its notoriety after the US Navy adopted it as a part of its uniform sometime in the 1800s. It is believed that the coats were originally designed for “reefers”, sailors whose job it was to climb the rigging of the ship. In fact, it is still sometimes referred to as a reefer coat.
A classic pea coat is made from 100% wool and features a double breasted design. Modern, Navy-issued pea coats come with 6 buttons while older renditions will typically have 8. Ensured to keep the wearer warm, the extra large collars of a pea coat are a nice blend of form and function. Not only can they be used to create extra warmth by being propped up and buttoned together, they also add a nice touch of elegance to the coat. Standard-issue pea coats usually come with side slit pockets and a centre vent.
With a pea coat fit is of particular importance because it is a double breasted garment. Double breasted garments have a tendency to create a little more extra bulk around the midsection so you want to make sure that you select a coat that fits you well through the torso otherwise you run the risk of looking like you are wearing a garbage bag.
When it comes to finding the correct fit there are a few things you want to look out for. First, you want a coat that has high arm holes. This ensures that the body of the coat doesn’t move around on you when you shift your arms. This is the same principle for finding good blazers and suit jackets. Second, you want to purchase a coat that fits much more trim through the arms and torso. As I mentioned before, guys with more muscular physiques will invariably run into the problem of coats fitting well through the chest and shoulders only to have them billow out around the waist. Chances are you will have to make a trip to the tailor so be aware of that. Third, the length of the coat should hit you just below the hips. Much like modern day blazers and suit jackets, it is common for pea coats today to come in much more “chopped” varieties. I recommend forgoing this trend. Lastly, stick with the classic design. Stay away from epaulets, zippered pockets, hoods and any other “fashionable” accoutrements that designers are adding to their coats. This will extend the life of your coat as a classic design will never go out of style.
I suggest that you stay away from black. In fact, don’t even consider it. Chances are that you already have enough black coats sitting in your closet. I’ve written about my reservation about wearing too much black in a previous article and I see tons of guys wearing ill-fitting black pea coats today. Instead, opt for a classic navy coat, or charcoal grey if you want to change it up a little bit. These are great colours that will compliment most of your wardrobe.
How to Wear
I prefer not to wear my pea coat over a blazer or suit jacket. Technically speaking, that is not the coat’s intended purpose. However, in the event that you do want to wear your pea coat over a blazer or suit jacket, I recommend that you buy a coat that hits you around the mid-thigh level instead of just below the hips. The extra length will better accommodate your blazer or suit jacket and has a slightly more formal look to it. These types of pea coats are better known as bridge coats.
The great thing about pea coats is that they are perfect for creating high-low looks. For example, you can wear a pea coat with a cable knit sweater, a pair of dark denim and some boots for a casual yet rugged look. On the other hand, you can just as well wear a pea coat with a white button up shirt, tie, v-neck sweater, wool trousers and some leather lace ups for a more polished look. The pea coat truly is a versatile coat.
The pea coat is a classic menswear coat that is imminently masculine and stylish. The coat has a rich history and a functional, yet elegant design that has transformed it from a simple part of the Navy uniform to a much vaunted menswear style essential.
Keep yourself looking warm and stylish this winter with a classic pea coat.
Here’s to looking sharp!