Warmth with a Nautical Twist
A men’s classic, the pea coat shows off its naval ancestry. The Gloverall Churchill Reefer Pea coat is a heavyweight modern take
Article by Andy Barnham
Origins of the pea coat
An outer coat, usually made from navy coloured heavy wool, the pea coat was originally worn by sailors (depending on what story you believe). According to Europeans, the team comes from the Dutch pijjakker, with pij referring to a heavy cloth, and jakker meaning a type of coat. An origin story favoured by Americans comes from the idea the coat was once made from ‘pilot cloth’ (a heavy and corse cloth), which was abbreviated to P-cloth. The garment was therefore a P-jacket or P- coat. And yet another version claims the reefer or ‘caban’ in French comes from the Arabic ‘qaba’ and that it was the Bedouin, in the desert, that first wore the item and that it was brought to Europe by pirates. Arabic pirates, Dutch, American… take your pick.
Today the pea coat is considered a classic and worn not just by sailors. They are generally short in length (for mobility around a ship’s deck), double breasted with broad lapels with vertical or slant pockets. A reefer, a variation of the pea, is for officers and chief petty officers only with epaulettes for the officers. The standard, historically, was for the coat to be made from 30 ounce wool and made from Melton cloth (a tightly woven wool) and in the colour blue, due to the robust fade resisting nature of the colour and the ability to hide dirt (*Ed’s note; hence why so many historical military uniforms were blue). Red Army commissars wore the item in World War 2 as well as German U-Boat officers who wore a black leather version of the reefer.
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The Gloverall Pea coat is made from 100 per cent English Melton wood with four rows of buttons down the front which, like many pea coats, carry an anchor motif. There is a button hidden under the lapels as and when you feel the need to deploy the whole double-breasted front and seal it all up. The coat has both vertical and slant pockets and is available in both blue and black. Despite the name, the coat has no epaulettes.
And… what’s it like?
It’s heavy. Noticeably heavy. No skinny fashion waif size zero of a pea coat here. Gloverall’s Pea coat is made with the elements in mind, which with the country is suffering from a cold snap at time of writing, is perfect. Whilst slightly long in the body for my liking (I prefer quite short pea coats) I feel like I’m wearing a breast plate against the cold which is highly reassuring and very warm. However, I’m still trying to decide where to put my hands; the vertical pockets feel very utilitarian while the slant pockets are incredibly cosy but, high on the body, make me feel like a Napoleon impersonator.