Designers are exploring the stylistic potential of the duffel coat this season, reinterpreting the design in unexpected fabrics and hues. Many of its original details remain, however, proving just how useful the style is some centuries after its conception.
The coat takes its name from Duffel, in Antwerp, where the style’s thick, coarse wool originated. The practical design has become synonymous with nautical wear, having been adopted by the British Navy in the late 19th century. The various details were ideal for seafaring folk: the large, wooden toggles made for easy fastening with frozen fingers; the bucket hoods for extra protection against the elements; and the large patch pockets for storing strong mints.
Gloverall helped bring the duffel to the civilian population; after the second world war the British brand took receipt of a massive consignment of ex-military duffels, which sold quickly, finding favour with students and arty types. After these initial stores ran out, the label created its own version, modifying some of the features to cater to everyday wear, making the fabrication lighter and adding a satin lining. Gloverall’s duffel coat has remained largely unchanged; the original Monty style (£450), made with Italian boiled wool, is oversized in fit – the way the Navy intended – and has herringbone taping for reinforcement, a detachable throat tab and adjustable cuffs. There’s also the Portsmouth (£399) made with Italian cashmere/wool and featuring classic toggles and jute rope fastenings.
Gloverall’s expertise in this area is being leveraged by Lou Dalton, which has tapped the heritage brand to make its outerwear. The latest collection includes a natty short Italian wool jacket (£619) in camel, brown and black check with toggle fastenings at the collar and sleeves. Dalton also has a long, dark-blue cashmere/wool model (£739), akin to a sweeping overcoat.
Duffel coats may have been designed as hardwearing cover-ups for the outdoors, but the style also works well when paired with smart business gear, as shown on Burberry’s runway. A rich walnut shearling and neoprene coat (£3,990) was styled over smart black trousers and a buttoned-up shirt; a camel, black and white striped wool style (£2,390), recalling public schoolboys’ scarves, was teamed with a double-breasted suit. The house also has a pine-green wool design (£2,390) with striped cuffs and a quilted outer gilet (£1,590).
Certain houses have given the duffel a total luxury overhaul. Dolce & Gabbana offers a plush camel version (£4,750) with a fur-trimmed hood and quilted interior. Ralph Lauren’s double-faced wool-jacquard Reily coat (£4,630) follows the house’s equestrian theme, with bridle embellishments running down the sleeves. Emporio Armani’s duffel incorporates this season’s other trend – the teddy style – in a teal furry-finish wool (£1,400) with frog fasteners. Another hybrid comes from Valentino, which has a suave grey wool overcoat (£1,950) with tone-on-tone toggles, patch pockets and a large collar in lieu of a hood. Drake’s has lost the hood, too, on its grey wool duffel (£1,295), yet has retained the classic cream rope and horn toggles. Canali has taken the open, pancake-style hood and grafted it onto an otherwise classic Italian single-breasted overcoat (£1,560), which is unlined in grey textured wool.
But the duffel coat can also show some attitude. Berluti went big on leather this season with a striking black deerskin design (price on request) with a shearling lining. The house also has a vivid mustard wool style (price on request), with black toggle details and black hood lining.
While many of the best offerings are modified versions, there are classic takes too: Ami’s handsome wool coat (£1,280) has wooden toggles and rope fastenings and comes in taupe or navy/marine; at Celine, artistic director Hedi Slimane has created a relaxed grey wool duffel (£2,950), with toggles and patch pockets, which fitted in seamlessly with the British youth-inspired runway show.
Whether classic or updated, there’s an abundance of fresh options. It’s a trend worth getting on board with this winter.