Menswear authority and friend of the brand G. Bruce Boyer turns his expert eye to that most steadfast piece of seafaring outerwear: the peacoat.
A while back I’d written about the watch cap, an icon that returned to urban wardrobes about a decade or two ago as a decidedly chic and practical winter accessory. Knitted skull caps have been around forever in one form or another, but its contemporary use derives directly from sailors on warship duty in the North Atlantic during World War II. A specific headgear for doing a specific job, the watch cap kept sailors warm on those long, dark, cold nights on deck. Drake’s has had a colourful range of such hats in stock for several years now.
But I trust I wasn’t alone in waiting impatiently for the Drake’s team to reintroduce the watch cap’s redoubtable counterpart: the peacoat. This garment has been around for a good long time as well, the modern version of the British Navy’s trusty reefer jacket. The reefer – named after the sailors who took in the reefs, or sails – became standard naval issue for sailors during the second-half of the 19th century and an exemplar of utilitarian design: hip length for ease of movement, high-cut double-breasted front closure with wide lapels, deep slashed chest pockets, large turn-up collar, all done in impenetrably heavy dark blue melton cloth that resisted everything but harpoons and cannonballs. It’s probable that the “pea” in peacoat refers back to the Old Dutch pij, the name for that type of dense, coarse, blue woolen cloth. Tailors used to say you needed pliers to pull the needle through that 30-ounce stuff. Along with sailor’s trousers – flapped front and bell-bottomed hems – the peacoat proved a formidable friend and as jaunty looking an outfit as the girls had ever seen.
Bell-bottomed trousers, coat of navy blue
I love a sailor boy, and he loves me too