The information in this article is arranged chronologically, starting with the WWI era and continuing through current issue. Only Navy issue peacoats are discussed. Because of certain limitations inherent in the Board, I will submit this article in five separate posts.
Notice the two sets of pockets on the front of the coat and the extra length of the coat. The hand warmer pockets are high on the chest with the flap pockets at the waist. The hand warmer pockets remain in the current version, while the flap pockets have long since been discontinued. The hand warmer pockets were placed lower on the coat for a more comfortable fit, and the side flap pockets were eliminated.
The buttons were also changed. The 13 stars around the perimeter of the button were removed. There were eight buttons showing on the front of the coat with small buttons under the collars, and an attached throat latch so the coat could be tightly buttoned at the throat. There was one row of stitching approximately 3" above the cuff, which also had a single row of stitching just above the cuff.
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The hand warmer pockets were lined with tan or light brown corduroy. There was an anchor in the upper right hand corner and the upper left hand corner of the tag. It is possible that there were variations on this tag. See the photographs of the WWII coat and the tag below. The coat appears black in the photograph, but it is dark midnight blue. Both of my WWII coats are more closely fitted than any of my other peacoats. The coats became a little looser as the decades moved on. I believe this tag was a second tag in addition to the breast pocket tag, and was located at the collar on the inside, right at the hang loop.
I say this because one of my WWII coats has an almost identical tag, and that is where it is located. That coat also has the standard tag on the inside breast pocket. It is possible that the peacoats also carried this type of tag at some point during the war.
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The below photographs are of a Bridgecoat year unknown and a tag from a bridgecoat. A bridgecoat is a full length just below the knees double breasted overcoat worn by all naval officers and chiefs, E-7 through E Bridgecoats have a zip out lining to make them warmer when needed. I have placed my original size 40 peacoat next to the bridgecoat in the photograph for comparison.
While officers and chiefs are authorized to wear the bridgecoat, they may also wear a peacoat.
The peacoat worn by an officer or chief has gold buttons and is called a reefer, instead of a peacoat. The only difference between a peacoat and a reefer is the gold buttons. The officers also wear shoulder boards indicating their rank. The chiefs wear no rank insignia. Bridgecoat Bridgecoat tag. Jan 23, 2. The number of buttons showing on the front of the coat changed from eight to six. This change lengthened and widened the lapel, which allowed it to lie flat against the body of the coat.
It made for a neater presentation while only allowing a slightly larger opening at the top of the chest. The dense smooth wool outer shell remained unchanged, with a few exceptions. In the 70s there was at least one contract for the Melton wool, which became the standard shell from to present. The color remained the deep midnight blue in these Melton contracts. All of the pre peacoats I have seen that have Melton wool shells are labeled as such. Post WWII coat and earlier tag While the coats themselves remained unchanged for almost 35 years — , there were numerous tags used during this period.
It is this practice that makes dating these pieces of history accurate within a several year period. As the peacoats remained relatively unchanged until about , the remainder of the discussion will focus on the uniqueness of the tags to establish a date for the coats. My coat has the nicest finish of any of my coats. It has the standard 6 button showing front with double stitching on the sleeves, about 3" up from the end of the cuff, and a single row of stitching right at the cuff.
I believe this tag was used up until about or Jan 23, 3. In and the date was embedded in the contract number, so the dates for these tags are definitive. Also the tag is definitive, as I know who owned the coat and the year he joined the Navy. So, based on the known factors, we are able to give an educated guess for the dates of the other tags.
The first tag shown below appears to be the same tag as the one issued in , but with the added instructions for cleaning the coat. I would place this tag at about because of the instructions panel. Note that the instructions were used on the tag as well.
That is one reason I say after The anchors are in both of the upper corners; they both just aren't visible in the photograph. I do know it is a post war tag because it came from a six button coat. I think it is approximately a tag for several reasons: The wording is almost identical to the tag, but the font is different. It has an "older" look to it. The anchors are fouled, which is first definitively noted in Also the anchors are not in the upper corners of the tag, which occurred in preceding and subsequent years.
In the years after , the contract numbers are printed on the tag. In , and before, there was no contract number printed on the tag. The contract number is printed on this tag, and it has an "N" prefix, which, according to my research, was issued earlier than the "TAP" prefix on the tag. Note the "TAP" prefix. The tag below is a tag. We can tell this because of the date in the contract number.
During the 50s the date would occasionally appear in the contract information on the tag. Starting in this practice became permanent. Jan 23, 4. The coats during this period had a double row of stitching above the cuff, which also had a single row of stitching right at the cuff. This is a feature that goes back to sometime just after WWII and ended in Also was the last year for the double row of button holes that allowed the coat to be buttoned from the left or the right.
Although was officially the last year for the double row of stitching 3" above the cuff, this feature is found on some coats as well. Double Row of Stitching, Peacoat. The double row of stitching 3" above the cuff was eliminated. Beginning in the date was embedded in the contract number. This practice has carried forward to the current issue coats, so dating coats from forward is quite simple if there is a tag present. If no tag is present, all of the clues must be utilized to determine the era.
One day I will write out a logical path flow chart and post it here. Right now the chart is in my head. Tags may be located on the outside of the right interior breast pocket, or they may be inside one of the pockets, including the hand warmer pockets of the coat. The color of the corduroy has not always been consistent.
In most coats it is light brown or tan, but a few coats have been seen with dark green or black corduroy. The three colors are seen below. A soft white, off white, or blue cotton lining was substituted. I have coats with all three of those colors in the handwarmer pockets.
Jan 23, 5. The Navy changed to a pewter button that was identical in styling to the gold button authorized for officers and chiefs. The coat itself remained unchanged. The pewter button lasted until , when the classic black button with the fouled anchor was returned to service. The heavy smooth wool, deep midnight blue in color, often referred to as Kersey wool, that had long been a staple in Navy peacoats, with a few exceptions, was replaced.
The new peacoat fabric was known as Melton wool.
It was black in color with a more fuzzy and rougher texture, and lighter in weight. Because of the lighter weight, an insulated lining was added to give it additional warmth. The top part of the inside of the coat is covered with a shiny rayon type liner, evidently because it receives the heaviest wear. Most reports I have received say the new peacoat is as warm, but not as water repellent or as wind proof as the original Kersey wool. My own experience and tests confirm these reports.
The Melton wool had been used earlier in the construction of peacoats. In the s there was at least one contract that specified Melton rather than Kersey wool. The pre Melton coats I have seen have all been labeled as such. We know the coat on the right is a pre coat because of the double stitching 3" above the cuff. It is one thing to manufacture a civilian peacoat and label it as such. But it is quite another to manufacture a civilian peacoat and pass it off as the genuine article.
It may be that the manufacturer wasn't trying to pass it off as an issue coat, but it sure causes confusion for subsequent buyers. Below are two tags from two different coats purporting to be military issue when they are not. A pea coat or pea jacket , pilot jacket is an outer coat, generally of a navy-coloured heavy wool ,  originally worn by sailors of European and later American navies.
How to Tell the Age of a Vintage Navy Pea Coat
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 and chief petty officers only, and is identical to the basic design but usually has gold buttons and epaulettes.
Only officers wear the epaulettes. Today the style is considered a classic, and pea coats are now worn by all manner of individuals. The style has evolved to the addition of hoods.
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A 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 ounces approx. While pea coats are offered in many colors by retailers, the US Navy -issue pea coat is dark blue. According to a edition of the Mariner's Mirror , the term pea coat originated from the Dutch or West Frisian word pijjekker or pijjakker , in which pij referred to the type of cloth used, a coarse kind of twilled blue cloth with a nap on one side.