Prolonged military influences in men’s fashion are well documented (and hardly subtle.) The pea coat joins in the prestigious company of the trench coat, duffle, aviator and parka among others in that they have all been adapted from military means to fill a more fashionable function.
Defined by its double-breasted nature, broad lapels and slash pockets, the pea coat thankfully has seldom to do with the little green vegetables. Instead, it draws its name from the Dutch word pijjekker, which I’m told roughly translates to ‘maritime coat’.
Despite a long and well-travelled history, interest in the pea coat is yet to waver and it has remained a firm favourite in both military and fashion circles for decades; if not centuries.
Even with all this mileage behind it, the pea coat has largely stayed on track and rarely deviated from its original design, although few walking the high street are likely to be original Navy surplus.
Designers are however paid to put their creative stamp on traditional pieces and the pea coat has often been adapted for modern trends. Although the result often retains the classic features of the pea coat listed above, it can be found in much more contemporary variations.
Topman for example used the pea coat for the seventh instalment of their classics project – see our full write up here.
So how has a coat of naval origins managed to remain on our radar for so long? The answer most likely lies somewhere between it’s versatility and niche appeal.
Starting with the former, the pea coat remains a perfect weekend coat. Cotton is often the workingman’s choice for the daily commute, and sometimes you just want the weekend to feel like the weekend and not another day in the office. Waxed and quilted can also make great choices as a weekender but neither posses the infinite versatility of the pea.
We’ve covered just why the pea coat is an integral part of the man’s wardrobe, and now we’re moving onto the how.
The pea is the modern definition of style, it will add bags of it to most looks; collar popped or not. It stands to reason why it has been a choice for many style icons past and present, from Chace Crawford to Steve McQueen; have a search for Robert Redford in 3 Days of the Condor in order to find an astute example of proper pea coat wearing.
Onto example looks, and the first is an easy go-to that practises the art of winter layering to combat the January frosts.
Layer a good polo neck under a pea coat for instant style (and warmth), then anchor with chinos and hiker boots for added rambler chic.
Tuck your chinos into your socks and ensure you get a little peak of sock just above the boot in order to create a break and add some detailing to the whole ensemble. If the weather is really unforgiving, or if your hands are just cold, throw on some carefully selected chunky knit gloves in a neutral colour.
Our second look plays on the nautical connotations of the pea coat by pairing one with a Breton striped t-shirt.
Border the line of smart-casual by adding some grey trousers and oxblood loafers. Accessorise with an appropriately designed bracelet and a tan leather satchel.
This is a great weekend look and a perfect exhibit of just how versatile the pea coat is – working with both the t-shirt and loafers while not looking out of place with some trousers that aren’t of the denim or chino variety.
Get on trend with a coloured coat for our third look. The pea coat has been given a new lease of life this season by moving away from the traditional grey, black and navy colours – so take advantage.
Yellow is a colour often avoided by many, but a yellow pea coat worn over a burgundy shirt creates a striking proposition. Anchor the pea coat with some navy trousers and add a tactile edge with some suede desert boots in a neutral shade of beige for a spot on solution.
Our fourth and final look slightly contradicts my earlier waxing lyrical over the pea coat being a perfect weekender. Have a go at wearing your pea to work by ditching the whole suit in favour of a waistcoat and trouser combination. Contrast the waistcoat and trousers and opt for a patterned shirt underneath, finish up with a complimentary tie and equally smart shoes.
The pea coat looks good on men of all ages, it transcends decades with relative ease and makes neither look younger nor older. It has a unique ability to dress up a t-shirt as much as it can keep up with a shirt and tie. It’s this versatility that has managed to keep it at the forefront of our wardrobes and store windows.
The only area of weakness for the pea coat is its inability to run with the suited pack. The pea coat you see traditionally stops just above the groin – if it were to pass the thighs you would be running into bridge coat territory.
This obviously means that suit jackets run the risk of being longer and peaking out below – a horrible faux pas on a scale similar to that of scruffy shoes.
But what do you think? Are you an advocate for the pea coat? Or are they not for you? Either way, let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…
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