Camplin: The original British Peacoat

A number of conflicting yarns have been spun regarding the origin of the Peacoat, indeed the same can be said about its close relative, the Blazer (see previous post here). However, the story we are most inclined to believe is that of the Camplin family, whose patriarch, Edgar, established a trading company in 1850 that included draper's shops in London and Portsmouth.

Camplin Draper's Store (c1900)

Edgar, together with his brother Henry and their respective sons, developed the family business by acquiring British military contracts to supply the Navy with sailcloth, which later extended to the provision of clothing. In 1888, Edgar's son Charles presented the Royal Navy with the idea of producing a coat to distinguish Petty Officers from Ordinary & Able Seamen - who, until that time, dressed in a similar fashion.

The Camplin family photographed during celebrations for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee (20th June 1887). Brothers Henry and Edgar (front, left and right). Henry's sons Henry Jnr., Robert, George and William (back). Edgar's son Charles (back, centre).

The solution proposed by Charles was to produce a shorter version of the full-length Bridge Coat (worn by senior officers when commanding their crew from the ship's bridge). This would create the necessary demarcation between the ranks, whilst allowing sufficient movement for the Petty Officers to perform physical tasks as instructed by their superiors. The coat was made from a heavy Melton cloth, and various types of buttons in brass or horn were then attached to the coats to further define seniority.

Victorian Royal Navy Petty Officer

By 1890, the uniform of the Royal Navy had become standardised across the British fleet, and all Petty Officers were issued with the regulation Petty Officer Coat - abbreviated to P. Coat, and extended to the phonetically named "Peacoat". The double-breasted design would fasten tightly around the neck when buttoned to the top. Victorian sailors, renowned for their ropework, often created intricate pieces of macramé whilst at sea, including ornamental lanyards and straps (that could be used to extend the neck-fastening of the Peacoat to accommodate heavier clothing).

Bosun's pipe with sailor-macraméd lanyard (c1900)

The fortunes of the Camplin family flourished as they followed the British military around the colonies, substantially developing their business in India when they began trading from Bombay in 1896. Charles continued to provide support to the Royal Navy throughout their campaigns, and he was eventually recognised with the award of a General Service Medal for his efforts.

British military General Service Medal

The contemporary Camplin Peacoat retains the basic design of the original garment that was introduced over 130 years ago. It is embellished with signature macraméd "cordage" that offers unique styling together with practical application, and is detailed with striped grosgrain which pays reverence to Charles Camplin's treasured campaign medal and its coloured ribbon. 

The contemporary Camplin Peacoat

The original Melton cloth has been replaced by a soft Italian "Rain Wool" which provides an exceptional degree of comfort whilst offering protection from showers and seaspray. A contrasting grey under collar is cut from the same cloth, whilst the quilted lining delivers warmth (without weight) and is coloured red and navy blue as a final salute to the garment's British nautical heritage.

Shop the look