[DEEP DIVE] REEFER JACKET
Welcome back to "DEEP DIVE". In this series we go behind the scenes to trace the genesis of our favorite Engineered Garments items. In this installation, we took out our magnifying glass to examine the Reefer Jacket, an new Engineered Garments item that combines elements of nautical military wear with a classic double-breasted blazer.
The osmosis of uniform clothing into fashion is one of the greatest abilities of Engineered Garments. By taking items that were designed for pure function and recreating them with an emphasis on aesthetic, a new appreciation can be derived. Often, the brand creates pieces that go a step further than orthodox reproduction, creating an item that fuses both military and design to create something wholly new.
Like many Engineered Garments pieces, the Reefer Jacket can trace its lineage to military garb - specifically the reefer coat, a naval work coat worn by sailors for centuries across Europe, also known as a pea coat. The exact starting point for this term remains elusive - some attribute its creation to the Dutch, and their word for blue twill “pij”. Others assert that the term comes from Camplin, the historic British company whose Petty Coat - crafted from pilot cloth and designed for petty officers - was marketed as P. Coat.
What is not up for debate is its use by sailors. Known within the British Navy as a reefer coat, it was first issued to “reefers”, midshipmen who were tasked with reefing (furling and unfurling the sails). Contrary to its stiff appearance, the coat’s flare at the hem provided enough room for agile movement amongst the rigging, and its heavy wool construction both kept sailors warm - even when wet.
In 1791, the first order for US Navy officer uniforms was pronounced, and in 1802, blue and gold was officially adopted as standard navy uniform colors. Given the close relationship between England and America, the reefer coat was quickly adopted in the United States - even retaining a rendition of Lord Howard of Effingham’s distinctive “fouled anchor” insignia on the buttons.
By the 20th century this jacket had become a symbol of the US Navy. Made from 100% Melton carded wool, they were favored by seamen for their robust construction. The exaggerated collar made it possible to stay warm without impeding peripheral vision, and the double breasted design allowed the wearer to button it from either side, keeping out the wind from any direction.
At the end of World War II - following an unprecedented ramp up of war production - the United States was left with enormous quantities of excess military supplies, including US Navy pea coats. Sold for pennies on the dollar, these military uniforms were shipped all over the world, creating the surplus store cottage industry, and indelibly changing fashion for all time.
The first time Engineered Garments designer Daiki Suzuki encountered a US Navy Pea Coat, he was shopping at his local surplus store in Aomori. Like many teenagers, he was strapped for cash and in a rush to look cool. With their dirt-cheap prices, surplus stores became his laboratory. His experimentation entailed recreating outfits with military goods. With budgetary limitations forcing him to be creative, he was able to craft a much more stylish outfit than if he purchased an outfit outright. He created his own suit setup: a Pea Coat, Regimental Stripe Tie, White Oxford, and loafers - all purchased for 1/10th of the price of a luxury department store.
With the Engineered Garments Reefer Jacket, Daiki is reviving that sense of exploration and creativity, combining elements of traditional sport coats with orthodox military clothing. The buttoned down lapels, 6 front buttons, and flap pockets are all suggestive of a uniform. More akin to a shirt construction than a blazer, the jacket features side vents - just like the original navy version. Straight, boxy military jackets often come with side tabs that allow the wearer a bit more shape. Here, Daiki borrows from European military items and shrewdly includes a waist drawstring that is adjusted from the inside rear of the jacket.
There are a range of clever tailoring tricks packed into the item as well. A classic Saville Row touch can be found on the sewn in cuff, standing in for the original’s sleeve straps. Differing from most double breasted jackets, the Reefer Jacket doesn’t close fully across the body, and its narrow opening makes it easy to wear open - there is even an inside strap that can be used to keep the jacket slightly open. Unlike the formal double breasted of previous seasons (like FW20’s Ivy-inspired Newport Jacket), the Reefer is meant to be worn casually, indicated by its wide and relaxed fit.
The ideas behind the Reefer Jacket dovetail with the Engineered Garments Fall Winter 2022 theme of the “The Lighthouse”. Beyond the situation it was initially constructed for, Daiki demonstrates that the concept of a uniform is applicable for daily human life. Mixing the core humanistic relationships with code, the ocean, and sartorial tradition he creates a new aesthetic that refuses to be categorized. It is this sort of beauty that fuels Engineered Garments’ push to new levels of discovery.
The Reefer Jacket is available the following fabrics:
Black Cotton Heavy Twill
Dark Navy Cotton Heavy Twill
Dark Navy Wool Uniform Serge
Navy 8W Corduroy
Available in-store and online at nepenthesny.com