A pea coat (or pea jacket, pilot jacket) is an outer coat, generally
of a navy-colored heavy wool,originally worn by sailors of American
and European navies.Pea coats are characterized by broad lapels,
double-breasted fronts, often large wooden or metal buttons, and
vertical or slash pockets. References to the pea jacket appear in
American newspapers at least as early as the 1720s, modern renditions
still maintain the original design and composition.
A "bridge coat" is a pea coat that extends to the thighs, and is a uniform
exclusively for officers and Chief Petty Officers. The "reefer" is for
officers only, and is identical to the basic design but usually has gold
buttons and epaulettes.
Today the style is considered a classic, and pea coats are now worn by all manner
of individuals, not just professional sailors. When it is worn by a woman, it is
often referred to as a "Jackie O" Jacket.
Note that few of the jackets seen on the street are genuine navy surplus; being a
classic garment, it is frequently available from retailers, though often with small
design changes that reflect the current fashion trends. The standard for historical
pea coats was 30 oz. wool, most often made of heavy Melton Cloth through the 1970's
in the U.S. Navy. Presently coats are made from 22-32 oz. wool. While pea coats are
offered in many colors by retailers, the U.S. Navy-issue pea coat is always dark
blue or black.
The term "pea coat" originated from the Dutch or West Frisian word pijjekker, in
which pij referred to the type of cloth used, which was called "Pilot cloth", a
coarse kind of twilled blue cloth with a nap on one side. The cloth was sometimes
called P-cloth for the initial letter of the word and the garment made from it
was called a p-jacket - later a pea coat.