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Question about meaning of "P. overcoat"

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#1 Brent1813



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Posted 02 November 2014 - 08:51 PM

Dear members,

I'm an assistant professor currently working on an article about young men's fashion at Oxford and Cambridge during the Victorian and Edwardian age. A member of www.askandyaboutclothes.com recommended that I post my question here at Cutter and Tailor.


I've run across an 1870 article from London's The Graphic, which states,


Young Oxford now promenades the avenue in the metropolitan frock coat and Lincoln or P. over-coat without being considered guilty of any infringement of the rules of taste. ("Oxford 669)

Can anyone tell me what "P." is an abbreviation for? A forum member at Ask Andy suggested that "pea coat" actually derives from "P. coat," as the "P" stood for pilot-cloth. Can anyone confirm whether this is true?


Many thanks in advance for your help.

Brent Shannon

#2 ChiTownTailor



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Posted 03 November 2014 - 08:28 AM

"According to a 1975 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.

Another theory, favoured by the US Navy, is that the heavy topcoat worn in cold, miserable weather by seafaring men was once tailored from "pilot cloth" a heavy, coarse, stout kind of twilled blue cloth with the nap on one side. This was sometimes called P-cloth from the initial letter of pilot, and the garment made from it was called a p-jacket later a pea coat. The term has been used since 1723 to denote coats made from that cloth"

It seems you're on the right track there professor! :) wich of the above is the correct theory? Anyone?

Edited by ChiTownTailor, 03 November 2014 - 08:33 AM.

-There might be a lot of tweed merchants out there making a bodger, but I'm sure not one of them. I'd rather be kicking my heels than making a pork on the mangle. No crushed beetles to be found here!

#3 Henry Hall

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Posted 04 November 2014 - 02:57 AM

The term 'Pea Jacket' is in English as early as 1725 and even the Dutch dictionary is not sure whether the term is derived from Pijjeker or the other way around. There are other cognates in Swedish etc and it's hard to unravl origins since 'jack', the common, modern word for jacket in Dutch, may be derived from the English, though jekker may not be.


'Pij' is the sort of thick woolen cloth you might associate with old woollen broadcloth (which I believe was a Dutch development). It refers to the rough sort of stuff monks habits were made of.


I think it's possible that not having an agreed upon spelling that it may have been written as "P. coat" or overcoat. Though would an overcoat of the 1870s have been anything but long? And has anyone seen any reference to a short coat - which a Pijjekker most certainly is - worn over a longer frock coat? If it can be conformed that a P or Lincoln is a seman's coat, then maybe.

Each phenomenon which is taken up should be treated with as much thoroughness as possible at that standpoint... One thing at a time and that done well!


- Otto Jespersen (How to Teach a Foreign Language).

#4 arkirshner



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Posted 04 November 2014 - 03:37 AM

The P. almost certainly is not pea coat. 

Young men at 1870 Oxford would not have worn sailor's coats as the custom of university men wearing working men's clothes was almost a century in the future.

More likely the P is for Paletot, its close cousin the Paddock, or P. as an abbreviation of the Prince Albert version of the frock coat. To properly answer the question it will take someone with extensive knowledge of the time period and familiarity with the trade publications of the era.  That is to say, wait for Sator



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