Pea Coat

In honour of the lightbulb moment this coat inspired, this first post belongs to the Pea Coat. It is slightly out of order for the blog, but here it is anyway…


AKA: Pea Jacket, Pilot Jacket, Reefer Coat

How to say it: The correct name is actually a Pea Jacket, say it as it sounds.

Traditional Features: 

pea coat con

  • broad lapels
  • double breasted front
  • 7 large buttons
  • vertical slash pockets
  • convertible collar (can be worn closed right up to the top button or worn open), sometimes called an Ulster Collar
  • fitted through the body with a slight flair at the hips to allow for movement
  • length to just above mid thigh


…of the style: The Pea Coat was developed for sailors in European navies in the eighteenth century. The convertible collar, double breasted front and fit and flare silhouette ofthe coat were designed to keep the sailors warm and allow them ease of movement as they climbed the riggings of the naval sail boats. Originally made of navy blue, thick, tightly woven woollen fabric which provided some weather proofing the coat was adopted by the American Navy in the early twentieth century and remains part of its uniform to this day.

…of the name: The origins of the name Pea Coat is a bit hazy – some sources state that it comes from the Dutch work pij jekker which is a coat made from coarse cloth. This was adapted by the British and pij jekker became pea jacket.

Other sources claim that the name came from the name of the cloth the  jackets were originally made from – pilot cloth or p-cloth. Pilot cloth jacket became pilot jacket or p.jacket, which became pea jacket.

The term Reefer Coat came from the ‘reefers’ who used to wear the garment in the British Navy. Reefers were the soldiers who climbed the riggings and wore the coat to stay warm and dry.

For more in depth histories of the Pea Coat, try these sites… Wikipedia  Midwest Vintage  The Gentlemans Gazette

Random Facts: 

  • Traditionally the Pea Jacket had a little change pocket inside one of the slash pockets as US Naval pants had no pockets back in the day.
  • The current US Navy Correct Wear Guidelines for the Pea Coat are as follows…

Button all buttons except the collar button. Collar button may be buttoned in inclement weather. Wear the jumper collar inside the coat. Sleeves are to reach about three quarters of the distance from the wrist to the knuckles when arms hang naturally at the sides.

  • The US Navy also states that the women’s pea coat should be buttoned to the left, while the men’s pea coat buttons to the right.

21st Century Pea Coats

While modern designers have taken liberties with length, colour, fabric and styling, the basic seafaring elements of the Pea jacket should remain in any garment that bares the name.

T BY ALEXANDER WANGrag and bonemarc by marc jacobsjcrew

Top row – T by Alexander WangRag & Bone

Bottom row – MARC by Marc JacobsJ.Crew

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