Peacoat Vs. Trench Coat: Differences and How to Wear Both
A great coat can finish any stylish men's look. As well as adding elegance to your outfit, the right coat will help keep you warm and seasonally appropriate without sacrificing a jot of style or class. However, as with all things fashionable, it’s never just as simple as “a coat” and done!
There are many different types of overcoats to consider if you’re looking to strike the right balance of respectability, fashionability, and poise. Knowing what to wear when is key—and your helpful friends at Oliver Wicks are here to save the day. With this basic guide to the trench coat vs peacoat, when to wear each, and why you need one, you’ll soon be facing fall and winter with fashionable flair.
As with so many men’s fashion items, the peacoat and trench coat have military origins—the trench coat comes from the British and European Armies. They were the coat of choice for officers, displaying high rank and privilege and keeping them warm.
Ironically, in the 19th century, trench coats were made from rubber. This gave them great insulative properties and kept wearers dry, but it wasn’t the most comfortable choice—especially as rubber neither breathes nor allows sweat to escape. So, tailors began to use gabardine, a breathable but waterproof cotton twill that was first created by Thomas Burberry. Instead of coating the entire garment, each strand used in the weave is coated.
Trench coats are solid and durable outerwear and today can be found in almost any fabric (except wool). They’re lighter than a peacoat, so won’t keep you quite as warm, but they’re better for precipitation.
Traditionally, they’re styled as a double-breasted coat with broad lapels, pockets that close with a button, and they have ten front buttons with a storm flap. Classically, they also have a belt at the waist and strap closures to buckle over the wrists. They use a turn-down collar that can be raised for extra protection. Today, you will find a wealth of colors to choose from, but the classic choice is khaki.
What makes trench coats special?
- Slimming design for stouter physiques
- Waterproof and durable
- Light and easy to wear over other clothes
- Raisable collar for wind
- Belted with weather closures
- Full length
What downsides are there to a trench coat?
- Little insulative properties
- Belts and straps can be annoying if not needed
- Traditionally focused on practicality over style
What the trench coat was to the army, the peacoat was to the Navy. Used by both American and European sailors, it aimed to keep them dry and warm with a suitable maritime style. You will often see small anchors or other nautical details on modern peacoats as a nod to this fact. The peacoat has been around since the 1800s and is thought to have originated with the Dutch navy. In fact, its rather quaint name is a bastardization of the Dutch word pije, used to refer to the original coarse wool used.
Despite its Dutch origins, the British Navy made the peacoat famous. Used by petty officers, the design was soft and comfortable to wear but warm enough to stand up to the cold temperatures on deck.
Like the trench coat, the peacoat is a double-breasted design with broad lapels. Unlike the trench coat’s buttoned pockets, a peacoat has vertical, or slash, pockets. Today, you will find them in any color you could wish for, but they are traditionally navy. Peacoats are easy to style and work well over formal and informal garments. While they can dwarf naturally skinny men, the thick wool adds bulk to the shoulders and torso without elongation, so it can be a great way to present a masculine look if you have a small frame.
Let’s look at the pros of peacoats at a glance:
- Traditionally waist to hip length
- Warm and insulative
- No added bells and whistles that can get annoying
What potential downsides do peacoats have?
- Not waterproof
- Can be hot for fall weather
- No belt for shape
Now you have a better sense of trench coats vs peacoats, let’s dive a little deeper into both styles, how they differ, and how to choose between them. As with sports coats and blazers, the differences can be subtle at first glance.
Peacoats are traditionally made of wool to give warmth, bulk, and some limited weather resistance. Today, it’s common to find blends and even cotton, polyester, and nylon peacoats. However, remember the old adage—you get what you pay for. While these alternatives may seem cheaper when you buy them, they will quickly pill, look dingy, and need replacing often. A high-quality peacoat from a trusted tailor (like the signature Oliver Wick W-coat), on the other hand, can last a lifetime when properly cared for.
Trench coats are traditionally made from heavy-duty gabardine cotton. Again, you will find alternatives today, often polyester, but these can get sweaty and uncomfortable and will not last long.
While the peacoat is a little longer than a standard jacket, designed to be worn over the wearer’s uniform, it is still a hip-length jacket that covers only the torso. Today, you will find some peacoat styles that veer longer—typically to a maximum of thigh length. This is more common in coats aimed at women, as it pairs well with dresses and taller boots, and most men considering a peacoat will want to consider the classic hip length.
Trench coats have, similarly, seen some modern variation. While they should classically be ankle length, giving protection to the whole body without risking tripping, modern variants will range. Again, these shorter styles tend to look better on women, and it’s best to stick with the classic length to impart masculine grace to your look.
Both of these coat designs are effortlessly timeless and classics in any wardrobe, so their look hasn’t changed much with time. However, you will find some streamlining and added style these days, as they’ve become a fashion statement rather than a military staple. This means greater variety in fit, length, and color. However, the historical features remain broad lapels, turn-up collars (on trench coats), buttons, pockets, and the double-breasted design.
Trench coats retain their buckle-tightened sleeve straps and larger pockets. Additionally, these pockets can typically be accessed from both inside and outside the coat for convenience and weather protection.
Classically, the peacoat does not have a belt. Some modern designs may add a belt simply for decorative value, but it is strictly incorrect, and the slim line of a peacoat means that you don’t need it to interfere with the fitted shape.
Trench coats should be belted. While you won’t be adding a sword to your ensemble (we hope) as was once required, it is still useful to carry gadgets and keep the coat closed in inclement weather. Today, you can also use the belt to create a cleaner line stylistically, as the original trench coat design is looser and less fitted than the peacoat.
Traditionally, a peacoat is navy blue to match the Navy it originated from. Trench coats were typical “camouflage colors” (although never in a camouflage print), depending on the terrain in which the soldier would be wearing them—so sand, khaki, or olive green.
Today, anything goes. You will find both peacoats and trench coats in any color you can imagine—including plaid! However, while many of the brighter and bolder colors can look great on women, and there are some stylistic reasons to consider bolder colors like burgundy, forest green, or copper for men in fashionable situations, if you are looking for sartorial elegance, it’s best to stick with classic neutrals like gray, navy, brown, and black. These colors have timeless stature and can be reused across a range of outfits, giving you versatility and practicality for your investment fashion coat.
In the trench coat vs peacoat battle, peacoats need a little more care. Due to their wool fabric and having less weather resistance, you will need to care for your garment well. Most wool in men’s clothing, including wool suits, will need to be dry cleaned. Wool fibers can be damaged easily, and because there is a protein content in the strands, you cannot use classic detergents on them without the fabric deteriorating. Washing machine cycles will likewise abrade and damage the fibers.
In a pinch, wool can be hand-washed or machine washed on a very gentle, lukewarm setting without the spin cycle. However, it will require a specialist detergent made for protein-heavy fabric, like silk and wool, and given the large size of a coat and the difficulty in draining and rinsing a heavy fabric that cannot be spun, it is often impractical. It is not good to hang wool to dry, either, especially if it is water-saturated, as this weight can pull out the fabric and damage the garment. Nor can wool be dried in the dryer. If you do opt for a hand wash round on a wool garment, always wring it out as gently as possible (try rolling it up in a bath towel) and dry flat, away from heat and direct sunlight.
A trenchcoat is a more robust option, provided it is properly made from a proper material. Some are also designed with removable linings to make them easier to freshen up, too. Most will be machine washable, but always pay attention to the garment label or ask the creator.
Remember, the Oliver Wicks team is always available at firstname.lastname@example.org to answer any garment care questions you have or lend a helping hand. You will need to use a gentle cycle and cool water for machine-washing trench coats. Don’t dry the garment in the dryer, but rather lay it flat to dry.
Now you know everything there is to know about these two popular coat styles, let’s look at wearing them like a pro. Mastering the art of wearing a coat well imparts extra style to your cold-weather wardrobe and furthers your aspirations of sartorial elegance. A great coat can easily fit into a business casual workplace and be dressed up or down for life around town, events, and much more.
While neither the trench coat nor the peacoat needs to be as meticulously fitted as other men’s garments, remember the Oliver Wicks rule—the fit that suits you! We wear our clothes, not the other way around. Fit doesn’t just matter for your custom suit, but for your entire wardrobe. Pay particular attention to how coats fit your shoulders and down the sleeve. In peacoats especially, make sure that the fitted line through the garment’s body is a comfortable match to your own.
Not sure how to check this? Remember that our team at Oliver Wicks has custom created a helpful series of videos to help you gauge size and fit throughout your garments. You can access these—and a ton more—by simply creating an account on our website. It won’t take a minute, and no purchase is necessary. You’ll also get access to our monthly newsletter, and a ton of tips, tricks, and advice to help you power up your fashion game.
While trench coats are more forgiving stylistically, they still need to fit well in the sleeves and shoulders. Don’t simply leave your trench coat hanging loose, but use the straps and belt to create an elegant and slimline silhouette.
Now, getting a coat, of any sort, to fit nicely is certainly not as critical as a suit, but there are still some basics to get right. It’s important to get a reasonable sleeve length, because being too long or short will look comical, certainly not the look that any of us are after.
The second thing is the waist/torso - It doesn’t have to be measured up precisely, but you’ll want something that vaguely matches your physique. The coat should still compliment the wearer’s body shape, without being excessively tight, or roomy.
Coats can be altered too! Every coat at Oliver Wicks is covered by $50 worth of alterations credit, just in case you need to make a few finishing tweaks.
Trench coats are perfectly suited for the transitional seasons—spring and fall. They’re also great for days when there’s precipitation in the air, from outright sleet and rain to snowy climates and foggy morning commutes. They are also great winter wear for areas with more clement winters or warmer days.
Unlike the peacoat, they don’t automatically translate well into a formal setting—but the right coat, with elegant style, clean lines, a classic neutral color, and a reduced focus on the straps and belt, can work with more formal attire. Modern trench coats can be very sophisticated with double-breasted cut and clean design elements.
Due to its thinner fabric, a trench coat can be layered easily over suits or blazers for extra weather protection or worn with a smart-casual look, like a polo neck and jeans, for added flair.
Unless you live in a very cold climate, your peacoat will be of the most use during the winter season. Remember that wool has some mild sweat-wicking properties and can quickly become stuffy and hot when the thermometer climbs higher, so plan accordingly.
The peacoat fits effortlessly into both casual and formal spaces. You can wear yours to work, then take it out to a romantic dinner with your special someone without fuss. Due to the fitted nature of the jacket itself, it will not fit well over a suit but can add the perfect blend of style and elegance over winter woolens, polo necks, and other meticulously styled garments. Think of it almost as a blazer for the winter months, and you will be on the right track.
And there you have it! With this concise guide to the trench coat vs the peacoat in your pocket, you now have the tools you need to power up your fall and winter wardrobe to new heights of style and elegance. Remember, if you need specific help or advice, our friendly Oliver Wicks team is always on hand to assist.