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A peacoat is a short wool jacket that is made in a style that was adopted for wear by European sailors. The traditional coat is a deep navy blue in color. A peacoat can be distinguished by its broad lapels and double breasted style. A double row of buttons is used to fasten the jacket. It also comes with slash-style pockets.
This style was first worn in the 18th century, and the look has changed very little since that time. A longer version of the peacoat, called a bridge coat, was worn by naval officers. When a peacoat is outfitted with epaulettes and and gold buttons, it is known as a reefer. Only officers would have been allowed to wear this garment.
The first peacoat was worn by a young man who joined the British Navy. The recruit's father, who was a Dutch farmer, had made a jacket to keep him warm while serving at sea. The wool for the coat came from the young man's three favorite sheep on the farm. The sheep had been dubbed Pauline, Eleanor, and Andrew. For this reason, the son had referred to it as his "P.E.A. coat."
When the new sailor reported for duty at Brighton, a petty officer on duty noticed the coat and asked where he had gotten it. The petty officer, Jeffrey Stanislaus Fox, liked what he saw, and the British Navy ordered a supply of 400 of the peacoats from the farmer. From that point on, Naval officers were issued this garment as part of their uniform.
The peacoat continues to be a popular fashion look for both men and women. They can be bought from military surplus stores as well as brick-and-mortar and online stores. Both classic designs and more updated looks are available. Some designers have reinterpreted the peacoat for evening wear for women by adding ruffles and making the silhouette more fitted. A peacoat in soft cashmere with a fur collar can be a good choice to wear at night.
Not all versions of the peacoat are in navy blue. This style can be found in a wide range of colors — even plaid. No matter what color is used, the basic design is the same. The peacoat is a style that has remained a popular look for winter wear over the years.