The article below is scheduled to run in the Friday, March 17, 2017, edition of the Boston Post-Gazette newspaper.
Bell Bottomed Trousers, Coat of Navy Blue
by David Trumbull
Navy's Decision to Abandon the Iconic Pea Coat Threatens Local Business
Since 1967 Sterlingwear of Boston, an East Boston manufacturer of outwear, has been the sole official supplier to the U.S. Navy of the pea coats that are so emblematic of that branch of the service. Now the Navy has announced that it plans to abandon a centuries' old custom, eliminate the navy-blue wool pea coat from sea bags, and replace it with a black nylon parka made in Puerto Rico.
"The negative impact that this decision has on our business is unparalleled in our long history of working with the U.S. Navy," said David Fredella, VP/COO Sterlingwear of Boston. He continued, "The numerous small businesses that rely on this product and the many employees that will be affected by this decision cannot be overstated. It is imperative that this decision be revisited and reversed."
Sterlingwear of Boston has enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial relationship with the U. S. Navy. In times of need, the Boston manufacturer has responded and provided the necessary pea coats when needed, as well as, accommodating design and material changes over the years.
"The impact of this decision is far reaching and will affect the lives of so many who currently work in the textile and apparel industry which is already severely impacted by the loss of manufacturing and jobs to overseas," said Jack Foster, Director of Marketing Sterlingwear of Boston.
The new Parka will be worn shipboard and is not flame resistant. It is constructed of nylon and other synthetic materials. Wool, as in the traditional pea coat, is naturally flame resistant, with wool being one of the greatest natural bio¬degradable flame resistants known to the industry.
The effects of this ill-considered plan will ripple throughout Boston and New England. Every small East Boston business frequented by Sterlingwear employees will see a downturn in business if the garment maker is forced to lay off workers due to the loss of this contract.
Two of my clients, American Woolen Company and Northwest Woolen Mill, are the principal suppliers to Sterlingwear. It was Sam Brickle at Northwest Woolen Mill in Woonsocket, R.I., who first told me of this threat to our local New England manufacturing industries. Sam's mill, in cooperation with American Woolen Company in Stafford Springs, Connecticut, takes sheep's wool and transforms it into the durable, warm, and attractive fabric that Sterlingwear uses to produce a proudly made in the USA pea coat.
I'll let Sterlingwear have the last word. "To discontinue this garment that means so much, to so many, will be a disservice to those who have proudly worn or who currently wears the U.S. Navy Peacoat," Jack Foster, Sterlingwear of Boston.