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.