A duffle coat, or more correctly duffel coat, is a coat made from duffel, a coarse, thick, woollen material. The name derives from Duffel, a town in the province of Antwerp in Belgium where the material originates. Duffle bags were originally made from the same material.
There are many varying styles to the duffel coat, although the original British style would be composed of the following features:
- Made of genuine double weave Duffel, lined with a woolly tartan pattern, or self-coloured on the wartime version.
- A buttonable neck strap
- Three, or later, four front wooden or horn toggle-fastenings (known as "walrus teeth") with rope or leather loops to attach them to.
- Two large outside patch pockets, with covering flaps on post-war versions.
- Originally knee length, shorter on later versions.
- Bucket hood with press stud adjustment, a neater 'pancake' hood on later versions.
The wooden toggle-fastenings were made to be easily fastened and unfastened while wearing gloves in cold weather at sea. Current designs have toggles made of buffalo horn, wood or plastic. The oversized hood offered enough room to wear over a Naval cap. After rain, a duffle coat has a characteristic smoky smell.
The duffle coat owes its popularity to the British Royal Navy, who issued a camel-coloured variant of it as an item of warm clothing during World War I. The design of the coat was modified slightly and widely issued during World War II. In the Navy, it was referred to as a "convoy coat". Field Marshal Montgomery was a famous wearer of the coat, as a means of identifying himself with his troops, leading to another nickname, "Monty coat". Large stocks of post-war military surplus coats available at reasonable prices to the general public meant that these coats became a ubiquitous and popular item of clothing in the 1950s and 1960s. The British firm Gloverall purchased surplus military supply of coats after World War II and in 1954 started producing their own version of the Duffle coat. They have continued to still make the Monty in a slightly different cloth composition ever since. Gloverall made in the 50's what is known as today's Duffle by using leather fastenings and Buffalo horn toggles with a double faced checkback fabric. Every Duffle coat you see today in that configuration is a copy of that original made by Gloverall.
In modern times, the type of fabric used to make duffel coats is known as melton cloth, as opposed to modern duffel cloth which is a softer wool fabric with a distinct nap that is used for high end coats and parkas.
They were seen in the popular press as a form of uniform for stereotyped supporters of the left wing, as characterised by Labour leader Michael Foot. Other famous duffle coat wearers include members of Scottish band Belle and Sebastian, Tim Sadler, actor Dudley Moore, television character Jonathan Creek, children's book and television character Paddington Bear and Ed Helms as Andy Bernard in the popular American comedy The Office.
- The Gentleman's Gazette provides more information about the Duffle coat.
- Duffle Coat history by Gloverall
- Duffelcoat Productions - A preservation company for audio-visual works in Duffel, Belgium