What is a Pea Coat? | OvercoatUSA

The pea coat, a timeless and iconic piece of outerwear, has earned its place as a staple in men's wardrobes. In 2016, the United States Navy made headlines by announcing the discontinuation of its standard-issue blue wool pea coats after more than a century in service. The decision sparked debates about tradition, functionality, and aesthetics.

Despite the Navy's shift towards modern synthetic parkas, the popularity of the pea coat as a civilian style essential remains unwavering. Known for its combination of style and functionality, the pea coat continues to be a sought-after cold-weather garment.

What is a Pea Coat?

Are you wondering why do they call it a pea coat? The term "pea coat" likely originates from the Dutch word "pijjekker" or "pijjakker," denoting a jacket made from a piece of heavy blue twill fabric. The evolution of the name reflects the coat's historical connection to sailors and maritime traditions.

Here we will discuss the complete details about the Pea Coat and its importance in fashion wear. 

Origins of the Pea Coat

To understand the pea coat's significance, it's essential to know its origins. The distinctive features of the pea coat, including its wool fabric, short length, slash pockets, double-breasted cut, big round buttons, tall collar, and large lapels, were specifically designed to meet the needs of seafaring mariners.

Its indigo color concealed grime and resisted fading, while the thick wool fabric provided durability against water, wind, and salt. The coat's functionality extended to keeping sailors warm even when wet, serving as a natural flame retardant, and facilitating quick hand warmth with its slit pockets.

While the exact origin of the pea coat is not definitively known, popular belief traces it back to 16th-century sailors from the Netherlands, with the name derived from the Dutch word "pijjekker" or "pijjakker," referring to a jacket made from heavy blue twill fabric. The British Royal Navy introduced the pea coat as military wear in the 18th century, and the United States Navy adopted it in the late 19th century. Over time, the pea coat transitioned from military uniform to a beloved civilian garment, showcasing its enduring appeal.

What is another Name for Peacoat?

While "pea coat" is the most widely recognized term, this classic outerwear piece is also known by other names.

It might be referred to as a "peajacket" or simply a "naval coat." These alternative names are rooted in the garment's association with naval uniforms and the historical context of its origin. 

The connection to the navy is deeply ingrained in the pea coat's identity, making "naval coat" a fitting moniker that pays homage to its maritime heritage.

What does P stand for in Peacoat?

The enigmatic "P" in "peacoat" has puzzled many, but it turns out that it doesn't have a specific meaning. Instead, the term likely finds its origins in the Dutch language. 

The Dutch words "pijjekker" or "pijjakker" are thought to be the linguistic ancestors of "peacoat." This linguistic link underscores the historical ties between the pea coat and Dutch sailors, adding an intriguing layer to its nautical narrative.

What makes a Coat a Pea coat?

Understanding the different features that characterize a pea coat is crucial to appreciating its design and functionality. A true pea coat typically displays a combination of defining elements, including:

Wool Fabric

The use of wool, often Melton wool, provides durability, warmth, and resistance to the elements.

Short Length

A pea coat is typically shorter in length, allowing for ease of movement and practicality in various maritime tasks.

Double-Breasted Cut

The double-breasted design, featuring overlapping fronts and large buttons, adds both style and functionality.

Large Lapels

Large lapels contribute to the coat's distinctive aesthetic and can be flipped up for additional warmth.

Big Round Buttons

The placement of sizable, round buttons is a hallmark of the pea coat's design, emphasizing its naval origins.

Tall Collar

A tall collar, often with the ability to be flipped up and buttoned, adds an extra layer of protection against cold winds.

These features were strategically crafted to meet the needs of sailors, providing both practicality and a recognizable style that has endured through the centuries.


When should I Start Wearing a Pea coat?

The pea coat's suitability is closely tied to colder weather, making it an ideal choice for fall and winter. 

The wool fabric, coupled with the double-breasted design and high collar, offers effective insulation against chilly temperatures.

As the seasons transition to cooler climates, the pea coat becomes a versatile and stylish option for staying warm while maintaining a classic aesthetic.

Who Should Wear a Pea Coat?

While the pea coat can complement various styles, it is particularly well-suited for younger men and individuals with average to slender physiques.

The casual yet tailored silhouette makes it a versatile choice for campus wear, social outings, and casual dates.

However, its shorter length may limit its appropriateness for formal occasions or wearing over suits and blazers.

How to Choose a Pea Coat?

Selecting a quality pea coat involves considering factors such as fabric, fit, and color. A 100% wool pea coat is ideal, but blends with up to 20% synthetic fiber can enhance durability without compromising the fabric's essential qualities.

Pay attention to details like Melton wool, the weight of the wool, full lining, and reinforced seams for a well-constructed garment.

Ensuring the right fit is crucial. The pea coat should graze the tops of your hands, lie close to the body without being too tight, align shoulder seams properly, hit just below the hips, and create a natural taper to the waist.

Versatile and traditional colors like navy, black, or dark charcoal gray offer timeless options.

Consider exploring vintage options through online platforms, consignment stores, and military surplus stores for a high-quality pea coat at a possibly discounted price.

How to Wear a Pea Coat Well?

Wearing a pea coat involves paying attention to buttoning, collar styling, and suitable pairings. Keep the bottom button unbuttoned, and button the rest of the coat for a polished look.

Popping the collar is acceptable on colder days for added protection, but it should be done in moderation to avoid looking out of place.

While the pea coat may not be the best choice for pairing with suits or blazers due to its shorter cut, it complements a range of casual to slightly dressier attire. Whether worn over jeans, khakis, wool trousers, or layered with sweaters, turtlenecks, or dress shirts, the pea coat adds a classic, rugged, and sharp touch to various outfits, making it a versatile and timeless wardrobe staple.

Get a deeper understanding of How to wear Men's Pea coat with Confidence.


Is a peacoat formal or casual?

The pea coat effortlessly strikes a balance between formal and casual. While it leans towards the casual side, its tailored silhouette adds a touch of formality, making it suitable for a range of settings. This versatility allows the pea coat to transition seamlessly from workwear to weekend wear, adapting to different dress codes with ease.

Does a pea coat go over a suit jacket?

The shorter length and more casual look of the pea coat may not make it the ideal choice for wearing over a suit jacket. It is recommended to reserve the pea coat for more casual ensembles. For formal occasions or when a suit jacket is a part of the attire, opting for a longer, more formal overcoat might be a more suitable choice.

Are peacoats still in style?

Despite changes in military uniform standards, the pea coat remains a timeless and stylish choice for civilians. Its classic design, practical features, and versatility ensure its enduring popularity as a key wardrobe staple. The pea coat's ability to effortlessly blend functionality with fashion has solidified its status as a style icon, making it a go-to option for those seeking a reliable and chic outerwear piece.

Is it OK to wear a peacoat over a suit?

While it's generally not recommended, some may choose to wear a peacoat over a suit. However, the shorter length and more casual look of the peacoat may not be the most ideal match for formal wear like suits.

Are peacoats waterproof?

Peacoats are not inherently waterproof. The traditional wool fabric used in peacoats is resistant to water to some extent, but it's not designed for heavy rain or prolonged exposure to wet conditions. Consider other waterproof outerwear options for better protection against rain.