Saving the Navy Pea Coat

The history of the peacoat is deeply rooted in military and naval backgrounds. It is an iconic piece of Navy apparel and will soon be no longer. The Navy has made the decision to phase out the peacoat as a part of their 2018 budget deliberations. The peacoat isn’t just a fashion statement though, it has a long-standing history with our Navy along with some others.

Surprisingly, the jacket has been around since the 1800’s when the first variation was worn by then naval powerhouse, the Dutch. The name pea coat originated from the Dutch word “pije” which was used in the Dutch language to describe a coat made from coarse wool fabric.

While the Dutch are credited for inventing the pea coat, it was the British navy who can take the credit for the popularization of the jacket. The British version of the coat was similarly designed for naval duties, particularly designed to be a uniform for petty officers.

The coat then made its way across the Atlantic for a third appearance, this time with the American Navy. The U.S. Navy adopted the coat and used the coat for “reefers”, who were the sailors responsible for the unenviable task of climbing up the rigging of sailing ships.

The common denominator for all three countries for adopting the peacoat was a need for a durable piece of outwear that could withstand the harsh rain, wind, and cold temperatures typically experienced out at sea.

Traditionally peacoats are constructed out of melton wool containing between 50%-100% wool with the best being 100%. The wool is woven tightly and treated with heat to bind the fibers together resulting in a very warm, water and wind-resistant fabric that was perfect for life at sea.

The current US Navy standard peacoat is made from 100% wool and is supplied by the manufacturer Northwest Woolen Mills (A Division of The Brickle Group). Since the US Navy in the process of moving to a more modern synthetic parka jacket, this mean that Northwest Woolen Mills is producing the last production contract ever of this historic coat due to end February 2019. It is 100% US sourced and made and while it may be knocked off in the future, it will never be “original” again.