Thomas Pink explores the fashionable history of the pea coat, and how this timeless garment remains a rugged all-rounder
Like so many modern menswear staples, the pea coat was born out of pure practicality. After all, looking stylish and on-trend was not a priority for the Dutch sailors who originally wore the pea coat back in the 1800s. It is said that the quirky name comes from the Dutch word “pije”, a type of coarse woollen fabric. The coat would be adopted and popularised in the 20th century by the British Navy and, later, across the pond by its US counterpart.
The original silhouette was very similar to what we see today, with a signature fitted, short cut that was flared at the hip. The thick wool material, chunky buttons (often printed with anchor motifs) and wide lapels – which could be fastened up around the neck and ears – were all designed to withstand the harsh elements of life at sea.
The pea coat, with its short length and slight flare, was designed to give ample legroom for sailors shimmying up the ship’s mast to unfurl the sails: a treacherous and unenviable task. Therefore the style was primarily worn by low-ranking sailors, while those higher up the ranks could be easily identified by their stately long coats.
Thomas Pink Navy Peacoat
And, like many erstwhile military garments, the pea coat today is a modern classic which has been a mainstay of men’s fashion for decades. If we were to imagine a poster-boy for the look, it would be the Beat Generation of the 1950s, who adopted the coat over their all-black ensembles, while the Beatles wore matching pea coats before they discovered psychedelia.
While there may be an air of retro elegance to the pea coat, it doesn’t feel novel or attached to any particular age. It’s a perennial classic that’s both timeless and contemporary. What’s more, it’s still a hardy, all-weather number. Some modern pea coat styles have exaggerated lapels and buttons to lean into the coat’s naval roots, while others are more simple and streamlined. At Thomas Pink, our beautiful Wool Cashmere Pea Coat falls into the latter category, but the iconic silhouette is undeniable. Versatile and hardworking, yet luxurious and comfortable, our Pea Coat is proudly made in London and finished with sustainably sourced horn buttons (sans anchors). The coat has open cuffs with slightly exaggerated shoulders to balance the aesthetic of the wide notch-lapels. At this time of year, you’ll find it an essential piece of kit for getting through a cold winter’s day; whether you’re slipping it on over knitwear on the weekend or a formal work-day suit, our pea coat is a rugged all-rounder that always looks ship-shape