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17. February 2022

US Navy sailors off duty, via Pinterest

We often associate the use for which clothing was intended. This story is devoted to a garment that has been a staple of modern style for so long that we have forgotten its two-hundred-year history. It is a coat better known as a peacoat, once a sailor's uniform, and today a coat of sailor charm and the embodiment of classic clothing. 

The history of a peacoat has a military and naval background. The famous coat got its original shape around 1800. It was invented by the Dutch, a maritime power at the time who had their sailors create a durable and dark woollen coat, the piijekker (piijeker is the word for coarse, woollen fabric, and jekker is a jacket). However, the British Navy contributed to the popularisation of this garment, where the coat was the uniform for non-commissioned officers (which is why it was adopted as the peacoat). After the coat gained tremendous popularity in Great Britain, it experienced its second popularization in the US Navy on the other side of the Atlantic. The peacoat was worn by so-called "reefers", sailors responsible for climbing the masts of sailing ships, which is why the silhouette was designed to better insulate sailors from solid winds.

Sailors  via Pinterest

A peacoat is, in essence, a simple jacket with a straight cut close to the body, slightly longer than a regular jacket (usually reaching to the hips) but still shorter than earlier sailor coats. The coat flared slightly at the hips so as not to interfere with climbing the rope. Its speciality is the collar that protects the face from external conditions. Interestingly, the button with which the collar could be fastened was the seventh in a row. When the sailors were dressed in layers, they could not attach that last button, so they tied the collar with a rope.

US Navy sailors via Pinterest

The number of buttons has varied throughout history. During World War I, coats often had ten buttons, later eight, after which a cut with six buttons (and one hidden under the suitable collar) was established. Buttons are known for their motif of an anchor wrapped in a rope, the emblem of the British since 1588. Moreover, they were traditionally made of plastic, but over time golden brass buttons appeared that officers, ensigns, or non-commissioned officers could sew on their coats.

Buttons of a peacoat

This coat's simplicity and clean, precise lines have allowed it to become a staple of traditional dressing. The peacoat is uncluttered except for vertical slit pockets intended for easy access and hand protection from sea winters. There were two pockets on either side of the inside for keeping daily items. The choice of material is just another one of this coat's distinctive qualities. Because it ensures warmth, the initial iterations of the skin were constructed of 100% wool (Melton wool). Later, the coat's quality was compromised when it was built of 80% wool and 20% synthetic fibres. The strength of this coat should be highlighted in addition to the choice of high-quality fabric, which primarily rests in the selection of colour. Today there are many variations of different shades of this coat, but only one is true–midnight blue.

Peacoat via Pinterest

The peacoat remained in the US Navy until October 2020, when a new outfit for harsh outdoor conditions, the Black Cold Weather Parka, was introduced in naval clothing, which is warmer, lighter due to synthetic materials and easy to store in a bag in which it does not take up much space. Despite this, the peacoat remains a fashion statement for many coat lovers.

It's unclear what made the peacoat popular among civilians. However, the peacoat was first advertised as a future fashion trend in the middle of the 19th century by Tailor & Cutter, the top tailoring magazine in the United Kingdom. However, if we look at the photographs that that magazine published in 1869, we can only infer that it is a coat with a comparable cut that they named the Prince of Wales jacket at a time when the peacoat was still associated with the navy. There is no denying that the peacoat was popular among sailors who wore it even when they were off duty; probably as a result, after being observed on sailors, a similar coat became a part of civilian attire.

Tailor & Cutter magazine 1869,

The peacoat experienced a surge in demand in the 1960s when military clothing became chic amid the anti-war movement of the time, and used military clothing became an essential element of hippie fashion. The peacoat wasn't a sign of wealth; everyone wore one, from monarchs to college students. For instance, women's adaptations of the peacoat are frequently referred to as Jackie O Coats because Jackie Kennedy Onasis loved such a coat so much. Additionally, Robert Redford helped make the skin more well-known by using it to develop his character's personality in the 1975 movie “Three Days of the Condor”. Since then, several designers have created versions, altering the peacoat—the classic coat with nautical charm—to fit their vision. It is also worn by Giorgio Armani, Bob Dylan, and Emmanuelle Alt... who have repeatedly proven how to give a classic a modern charm.

Screenshot 2022-02-16 at 12.16_edited.jpg
Jackie Kennedy Onasis via Pinterest
Robert Redford via Pinterest
Giorgio Armani via Pinterest
Emmanuelle Alt via Pinterest
Bob Dylan via Pinterest

Two hundred years after the peacoat's invention, it is obvious why it remains a unique clothing item: it is adorned with simplicity, clean lines, and a captivating midnight blue hue. The appeal of this garment, after all, resides in its cut, which radiates elegance and nonchalance. Some items' refinement and unpretentiousness enable them to defy the era in which they are worn.

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