Male pattern boldness, pt. 1
Sunday, 2nd October 2016
The peacoat. By ‘eck it’s a full-blooded thing. Anyone with even passing familiarity of its origins in the lore of menswear will find it hard to separate the style from a mental image of barrel-chested seafarers, loitering on the bridge of some HMS or other — all anchor buttons, heroic collars, hands in pockets and elbows out at unapologetic angles.
And that is an essence, an easily caricatured essence, that you want to retain if you wish to develop a peacoat true to the fundamental and spiritual nature of the form. It’s too good to pass up. But, when you move things along, modernise it a little, that’s when you can get yourself into a tangle. You might crop it. Drastically add buttons or take them away. Reinterpret the collar in some novel fashion. Add a multi-pronged throat latch, maybe.
But, for better or worse, that’s not the coat we have here. Instead, what’s been done is a remodelling, so that while it resembles very much the peacoats of the naval past, it makes more sense and serves more of a purpose, in this day and age, than might a mere replica.
Sure, it isn’t without its affects. Postbox pockets, an Ulster collar, and half-cuffs don’t play more of a role than to make the coat less a thing of the quayside. But where it improves on the past is its base-level construction: a new one-piece split-sleeve construction, which might merit a patent if anyone with an absolute knowledge of pattern-cutting history can confirm one way or the other whether it’s been done before. This type of shoulder means that, front on, the coat has the outline of the stereotype, with a crisp, smart shoulder, and a sharp line running up to that titanic collar. You can’t not have that. It would be all wrong.
But, given the proclivity these days to wear layers — such as one of those suits very much the norm among today’s civilian class — if you have that sharp shoulder, front and back, you can run into problems. The indignity of gripping by fingertip your jacket cuff when taking the coat on and off, that restrictive sensation when lifting up or reaching out — these are things life is surely better without. The brilliance of the split-sleeve is that there’s none of that. You have a smart front and a spacious back. The best of both worlds, then.
Same goes for the body. There’s length there, extra — given the suit jacket you might wish to cover over falls lower than the average gansey. These additional inches helps space out the pockets, too. It means you needn’t cram chest and waist pockets together — nor, worse, be forced to choose between one or the other. No — the pockets spaced out, at heights that are restful for arms in the upper ones, and eminently plunge-into-able for the lower ones.
A fitting choice of material for a coat which seeks to be like the oldies but better — that’s happy to reminisce, but tries politely to move the conversation along — is a deep navy cloth, woven in Somerset with worsted-spun yarn, and milled over and over and over again to soften the yarn, to coax its strands into ever-denser unity. It is thick and very heavy, like a melton — but no melton has a lustre quite like this. Such a coat is what can be found at the workshop today, and highly likely here on the website, in the coming days.