The History Of The Pea Coat

Sometimes, a design marries form and function so well that it essentially can’t be improved upon. So it is with the pea coat, a contemporary menswear staple that still manages to look peerlessly stylish despite being almost entirely unchanged since the early 1700s. Featuring a double-breasted six- or eight-button closure, an a-line shape finishing just past the hip and a leafy, high-stand collar, the pea coat is instantly recognisable; a cold weather staple that’s perfect for those days when you need something punchier than a traditional jacket.
Crane Brothers | The History Of The Pea Coat
Crane Brothers | The History Of The Pea Coat
There is some debate over the pea coat’s origins. The Americans, predictably, like to claim it was their invention, and the pea coat (and its derivation, the reefer jacket) having both been used by the US Navy for centuries. According to them, ‘pea’ is derived from p-cloth, otherwise known as pilot cloth - a heavy melton used in their early naval iterations of the garment. However, the general consensus is that it most likely came from the Dutch word pijjakkar; ‘pij’ (pronounced like pea) refers to a tough, navy twill cloth, and ‘jakkar’ is a man’s heavy jacket.

Regardless of its initial origin, the pea coat quickly became a staple of navies the world over. A true example of form following function, it offered robustness, warmth and weather protection without the restriction of a full-length coat - important when one may need to be clambering about on rigging. Side-entry hip pockets were also essential for keeping one’s hands warm during cold nights at sea, and the wide collar and lapels could be turned up easily to keep the neck safe from the elements.
It’s no surprise that all of these design touches have survived to present day essentially unchanged - and it should be even less of a surprise that we’ve kept them as originally intended for our Crane Brothers pea coats as well. Instead, we wanted our pea coat to feel like the most comfortable and luxurious expression of the form, without sacrificing any of the function. We’ve used the same level of make as our tailored jackets, with floating construction for matchless freedom of movement. Rather than going heavy and structured, we’ve opted for a soft and natural shoulder line that strips out any bulk and allows for easier layering - great if you’re wearing a tailored jacket underneath.

For cloth, we’ve used an elegant and weather-resistant Loro Piana double-faced twill for our classic grey and navy models, and for our more urban Prince of Wales check, a beautiful wool and alpaca blend. Perhaps it’s because of the pea coat’s roots as a sartorial garment with a practical design ethos that it remains so versatile today - equally at home as an outer layer over tailoring as it is paired with knitwear or even thrown over a t-shirt and jeans. However you choose to style it, the pea coat is a smart, functional and timeless piece that you’ll be glad to have to hand when the temperature drops or the weather turns.