The Peacoat - your shopping guide
Jackets,  Women's Outfits

The Peacoat

The peacoat, one of the 4 pillars of the nautical wardrobe alongside the Breton shirt, the Breton sweater and the fisherman’s smock.

This timeless classic is a stylish winter outerwear for men and women alike. With origins in the 16th century, the jacket that started as a sailor’s work uniform is today recognised as a fashion essential. For us at The Nautical Company, offering a choice of quality pea coats to our customers is part of our DNA. We compiled this guide to help you choose which of these peacoats is right for you.  

The origins of the peacoat

European sailors are thought to have adopted the qaba, the earliest form of pea coat, from North Western African pirates back in the 1500s. Over the years, the benefits of this warm, wind proof and waterproof garment gained such popularity that it became a mariners overcoat in Europe and across the pond in the 18th and 19th centuries.

French sea scouts uniforms
The Nautical Company Founder family archive copyright – no reproduction authorised

It is with Yves Saint Laurent in 1962 that the peacoat enjoyed a renaissance. The designer opened his catwalk with the peacoat featured as a unisex garment. Since then, it has grown in popularity as a classic fashion icon from the music world to the film industry famously featured twice with Daniel Craig in James Bond’s Casino Royale and Skyfall. A licenced to wear !

Features to look for

The peacoat, also known as a reefer jacket, or caban in French, was originally made of a thick heavy coarse wool twilled blue cloth type, impregnated with a tar mix to make it waterproof. Straight cut, it was primarily designed for rough outdoor use to keep sailors warm while facing the elements. Nowadays, the quality of the wool fabric has much improved to meet the fashion demands. Nevertheless, the basic requirements of the peacoat remain the same:

Traditional peacoat characteristics, Men’s Wool Navy Peacoat/Reefer Jacket, £195*
  • a 100% or high wool content fabric
  • straight cut and ever so slightly A shape with ladies’ designs
  • a jacket length but long enough to cover thighs
  • a high notched collar with large lapels to raise and keep your neck protected from chilly winds
  • double breasted to keep your central body warm
  • 3 to 4 rows of front buttons
  • 2 front vertical slash pockets to keep your hands warm

How to choose and style your pea coat

  • Season suitability

You can start wearing your peacoat when the temperature starts dropping from Autumn/Fall all the way to Spring when the weather improves yet the chill in the air remains.

  • Sizing

When it comes to sizing, make sure to allow enough room to layer it over a warm thick jumper in winter so don’t go for a size too fitted. Best to always try your peacoat wearing a jumper to make sure you can button it up and have enough room across your shoulders. If not, best to opt for the next size up. At The Nautical Company we always try to provide you with the measurements of our garments in our product descriptions so that you can compare the chest and length with a similar garment at home. In any doubt, do not hesitate to ask us for advice.

  • Quality

As a general rule, the highest the wool content, the highest the price but as always the brand name comes in the equation. Watch out for the details, like a good lining, nice buttons, well positioned pockets, internal pocket to keep your phone or wallet safe, etc. A quality peacoat has a certain weight and will drop well. It is a garment that will last you for years.

peacoat details buttons and cuffs
peacoat details buttons and pocket
peacoat details lining and zipped internal pocket

  • Styling

Easy to wear and versatile, the peacoat will be your next best friend you can always rely on. Just at ease over a suit as to pair with a roll neck jumper and a pair of jeans for a more casual look.

When we style our stocked jackets, we are partial to a popped collar, just look at Robert Redford (swoon) in Three Days of the Condor for a start !

As a nautical clothing specialist, all our peacoat jackets are made in the traditional design from partner brands with maritime heritage. Herewith are a few examples of our current range:

Quality Breton peacoat for women, 100% pure wool
Quality Breton peacoat for women, 100% pure brushed wool, £270*, styled with collar popped up and our long sleeved heavyweight cotton ladies’ Breton top, in white with deep red stripes

Women reefer jacket, navy blue wool
Women’s Breton Reefer Jacket, Wool, the 4 buttons rows give it a more utilitarian look, styled with collar down and flat, £256*
Breton peacoat for women, wool blend
Women’s Reefer Jacket, Wool Blend, £195*, styled with collar popped up and a classic Breton striped scarf

Alternative peacoats in canvas

You love peacoats but you are not keen on wool or you are after a different fabric, take a look at our canvas equivalents.

Made in heavy cotton canvas, these men’s jackets are great alternatives and are a key stock item for us.

When it comes to ladies’ canvas peacoats, sadly availability is more seasonal. As is often the case with ladies garments, styles are altered more frequently. If you see one that takes your fancy, best to grab it while you can as we cannot guarantee that new stock will be available with our suppliers once sold out from our warehouse. 

* Prices are valid at the time of the blog post

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