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name of 1950’s coat style

Tangent | Posted in General Discussion on

What was the name of the coat/jacket style worn so popularly by kids in mid-1950’s Canadian winters?  They were dark (black or navy), probably wool (thick fabric), had a quilted lining, about hip-length, some had sewn-on hoods,  and they had metal clips instead of buttons.    Not ‘parka’ or ‘macinaw’…  there was a name for them, but can not recall it.  Help?? 


  1. stitchintime | | #1

    Are you thinking of pea jackets?

  2. victoria0001 | | #2

    Either a car coat or a pea jacket I think.

  3. katina | | #3

    was it simply an anorak?

    BTW, an article or two on the work of Bonnie Cashin would be good to have.

  4. Wallaby | | #4


    Did you have Duffle coats in Canada?...very 50s I think.

    It is rather lovely to hear all the local names for garments etc....part of oral history and our common human experience.


    1. stitchintime | | #5

      I was just about to suggest duffle coats. Yes, we did have them in Canada. I was just googling some of these articles and the origin of some of them is the British armed forces. Developed to protect against harsh climates.

    2. Tangent | | #6

      Thanks for the replies!  It wasn't an Anorak, car-coat, or a Pea-Jacket, but could maybe have been a Duffle-coat. 

      This was before polyester insulation, I think inside the quilting was shredded miscillaneous fibers.  The buckles were the hinged type, you put the outer part thru the square hole in the other piece, and snap it shut against the inner part.  Like an oversized bracelet-clasp, and similar to the clips on some rubber overshoes.....  galoshes..... I wonder where that name came from!

      I recall using the whole length of a long scarf to bundle up my face against the prairie cold, skating for hours til my feet were almost frozen, and the smell of the burning coal in the potbellied stove in the warming-hut.   No, I don't miss it, the automatic gas furnace I use today is very nice!!

      1. Wallaby | | #7

        Greetings from Down Under.

        The British Army connection rings a bell...and of course the clips meant the closures could be opened and closed easily with gloves still on.

        Once the tongue of the closure was in the clip and it was eased back it would do up the coat even over lots of thick woolies.....and often worn with suede desert boots.

        I also associate the duffle coat and desert boots with music of the fifties.

        The ice skating sounds delicious.....we have rinks here but only a few areas have snow in winter....the high country on the east coast in the south.....at the moment there is serious drought throughout the country. It is interesting to hear NBC weather reports saying Australia overall will have good weather....really they are fine, dry days, beautiful days, but devoid of life giving rain.....still we are looking at recycling water and desalination and possibly building more dams....but we still need rain to fill them.

        And dreams of a White Christmas are just that, dreams.

        Still there are always new ways to adapt...and the automatic gas furnace sounds just great.

        Your description of the miscellaneous fibres as fill of the quilting sounds right and there was a lighter weight, unpadded duffle coat for chilly, windy days.


  5. Ralphetta | | #8

    Was it a toggle-coat?

    1. Tangent | | #9

      I am not sure if it was a toggle-coat, probably not, because of the metal clip fasteners instead of wooden toggles.  The ones I refer to had sewn-on hoods and were car-coat length, and were fairly common, especially among elementary school kids. A popular stunt was to dump a handful of snow into someone's hood and try to pull it onto their head!  They did resemble duffle coats, but my memory has come up blank on the name used. This was around 1958, in the prairies of central Canada.

      1. thehat | | #17

        this was a swing coat  little kids wore and at the time every one did the closers were different it depends on which side of the track you were the short  coat that was worn by sailors was called a pea coat that was black and navy

  6. MarshaK | | #10

    I think those coats were called 'duffle coats', the pea coats were the ones that were double-breasted, and didn't have a hood. If someone out there has an old Eaton's or Sears catalog from the fifties I'm sure these coats would be in there. I now wish I'd have purchased the box of old catalogs at an auction sale this past fall, could have had the answer for you. MarshaK.

    1. Tangent | | #11

      Apparently there are others 'out there' who remember those coats, too....  this question will be answered soon, I think!  

      Sorry you missed those catalogs, but maybe they went to someone else who will chereish them as you would have.

  7. JanF | | #12

    Over the water here - we used to have something called a "Reefer" jacket - usually dark blue - wool, and i think double-breasted - but Im talking 60's now so might be wrong! jan

    1. Tangent | | #13

      Good guess, but the first time I heard that name (reefer) was in the 60's, so that wouldn't be it.

      1. sewnutt1 | | #14

        I think we just called them "car coats".

    2. NovaSkills | | #15

      I lived in Ohio, and remember the coats as duffles. My mom had one in gray. They were often insulated with kapok. Now, the American military versions had names that were their uniform model number, like A-9, etc. Some were olive drab with orange lining and fur trim on hood, others were the dark navy wool. Our Navy has had the "reefer" coats and pea coats, probably getting the name from you Brits, Jan.

      The buckle arrangement is like a "turnout" coat used by firemen, again because of ease of use with gloves. Dad and I had black snow boots/galloshes with such an arrangement.

      My Canadian quilting buddy, Elinor, was telling me yesterday of putting each of her three children OUTSIDE on the porch in their carriages to take their midday naps, even in the dead of winter up there north of Toronto. The prevailing wisdom was that babies needed the fresh air....so she'd wrap the kids within an inch of their life and stick them outside! Or, she'd put them in the kiddie sled (remember those?) and pull them along with her to the store for groceries. They put the car up for the coldest of the months because they didn't have the block heater or a place to use it safely--and they'd walk or use public transit. Sound familiar, you northern folk? Maybe even down under, too.

      Our local theater is about to stage "A Christmas Story" and the snowsuit scene will be a hoot here in South Florida. I pity the child playing Randy. I do some props for them and recently sewed together a fake Christmas dinner turkey!

      We hang ornaments on our palm trees.


      1. Tangent | | #16

        Christmas ornaments on palm trees...   I guess that fits, doesn't it! 

        Putting the kids outside for their naps even in winter so they'd get fresh air sounds harsh, but it was common then.  You wouldn't do that these days!

        Did you take pix of the turkey prop you sewed up?  I'd like to see that!

  8. solosmocker | | #18

    We wore something as you describe called a benchwarmer. It was often seen in green and called a loden coat if it was. Sounds just like what you described. Perhaps we need to add regions to our answers. Our benchwarmers were worn in ole Cape Cod.

    1. MaryinColorado | | #33

      I had a wool burgundy benchwarmer coat in the sixties from Wisconsin or Ill. that had a zip out lining, other than that, it sounds the same.  Mary

  9. mimi | | #19

    Several come to mind:  toggle coat, stadium coat, slickers, car coats (because the length made it easy to get in and out of cars).  I remember my sister had one of these.

    I imagine the region you grew up in had a lot to do with what you called them!


  10. JB5 | | #20

     Hey all. I have the answer. What's it worth to you? Chuckle, chuckle. The coat was called the "Red River Coat" and there were two choices in accessory colors. The coats were always black (or very dark blue, -I'm not sure which) but you had the choice of either tomato red or aqua blue for the tuque, sash, mittens and thick stockings . Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane. I'm not sure if the kids wearing these outfits were proud or mortified but they sure stood out. I personally always liked them. Here is a link to the McCord Museum archives (my favorite Montreal museum because it has historical clothing!!!).


    1. Tangent | | #21

      Great reply!  Interesting link!   But no cookie. 

      The child-sized coat I remember had a sewn-on hood instead of a collar, no belt, it was hip-length, probably had pockets, single-breasted, had hinged buckles like on rubber overshoes, made of heavy fabric such as melton-cloth in black or nayy, the inside was lined with quilted fabric, the insulation was shredded multicolored mixed fibers, and they were fairly common on schoolchildren in southern Saskatchewan in 1958.

      It certainly is fun to read the different answers!!

      It was not a pea-jacket, toggle-coat, reefer, parka, or Red River Coat.

      Car-coat and duffle coat are possible, but not sure.

    2. JanF | | #22

      Curious - what is a tuque?

      1. Tangent | | #24

        A tuque or toque (pronounced like 'two' with a K at the end) is a knitted hat,  a sweater for your head.  Usually a simple tube shape, closed at the top, frequently rolled/folded up at the bottom. Some have a pompom or tassel on top. A very common Canadian item of clothing!

        Edited 12/12/2006 4:28 am by Tangent

  11. Tangent | | #23

    Wow! Talk abput a trip down Memory Lane!  I remember the RCMP wore the buffalo-fur coats (ok, I know it's not "fur") and I think they didn't give them up til the mid-60's.  It made him look as big as a bear.  They had fur-lined winter hats, that were useful if not stylish.  I never saw any of them wear the angora chaps, though. 

  12. stitchintime | | #25

    Take a look at http://www.collectionscanada.ca/mailorder/029006-119.01-e.php?uid=nlc006872.29&uidc=Page_Image&queryString=adf%3DTRUE%26adq%255B0%255D%255Bcol%255D%3DItem_Description%26adq%255B0%255D%255Bq%255D%3Dcoats%26adq%255B0%255D%255BboolOp%255D%3DAND%26adq%255B1%255D%255Bcol%255D%3DCatalogue_Link%26adq%255B1%255D%255Bq%255D%3Dnlc006872%26adq%255B1%255D%255BboolOp%255D%3D%26maxRslts%3D500%26sk%3D&plugin=N. It's a Canadian Army & Navy mail order catalogue from 1958/59. This is the boy's version and there's a similar men's coat on p.57 in the same catalogue (search in the catalogue for "men's coats"). The men's coat is billed as a B-9 coat but the boy's has no particular name.

    Edited 12/12/2006 12:40 pm ET by stitchintime

    1. Tangent | | #26

      BINGO!   Where do I send the cookie?   We called it a 'parka',  a kind of general term for a warm winter coat.  There was an Army & Navy store, and Eaton's, and Simpson-Sears in our town, it could have come from any of them.  It's the one in the lower left corner. 

      I remembered it as being made of thick fabric, not gabardine, but I could have it mixed up with another coat from back then.  Whatever happened to "Orlon"?

      I just read my earlier reply, and see I included parka on the list of 'it's not these'...  and that name hadn't been discussed yet!  OOPS!!!

      Thanks to everyone for your researching efforts, it's been fun!



      Edited 12/12/2006 1:06 pm by Tangent

      1. stitchintime | | #27

        You can thank the Canadian government for putting these old catalogues on line. All I did was run a search for "winter coats Canadian history".

        I grew up in Ottawa and I do remember those coats. I think we used to refer to them as duffle coats because parkas were styled on the what the Eskimos wore. There was an Inuit girl in my class in high school who stayed with her aunt during the winter and went to school with us. She referred to her winter coat as a parka and it had genuine fur cuffs and trim around the hood and hem. I guess like someone posted earlier, different regions, different names.

        This has been a lot of fun though and does bring back a lot of memories. Thanks. Now we can all sleep more soundly tonight knowing this mystery has been solved.


      2. Josefly | | #28

        Glad you got your answer. But what about those prices !?! Wow!

        1. Tangent | | #29

          Wouldn't it be nice if we earned today's wages, but things cost "yesterday's" prices!   But when you do the conversion it's not so different.  Maybe it's cheaper today, because of mass-marketing.  It sure does look strange to see those small prices though!

      3. user-216728 | | #30

        I bought this type of coat when I came to Canada in 1956 and it was called a

         'car coat'

        1. Tangent | | #31

          Yes, we called it a car coat, too.  Any coat about that length would qualify as a 'car' coat, but I was trying to remember the 'regular' name for it.   How old were you then?  I was about 8-10 when I had mine, and we used to wear those coats to school, and when we went out to play.  It was fairly durable.

  13. mimi | | #32

    Wow, talk about a serious need to shave your legs!!!


  14. skelly | | #34

    The one that is like a Paddington Bear Coat?

    Shona in Nottingham

    1. Tangent | | #35

      Hi everyone, I've been away from this discussion for awhile, moving to another town , and other distractions.

      The coat is shown on the Army & Navy catalog page (see reply # 27 for link), and we called it a parka.  There was a big A&N store in the prairie town where I grew up, and we shopped there a lot.  

      The link may have expired, but you can research it yourself by going to:     http://www.collectionscanada.ca/mailorder/029006-119.02-e.php  and look up the 1958 Army & Navy Winter Sale Catalog.   It's a boy's winter parka, and there were other similar versions of this coat.

      The Paddington Bear coat is double-breasted and closes with buttons, not clips.  We probably called any hip-length coat a 'car-coat', unless it was made of Mink! ;-)

  15. Gloriasews | | #36

    What a nice trip down memory lane!  Thanks for the memories!  I remember those fasteners, too - had them on my overshoes when I was young.  When it was really cold out, we put socks over our shoes to keep our feet warmer before we put on the boots - and, if it was really, really cold, we put plastic bags over the socks so that the foot would slide into the boots.  Of course, all of that didn't prevent our feet from freezing if we were out for hours.

    And yes, we did put babies outside for naps then (some still do) and we still cart them around (all bundled up, of course) on sleighs in the winter. 


    Edited 9/30/2007 9:45 pm by Gloriasews

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