Authentic Navy Pea Coats: The True Blue

what color is a true navy pea coat

A true navy pea coat is a dark shade of navy blue. The colour was originally chosen to match the rest of the navy uniform and to hide grime and resist fading.


The origins of the pea coat

The pea coat, or peacoat, is a classic item of outerwear with a long history. The coat is generally made from heavy wool and is associated with sailors and the navy. The coat's name is thought to come from the Dutch word 'pijjekker' or 'pijjakker', with 'pij' referring to the type of coarse cloth used and 'jekker' meaning a man's short, heavy coat. The Dutch were a naval power for many centuries, so it is likely that the coat did originate in the Netherlands.

The pea coat was first worn by sailors in the Dutch navy in the 1800s, before being adopted by the British and then the American navies. The coat was designed to be durable and provide warmth and protection from the elements. The design has remained largely unchanged, with the coat characterised by its short length, broad lapels, double-breasted fronts, and large buttons.

During the World Wars, the pea coat became an iconic emblem of the United States Navy, with the design also being adopted by other navies. The coat's popularity continued to grow in the postwar period, with the pea coat becoming a popular garment for civilians, particularly after World War II. The pea coat's durability, warmth, and classic style have ensured its enduring appeal.

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The colour and fabric

The Dutch created the pea coat in the 1800s as part of their navy uniform, and that is where the name originates from – "pije" means coarse wool in Dutch, the fabric used to make the pea coat. The British Navy then made their own version in the 1700s, which was adopted by the US Navy in the late 1800s. The pea coat was the most popular piece of naval outerwear because of its durability and resistance – the fabric could easily combat the heavy rain and winds that sailors regularly dealt with at sea.

The original navy pea coat was made with a heavy fabric to ensure warmth, water-resistance, and protection, and flared out at the bottom to create ease of movement for sailors. The coat featured a double-breasted silhouette for extra chest protection, a large ulster collar that could be buttoned all the way to the top, vertical slit pockets, and buttons with an anchor emblem. The standard fabric for historical pea coats in the 20th century was a smooth and heavy, dark navy blue Kersey wool, which was dense enough to repel wind and rain, and able to contain body heat without further insulation.

While the style has evolved to include hoods and different fabrics, the colour has remained largely the same. Navy Melton wool is the most popular choice for pea coat fabrics today, although designers also experiment with cashmere and leather.

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How to style a pea coat

A pea coat is a timeless piece of outerwear that has been a wardrobe staple for centuries. Originally worn by sailors to protect against harsh weather conditions at sea, pea coats have since been adopted by civilians and remain a popular option season after season.

Choose the Right Fit

Historically, pea coats were cut to fit close to the body but not too tight. When choosing a pea coat, opt for one that allows enough room to layer a thick sweater underneath. The sleeves should not extend beyond the tops of your hands, and the high, wide collar should taper towards your waist and sit close to your neck.

Know Your Colour Options

Navy is the classic colour for pea coats due to their nautical heritage, but they come in various colours, including black, grey, green, camel, and brown. When styling a dark-coloured pea coat, such as black or navy, pair it with classic colours like reds and whites for a simple yet dimensional look. Grey pea coats can be paired with white, navy, burgundy, or emerald green. For a lighter shade of grey, white is the ultimate complementary colour.

Green pea coats, especially in shades of emerald, forest, or khaki, pair well with dark navy, dark wine, rich burgundy, and other classic tones. Camel pea coats, with their rustic autumnal tones, can be worn with black for a modern look or with beige, khaki, and wine-coloured pieces for a traditional interpretation. Brown pea coats, similar to camel, go well with almost everything, especially navy.

Style with Different Outfits

Pea coats are versatile and can be dressed up or down. For a casual look, pair your pea coat with jeans or chinos. Chinos come in various colours, allowing you to style your pea coat based on your mood. For a date night, a classic roll-neck or cable-knit sweater can be a cool yet casual choice. For a more laid-back style, opt for a crew-neck shirt or even a hoodie.

When wearing a pea coat with a suit, ensure that the suit blazer is not longer than the pea coat. You can achieve this by choosing a bridge coat style, which is longer than the classic pea coat, or by pairing your pea coat with a white shirt and a coloured tie, forgoing the suit blazer. This look pairs well with leather Oxford shoes.

Accessorise with a Popped Collar

The pea coat, along with the trench coat, is one of the few garments that can be styled with a popped collar without looking ridiculous. Popping the collar provides additional protection against the cold and creates a sharper look, enhancing any casual outfit. Just make sure to reserve this style for cold, blustery days, as it may come off as pretentious in milder weather.

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Pea coat care and maintenance

A pea coat is a type of coat that is typically made of heavy wool and has a double-breasted front with wide lapels. It is characterised by its short length, which falls just above the hips, and its large buttons. The standard fabric for historical pea coats in the 20th century was a smooth and heavy, dark navy blue Kersey wool, which was dense enough to repel wind and rain.

Removing Lint, Pet Hair and Debris

Pea coats only need to be washed twice a season. To ensure your pea coat stays in top condition between washes, remove lint, pet hair and debris once a week. Hang your coat on a hanger and use a soft-bristled brush to gently brush away any debris. Then, use a lint brush to remove any lingering lint and/or pet hair. If you don’t own a lint brush, sticky tape works just as well. Make sure to do both sides of the coat, including the arms.

Rips, Tears and Holes

Rips, tears and holes can be expected when wearing a coat regularly, especially if you have owned it for several years. Pea coats are often made from wool or a similar material, so any damage is easily fixed. Simply sew up the damage using a needle and thread that matches the colour of your jacket. Small rips and holes don’t require any special sewing skills, but if the damage is more advanced, you may want to take it to a tailor.

Washing Your Pea Coat

Before washing your pea coat, check for stains, especially on the collar and cuffs. If you find any, mix a solution of mild laundry detergent and water, and gently rub this directly onto the stain. You can use your fingers or a soft-bristled brush, but be gentle to avoid damaging the coat and setting the stain further. Leave the solution for 15 minutes, then your coat will be ready to wash.

To machine wash your pea coat, first turn it inside out and place it in a laundry bag. Set your washing machine to a delicate, cool temperature cycle and use a gentle laundry detergent. Avoid using a hot wash setting as this will damage the delicate fibres of your coat. If your washing machine has a wool-specific setting, use that instead.

If you would prefer to hand wash your pea coat, fill a basin with cold water and add a small amount of gentle laundry detergent. Completely submerge your coat and use a gentle swishing motion to ensure that your coat is being penetrated by the laundry detergent. Then, leave it to sit for at least 15 minutes. Once you are satisfied that your pea coat has been adequately washed, rinse it with fresh cold water, making sure that all of the detergent has been removed. After rinsing, gently squeeze each section of your coat to remove excess water.

Whether you use a washing machine or hand wash your pea coat, avoid using a tumble dryer. Using a tumble dryer can damage the delicate wool fibres. Instead, lay your coat flat on a clean, dry towel, on a completely flat surface. It can take a few days for your coat to completely dry.

True Navy Pea Coat

A true navy pea coat is generally made of heavy wool and is a dark navy blue colour.

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Pea coat alternatives

A pea coat (or peacoat) is a heavy woollen coat, generally in a navy colour, with a double-breasted front, broad lapels, and large buttons. It is shorter than an overcoat and longer than a jacket.

The pea coat is a classic garment with a rich history, having been worn by sailors and officers in the European, British, and American navies. It is now a staple piece in the fashion world, with many designer labels offering their own interpretations.

  • Toggle Jacket: For a similar nautical vibe, consider a toggle jacket with a hood. Scotch & Soda and H&M offer some options in this style.
  • J. Crew Skiff Jacket: This jacket is a good alternative to a pea coat and is said to be quite warm.
  • Wool Chesterfield: A Chesterfield in a wool fabric will give you a sophisticated look. Pair it with black jeans and white sneakers for a modern twist.
  • Duffle Coat: A traditional duffle coat will give you a classic, nautical-inspired look. Gloverall is a great brand to check out for this style.
  • Single-Breasted Pea Coat: If you like the style of a pea coat but want something a little more modern, consider a single-breasted version. Percival offers a contemporary take on the pea coat with their bestselling 'Pea Coat' in olive or navy Melton wool.
  • Bridge Coat: A bridge coat is similar to a pea coat but extends to the thighs, offering more protection from the cold.
  • Reefer Jacket: A reefer jacket is essentially an officer's or chief petty officer's pea coat with gold buttons and epaulettes.
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Frequently asked questions

A true navy pea coat is generally navy blue.

The colour navy blue hides grime and resists fading, and the thick wool fabric proved durable against water, wind, and salt.

Yes, pea coats now come in a variety of colours and weights and also have a more tapered fit. Designers also experiment with different fabrics, like cashmere or even leather.

The pea coat was originally used as a military piece of clothing, more specifically for the navy. The Dutch navy created the pea coat in the 1800s as part of the navy uniform, and that is where the name originates from - "pije" means coarse wool in Dutch, the fabric used to make the pea coat.

Pea coats are a versatile piece that can be styled in many ways and for many occasions. It works for any season that requires a jacket: fall, winter, and maybe even the first few months of spring if you live somewhere with a cooler climate. You can wear them on the weekend over casual pieces like jeans, chinos, sweaters, open-buttoned shirts, or even a t-shirt in the fall.

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