As it is for most style of coats, the peacoat has a military origin. It would have been firstly created for Royal Navy midshipmen, probably from around the beginning of the 18th century. The word peacoat would come from the Dutch “Pijjekker” meaning “coarse wool”. Pronounced with an English accent, it has become “pea-jacket”, then “pea-coat”. Those sailors travelling from a port to another, bit by bit, most of European fleets would take on the coat, liking its functional side. Proof that peacoats travelled a lot, its French name “caban” comes from the Sicilian “cabbanu” inspired from the Arabic “gag” (cloak, tunic). Our famous short coat will finally cross the Atlantic, taken by the US Navy since 1881. Besides it would be part of the official Navy outfit until the end of the 1990s.
- Heavy wool to profect from the cold
- Mix of wool and nylon for the US version
- Navy color
- Fitted from the hips then slightly flared from the waist to easy moves on board
- 8 buttons double breasts for a better wind resistance and to keep the body warm
- Can be buttoned up both ways according to the wind direction
- Flat buttons to avoid catching on the boat ropes
- Big buttons embossed with a marine anchor
- Sleeve length covering the wrists for a better protection
- 2 slightly angled flat pockets to warm hands
- 2 inner pockers to keep precious items safe
- 1 inside tabs to allow writing a name to avoid mixing up
- 1 wide collar to cover the neck, with a two buttons fastening
From military to civilian
As most of military pieces, the peacoat finally strayed from is original use. In France like many other countries, wearing uniforms or military badges is regulated. Once got rid of these belonging signs, the peacoat has become a great coat style to wear as winter shows up. Furthermore, peacoats are quality coats, that last years.
Peacoat’s long-standing success can also be explained by its appearances in movies. Many examples, on the picture above are James Dean, Robert Redford or Daniel Craig. All those “big screen icons” highly contributed to keep the peacoat under the spotlight.
Peacoats in fashion
During the 1960s, Yves Saint Laurent revisits the peacoat introducing it into women’s wardrobes. Again, this would spark more interest about the marine coat. Since then, the peacoat remains unchallenged inspiring many maison de haute couture like ready to wear brands. Below are recent examples (Burberry, De Fursac, Paul Smith, Smalto) illustrating different features tried on peacoats (length, color, collar shape, number of buttons, pockets). A great classic revisited each year, but still a menswear essential.
Next step: how to choose your peacoat?