In 2023, any kid on a family plan will trip across dozens of fashion trends with a few TikTok flicks. But back in Aughts America, a high school kid like myself, trapped in the Connecticut ’burbs, had to proactively hunt for style inspiration. Every guy within a 50-mile radius seemed to wear the same things: beat-to-death sneakers, baggy jeans, and a hoodie. The DMB Devotee action figure’s accessories included cargo shorts for summer and a ski parka with attached lift ticket for winter.
Then I got a subscription to GQ (full disclosure, I’m writing for them right this second), which in turn nudged me online, where the burgeoning #menswear movement made me into a feverish forum-scroller. I started dropping words like “selvedge” and “lapels” into conversation, albeit to mixed reception. But I desperately wanted to put more sauce into my campus get-ups.
The local menswear shopping scene in suburban Connecticut hadn’t caught up with the Internet, but at least the mall had a J.Crew. The label had rocketed into its first renaissance by riding menswear’s Americana craze, turning out nicely-priced staples and teaming up with heritage labels like Barbour, Baracuta, and Red Wing. Over time my closet would be packed with its plaid button-down shirts, slim chinos, and desert boots. But nothing had an effect on my sartorial future like my first real coat. Specifically, J.Crew’s peacoat.
Long before I began my metamorphosis from bootcut caterpillar to menswear butterfly, the peacoat had earned the rank of outerwear icon. It started out as a general issue jacket for the Dutch Navy before being adopted stateside in the 1930s. Rarely does anyone riff on the original recipe: start with thick-as-hell melton wool, make it double breasted and cropped at the hips, toss on some big ol’ buttons, and voila—a coat that works on both James Bond and Ben, the guy in your dorm who plays too much Playstation.
At about $300, J.Crew’s peacoat was the first big-ticket clothing item I bought with my own money, made by reffing elementary school basketball games on the weekend. I had been eyeing it in the brand’s catalog for a while, so by the time I breezed past Auntie Anne’s and into J.Crew, I was already sold. When I actually tried it on, I remember how different it looked to wear a coat with a proper collar—one that you could flip up under the guise of bad weather, knowing full well it just looked cooler that way. This was a coat for the kind of grown, Robert-Redford-ass men whose pictures littered menswear Tumblr moodboards. By proxy, I felt more adult every time I wore it.
Some fifteen years later, J.Crew is still selling my exact peacoat. Because inflation remains unbeaten, it’s a little more expensive than when I handed over my reffing income (though on sale at the moment). It does the thing that J.Crew does so well, and sticks to the script with a few nice flourishes: a duo of interior pockets, a touch of nylon for comfort, and a toasty Primaloft insulation. And it remains the perfect gateway for any guy trying to ease into a more stylish version of himself.