A classic coat made from historically ancient fabric that almost everyone knows? It has a strange toggle clasp and a practical cut ... what is it? There are not many answers in this puzzle game. It's a classic Duffle coat that has retained its place in today's wardrobe and is still here to stay.
Historically it has been and still remains as short coat which has a hood, but the hood may also not be added in its contemporary variants. During the World War II it was worn by men of the British Royal Navy. The classic Duffle coat is usually cut to hip or knee length. The coat was made of a heavy woolen material and fastened with its iconic hallmark - rod-shaped wooden toggles that passed through rope or leather loops. Interestingly, that "surplus Duffle coats were sold to the public after World War II and became popular winter garments for both men and women." [1.]
Autumn and winter season is approaching, so let's take a look at the stylistic evolution of this weather-tested coat, as well as the most important details about its origins.
Classic Duffle Coat
Sources provide an information that tells us more about the origins of an iconic Duffle coat. As a part of the uniform of the Royal Navy during the First World War the Duffle coat was a great protector from harsh weather with its large hood and heavyweight fabric, and of course, leather hoops and horn toggles that helped to fasten the coat.
During the Second World War the coat appeared the name of Duffle coat which were combined with the name of Burberry coat.
As The Telegraph wrote in the article "The Classic We Can't Bear To Be Without": "After the war, large stocks of army surplus duffle coats were acquired by the British company Gloverall and became an instant hit. When that supply ran out, in 1954, Gloverall began making its own version, adapting the fit and style of the military coat for everyday wear."[7.]
Yet the precise origins of the Duffle coat are still obscure. It is known that "the contemporary ‘British’ Duffle coat was designed in the 1850's by John Partridge, a British purveyor of outerwear. Partridge’s original Duffle coats were shorter and even roomier than modern Duffle coats, and it is theorized that he was inspired by Polish ‘frock coats’ of the early nineteenth century." [6.] It is important to note that the Polish frock coat was made with wide toggle closures and a large hood. These are the most important and iconic hallmarks of the Duffle coat even today.
And what about the name - Duffle or Duffel? Indeed, the coat itself was named after the town in Belgium called Duffel. The town was known for producing a pretty thick woolen cloth that was called as 'Duffel Cloth'. Quite a heavyweight fabric was very similar to that was used for the British Duffle coats that were used as a protective garments during First World War and Second World War.[6.]
As evidenced by the evolution of this historic coat, but already in the context of fashion changes, it still retains its place in our wardrobes. It has been adapted to the spirit of the age. It is worn not only by men but also by women and children. In addition, it did not always come from the same historic heavyweight fabric. It can be quite light and even without a hood! It can have different lengths and different pockets, but the famous toggle fastening is always associated with the Duffel coat's historical name.
References & Further Reading:
1. O'Hara Callan G. The Thames and Hudson Dictionary Of Fashion and Fashion Designers. - London: Thames & Hudson, 1998.
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My name is Edīte Parute and I am a fashion historian and researcher from Latvia, association member at "The Association of Dress Historians" (UK) and author of the book "Stila un modes enciklopēdija"/"Encyclopedia of Style and Fashion" (2010) as well as author of many publications.
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