Your Style Girlfriend

    Borrowed From the Boys: L.L. Bean Signature Peacoat

    5th March 2013


     The Coat: L.L. Bean Signature Italian wool peacoat

    The Rest: jeans, Naked & Famous / denim jacket, Gap / sweater, Ann Taylor / boots, Frye

    Did I ever tell you guys that my grandpa was in the navy? On my dad’s side, Don – Donald – Collins served his country proudly in World War II as a radio striker on a submarine. He died, wow, ten years ago? More now, maybe?

    He used to wear a cap that bore his sub’s name – the USS Finback – almost every time I saw him. It was blue, and braided gold where the bill met the rest of the hat. The memory of it is etched so strongly in my vision you’d think I’d seen him sporting it just yesterday. He would keep it pushed it up and back on his head, the easier for him to peck my grandmother on the cheek while wearing it.


    This peacoat, from L.L. Bean Signature, makes me feel – in a small way – closer to my grandpa. Originally worn by sailors (first in Europe, then here in the states), the peacoat has worked its way into the wardrobes of the culture-at-large.

    And you can tell why. The style is always appropriate – whether worn with dress slacks, or simply thrown over jeans, you just feel feel so damn put together when sporting those broad lapels and double breasted buttons. The jacket hits that sweet spot of feeling totally classic yet perfectly modern. It’s also a great outfit finisher – a jacket like this looks great when accessorized with a scarf thrown around an upturned collar, or worn simply with good posture.

    Wearing the peacoat makes me think of the stories he’d spin for me, my brother, and sister when we were little, visiting him and my grandma in Portage (and later too, when they’d moved to Madison, and we were older, and had heard all his stories a hundred times each, but they were still too good to interrupt him and tell him so).

    We’d listen for hours to him telling us about his short-lived boxing career in the Golden Gloves as a teenager. Or how, when the war began and he went to enlist, he was turned away the first time for being too short and barely 115 pounds soaking wet. About that next week before he went back to try again, how he carried bunches of bananas with him everywhere, trying to bulk up – and fast. How the girls at the soda shoppe in town would bring him malts three times a day to help that weight gain along. And we’d listen to him tell us, slapping his knee, that when he did go back, he hadn’t gained a pound (and obviously not an inch), but they let him sign up anyway.

    I remember him telling us how he met his future wife at a USO dance in Madison. He went with a friend of hers but ditched her as soon as he saw my grandmother (I always felt bad for the friend, but glad it turned out the way it did). About the time he and his crew saved a future president, when George H.W. Bush’s fighter plane was shot down in the Pacific. About the ship newspaper he wrote and printed during wartime. Underwater.

    On one of many family trips to Washington DC as a child (ours is a family of history nerds), we made a pit stop at the U.S. Navy Memorial. A sailor with his duffle bag beside him, cast in bronze, presides over a large plaza. Over the years, that statue and the image I hold of my grandfather have mingled in my mind, to the point that the statue is a little shorter, my grandpa a little sturdier, and I’m no longer sure which I’m thinking of when the image bubbles up in my memories.


    When I think of my grandfather now, his strength, courage, kindness, and most of all, his stories, wash over me. When I wear this peacoat, I’m reminded of the man he was – the husband, the father, the sailor, the grandfather. I’m reminded to stand a little straighter. Love my family more fiercely. To take on challenges that no one else thinks I’m up for. To make sure I’m up for those challenges.

    Tell me: Do you wear anything that belonged to your grandparents, or simply reminds you of them? Let’s hear all about it in the comments
    • Chris Rogers

      I unfortunately don’t have any clothes which at one point belonged to my grandparents. However, I do have two items which I always keep nearby. First is my grandfathers Mechanical Engineering textbook, I’m a mechanical engineer as well and like to keep that textbook around to remind me of him while I’m at work. The second is a map of my grandparents travels, meticulously kept by my grandmother and now hanging on my wall, I would love to one day visit every location that map has a pin in it.

      • kellen owenby

        I love that they kept a map of their travels. That’s a great idea!

        • Chris Rogers

          It really is an awesome piece to have. She used various color push pins, drew a legend, and had pop out map views if they visited numerous places within a country. My grandpa was a veteran of three wars (WWII, Korea and Vietnam) I would’ve loved to have known him better, unfortunately he passed while I was still quite young.

    • John Yo

      This is an outstanding post and tribute. Well done

      • Ryan


    • kellen owenby

      Great post, Megan!

      My grandfather always kept his “reading glasses” in his shirt pocket. For some reason, I always loved the look. So, when I’m not using my glasses, I always put them in the pocket of my button up or denim jacket. It’s a tiny homage to him every time I do it. *I also inherited some of his carpentry tools when he died. Every time I use them, it makes me think of him.

      • Baxter

        I love old, inherited tools. That’s really cool.

        • Tom Sweeney

          I have a rather lovely old dovetail saw that my father learned with, and a brass-topped spirit level as well. They don’t make them like they used to!

    • Sean

      Great post. I wear my grandfather’s cufflinks. He too was in WWII.

    • ilyac

      Most of what I remember about my grandfather involved him wearing a pair of slacks, suspenders (typically not on his shoulders but just draped down, but still buttoned to his pants), a white undershirt, and of course sandals with socks. In true old-Russian-man form. Perhaps it’s for the best that unlike your grandfathers iconic peacoat, that particular fashion statement never made it into the culture at large.

      Unfortunately between the move from Russia to America in the early 90′s most of the ‘good stuff’ never made it over to the states. Those old suits, heavy coats and army/navy uniforms I see in our old pictures are likely floating around some vintage clothing store in Russia, waiting for some lucky devil.

    • Ryan

      Since 1994 I’ve worn my grandad’s wool dressing gown. It’s waaay too big for me, but so what. I’m seriously considering having it made into a sportscoat (it’s a midnight/navy blue plaid) and there’s more than enough material to get a matching vest as well.

      It actually reminds me of a samurai sword [yes] that he brought back from Japan, when the Occupying Forces went into Japan after they surrendered. I didn’t know him very well unfortunately, but I remember THAT sword, which is now in the Queensland Museum.

      As for peacoats, I bought a Schott last year, god it’s nice :) Nice photography too Megan, those trees look fantastic.

    • Zachary W Thoren

      My favorite watch belonged to my grandfather. It’s a simple Timex and probably didn’t cost much, but it’s always been priceless to me. I keep it and several Hot Wheels cars he gave me when I (jokingly) asked for a car for my 16th birthday. He was a great man and keeping these things around means keeping him around. Thank you for letting me think about him today.

      (Please excuse the selfie.)

    • JT

      Just one word. Respect.

      Actually, a lot more words should be said, since this is an outstanding piece of very powerful writing. But less is more. I am sure that your grandfather would be exceedingly proud of you if he saw how straight and tall your writing stands. So–respect.

    • Arkhangael

      Unfortunately, I only knew my grandmother, for a relatively short time. I have not had the occasion to talk to her a lot, as she was quite old when i was a child. She died at the age of 85, in 1979. I do not have many memories of her, and I regret it fiercely. All my other grandparents had passed away by the time I was born. I do not really know what it means to have grandparents, and it is my loss. I wish I had a family to cherish..
      Thank you for sharing your memories of Mr Donald Collins.

    • Drew J

      I have two of my grandpa’s hats. They’re both smaller fedoras, one straw and one felt. He was a small-town attorney but grew up on a farm in Iowa. After getting his practice established he found he was spending more and more time on his family farm because he missed that work. So he bought his own place. For the rest of his life he’d wake up before sunrise, go out to the farm and do chores, come back to town and work in the office and then go back out for evening chores. So he wore two hats, one for the office and one for the farm.

      He died when I was only 6, but that’s one of the few things I remember about him, he always was wearing a hat. They’re too small for me to wear, but they hang on my hat/coat rack inside the front door.

    • average joe

      great post

    • TheDottedLine @LLBeanSignature

      You make that coat look great!

    • the amazing snyder-man

      My grandfather on my mom’s side only wore short-sleeved button ups with two deep chest pockets (one for his glasses, one for his checkbook/bank envelope), and he wore this every day, year-round, until the day he died. His pickiness was an endless source of frustration for my mother, who did most of his clothes shopping for him. I’ll wear the same sometimes during the warmer months, which makes my mom roll her eyes every time.

      My grandpa was also a hat guy but none of his old hats fit me. Instead I wear a wool flat cap (which is sort of my signature) not dissimilar to one of his. And now my 6 year old nephew insists on wearing one like mine.

      As for my grandpa on my dad’s side, I inherited his old leather working tools. I make basic accessories like belts and wallets (sometimes using vintage leather he bought; otherwise I buy my supplies from the same shop he used 30-40 years ago).

    • Matt M

      Thanks for sharing that story with us. Truly touching.

    • Michael Bailey

      Wow. Fantastic post! I think this may be my favorite thing you’ve written.

      My maternal grandfather died before I was 2, so I never got to know him (I was never close to my paternal grandfather). All I have to go on are stories my parents and my brother tell me about how wonderful he was. I don’t have any clothes from him, but every morning I shave with his straight razor (which I found and restored). It reminds me to try and live up to the example he set.

    • Baxter

      My grandpa spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, and attained one of the highest non-commissioned rankings. Then devoted his retirement years with the Veteran Affairs helping vets get civilian jobs. I spent much of my childhood at his house because my grandparents lived a few blocks from my elementary school. He was a terrific role model. I will always remember the care he took in shining his shoes. So for me, it’s my shoe-shining ritual (some whiskey, some relaxing music or a football game) that connects me through time to my grandpa. Reminds me of his dedication to his family and community and my duty to follow in his footsteps. That and the baseball cap he had from when he coached American Legion ball. Love that hat.

    • saywhat

      I wear an old polka-dotted handkerchief of my granddad’s as a pocket square.

    • TJ

      I have an old leather bomber jacket that my grandfather used to wear. I need to find the time and money to take it to a place to fix it up, it’s seen better days.

    • Brett2142

      Great post. How does that fit you so well? I’ve been wanting a peacoat but have had trouble finding anything that isn’t way too big on me. Second problem is I live in a hot weather state where finding them at all is a challenge…

      EDIT — Ok, now I clicked on the link and see it’s a women’s peacoat. So that makes sense!

    • Jim

      My earliest #menswear memory is loving my red Baracuta (Harrington) jacket because my grandfather had one just like it. I must have been six or seven.

      Definitely a fan of peacoats and other military-inspired outerwear. I always try to find the actual Navy- or Army-issued models — sometimes you have to size down and the fit still won’t be fashion-slim, but I love my peacoat and M-65 parka more than any expensive designer version.

    • Tom Allan

      I love a good pea coat and have a chocolate brown one I wear during the winter (I seem to have all too many winter jackets). In a similar vein I would love to get my hands on a RAF greatcoat, but fans of Torchlight buying them up in order to look like Jack and make it very difficult to get hold of one in my size. Really have to look for a used one as they are not normally issued anymore and the tailor I spoke to was asking for £3,000 to make one which is too much for my wallet.

    • Wes B

      I have my great grandfather’s dress blues from his naval career, but they are much too small for me to wear. I don’t think it would be appropriate to wear them either.

    • Dan J.

      I spent twenty years in the US Navy, retired in 2005. I never knew either of my grandfathers but now I feel as though I knew yours. Thank you.

    • Tom Sweeney

      I have my grandfather’s signet ring, and I wear it with pride. He was a British Army officer, but I never knew him. Someday, perhaps my firstborn son will have my father’s ring…

    • Kiel

      Cool post. I really like when you talk about your personal style and what it means to you. I liked that “gray” one you did awhile back.

      I don’t have much to say about Grandfathers, however I do have an inherent love of crépe soled shoes because when I was a kid, my dad used to let me borrow a pair of his mahogany leather crépe soles whenever I needed to dress up. He’d kept them from his days as a produce clerk. He said they were for being quiet.

    • Mike Thompson

      Such a great post, Megan. Its a great reminder that style and the clothes we wear aren’t just a product of what we think looks nice or is popular at the moment, but can be a reflection of who we are or where we came from. For me, my grandfather and I always bonded over baseball, and our beloved Tigers. Wearing an Old English D ballcap means more to me than just supporting my favorite team. I love hearing the stories/reasons behind people’s personal style, I think the stories can be fascinating.

    • The Future

      Great post, style is a reflection of personality and, as this post shows, it’s a reflection of your history. I’ma take your grandpa’s style, I’ma take your grandpa’s style.

    • Eric

      Beautifully written, thank you for sharing.
      I’m fortunate enough to have both my grandfathers still living and in good health. My father’s father gave me his dress shoes (as he points out, bending to tie your lace ups isn’t ideal when you’re 90), and I love them, they remind me of him every time I wear them.

    • Charity @isleofview

      My great-grandpa was a crew chief at Lockheed during WWII and I recently purchased an aviator style leather jacket that reminds me of him when I wear it! I really like this post, great writing and great feel!:)

    • Fashion Fella

      Great post, its nice to be able to remind ourselves of those that came before us, I’m a big believer in doing what we can to remember those that have passed in any way we can, so that their memory lives on, even if it is just by wearing a jacket and when someone comments on how much they like it you say “Thanks, it’s just like my grandpa’s” and continue to honour his memory by describing him.