A greatcoat, also known as a watchcoat, is a large overcoat that is typically made of wool designed for warmth and protection against the weather. Its collar and cuffs can be turned out to protect the face and hands from cold and rain, and the short cape around the shoulders provides extra warmth and repels rainwater. During the 17th and 18th centuries and the Industrial Revolution, greatcoats became available for all social classes. It was popular in the 19th century as a military uniform and casual wear for the wealthy, and is still issued for inclement weather by many armed forces around the world.[1]

Painting depicting light infantry officers of the Grande Armée wearing greatcoats.

The coat generally hangs down below the knees and the cape is kept short, normally just above or below the elbows. It also sports deep pockets for keeping letters and food dry. It is typically coloured grey, though other colours may be used (e.g. black, brown, navy blue). One type of greatcoat is the Petersham (named after Viscount Petersham[2]).

In Regency fashion, a greatcoat would be covered by several short capes, and the extreme dandies might wear ten or more.[3]

First in the military and then in fashion, greatcoats were widely replaced by the lighter and slightly shorter frock coat during the 19th century.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Shindler, Colin (2018-11-29). "Thieves who became heroes". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 2021-12-12.
  2. ^ "The Free Dictionary". Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  3. ^ French Gentleman’s Greatcoat, Regency World