Wool for Winter Part 1: The Pea Coat

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, it’s getting pretty cold here in Baltimore. It’s getting to be freezing, actually, and you’re going to need some protection against the elements. From now until April you’d be damn foolish to leave the house without a coat or jacket. You’re going to want something warm, weatherproof and of course, high on style.

Fortunately, the Chop is here to keep you warm all winter long. Over the next few days, we’re going to present you with three solid style choices that are heavy enough to keep you warm, classic enough to carry you anywhere, neutral enough to match any outfit, and sophisticated enough to make anyone look damn good.

Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin both display effortless cool in classic pea coats.

The men’s magazines and internet fashionistos waste many, many column inches every year debating the pros and cons of leather vs fabrics, which is great for them but not much help to the man on the street. They’ll tell you over and over how leather is classic, hard-wearing, heirloom quality, etc etc etc.

Since we’re big on blanket pronouncements, we’re going to go ahead and make one here: fuck leather. Don’t get us wrong, we’re still all for leather shoes and belts (although we are a little guilty about it), but to the Chop’s mind those are the only places a man should be wearing leather. (Okay, maybe gloves too.) Leather jackets carry way too many connotations of bikers, daddies, and 80′s cock-rock hair metal. If that’s the look you’re going for, then have at it, Gentle Reader. We don’t like it, and we wouldn’t buy it.

For the modern Maryland man, wool is all you need to see you through winter; this winter, next winter, and plenty of winters after. The only question left to be answered is do you want that wool in the shape of a coat or a jacket?

Okay. You're probably not looking at the coat anymore.

Why decide? The perfect pea coat will serve in place of both, since in a lot of ways, it is both. The differences are subtle, but there are plenty of types of peas generally available, and styles vary widely. Some have the short length, slim fit, and high neck of a jacket, and others the longer, fuller, scarf-friendly design of an overcoat. A classic cut will fall right in the middle, and be the best of both worlds.

There are plenty to choose from on sites like Overstock and Amazon, as well as well as at shops and malls around town. There are a few things to keep in mind when shopping though:

  • 100% virgin wool is best. It’s also very hard to find and very expensive if you do find it. Even most high-end brands and department stores are selling wool-blends.
  • The higher the percentage of wool in the blend, the better. 60% should be the minimum you look for. Price and wool content are not necessarily directly proportional.
  • You get what you pay for, but only up to a point. Look to spend anywhere between $75 and $175. Less than that is too cheap, and more may just be pissing money away.
  • Look for a true double breast- meaning the coat has 2 sets of working buttons down the front.
  • Classic means simple and simple means classic. Stay away from unnecessary bells and whistles like shoulder straps, wrist straps, extra pockets and tons of buttons. Serge didn’t need that crap, and neither do you.

At sea or ashore, a classic pea is an ideal choice for any man looking to get into his first proper coat, or to upgrade his everyday coat to something more stylish. Black, gray, charcoal or navy, you’ll spend the winter looking as good as you feel.


Read the second and third parts in this series here and here.