I first became interested in vintage Navy peacoats while trying to replace a coat my brother-in-law had given me in about 1971 when he got out of the Navy.
Initially, I bought two of them, one at an Army Navy surplus store and one on EBay. Neither had the same outer shell finish as the original one I had liked so well.
Research showed there were no good reference sources for verifying the provenance of these fine coats.
As I researched and gained experience with the coats, I made a conscious decision to take notes and photos and to save them. This decision proved fortuitous when I found the Fedora Lounge and was able to answer questions about a coat that someone owned or a coat someone wanted to buy. I am happy to have found a place to share my knowledge about these wonderful pieces of history.
This discussion will bring together the comments I have made in my numerous posts in the peacoat thread, plus information I have not yet commented on.
During my research I found that no one really knows exactly when peacoats came to be the uniform coat for sailors, but for our purposes it is close enough to know that the US Navy adopted the coat from the British Navy.
The coats have changed a bit over the years. The differences, some subtle and some obvious, allow us to determine the approximate date of manufacture and subsequent entry into service of each of the coats.
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.
The earliest photograph I have of a peacoat is of a WWI era peacoat. 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.
WWI Era Peacoat
Peacoats issued during this era maintained the eight button (showing) front with the hand warmer pockets remaining from the WWI era. 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. The anchor was made larger to cover the button from the top of the button to the bottom and the anchor had a rope wrapped around it (fouled anchor)
These double breasted coats continued to be made of a smooth 100% wool outer shell with a rayon type inner lining. 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. The hand warmer pockets were lined with tan or light brown corduroy. The coats had the “Manufactured By NAVAL CLOTHING FACTORY” tag on the right inside breast pocket (on the outside of the pocket) with a line for the name and a line for the rate. 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.
Note the variation in the tag labeled "Pristine 1945 Tag" and the other WWII tag. The words "100% Wool Exclusive of Ornamentation" were added later in the war.
Also shown is an early WWII/Pre War tag. 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.
Pristine 1945 Tag
Probably a collar tag from a WWII coat.
The Officers’ and Chiefs’ Bridgecoats of that era had a much different tag. It is possible that the peacoats also carried this type of tag at some point during the war. The below photographs are of a Bridgecoat (year unknown) and a 1942 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-9. The material is similar to a peacoat, but the wool shell isn’t as thick. 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.
1942 Bridgecoat tag