What is a Duffel Coat?

Mandi R. Hall

A duffel coat is both classic and practical. Manufactured from coarse, thick wool, these coats were at first made from the same material as duffel bags. Aesthetically appealing to both trendy and classic tastes, duffel coats are easily recognizable due to their characteristic features — notably the hood and toggles. With a history dating back to the late 19th century, the popularity of the duffel coat has lasted well over a hundred years. Still trendy in the 21st century, duffel coats are now made from a variety of materials and patterns.

The word "duffel" originates from a Belgian town of the same name, where the woolen fabric was first made.
The word "duffel" originates from a Belgian town of the same name, where the woolen fabric was first made.

The term duffel originates from the Belgian town of the same name. It was in Duffel, Belgium, where the woolen fabric was first made. When duffel bags became a success due to their brawny construction, the idea to make a coat out of the same material was born. Today, however, the term “duffel bag” generally refers to a type of bag — one with a drawstring — rather than the actual material of the bag.

A khaki-colored duffel coat was worn in World War I by members of the British Royal Navy. It wasn’t until World War II, however, that this coat became a standard for the Navy and soon after, the general public. It was popular due to its roomy interior and the hood's unique width, which allowed it to fit over the standard navy cap. Toggles were used instead of buttons so the coat could be easily buttoned or unbuttoned while wearing thick gloves.

Originally intended to fit over another coat, the duffel coat is known for its roominess and warmth. Today, duffel coats are typically worn alone over clothing without an additional jacket. Lined and insulated with additional fabric, the duffel coat is still a warm winter coat. A duffel down coat provides extra warmth, due to the extra downy material.

A women’s duffel coat is similar to a man’s, though it’s generally made to fit closer to the body. Shapes and styles differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, but a woman’s coat often hugs her curves, offering additional snugness. Some manufacturers still make unisex duffel coats.

Although internationally fashionable, the duffel coat is perhaps most popular in Europe. A staple in many British men’s wardrobes, this coat has several characteristic features. A traditional duffel wool usually has a checkered pattern, a large hood with a buttoned neck strap, four wooden or bone toggles and two large pockets. It's typically hemmed to a length that hits just above the knee.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


Call me weird, but I do not like the look of most Duffel coats. I am just not into the wool or wool-like material and the toggles they have. Most of them have huge toggles and huge pockets, and I just don't like that style too much.

Even though it is most popular to wear a duffel coat in Europe, over here there are many people who wear them too.

I think it is key when purchasing any item of clothing to make sure it fits right. Not too tight, and not too loose. I think maybe part of the reason I don't like them is most people I have seen wear these duffel coats usually get a size or two too big, and it is so unflattering.

I think if people just took the time to try on different sizes and asked for help, they would be a lot happier and satisfied with their purchases.

Some people get small size coats just because they don't want to own anything large. What some people don't realize is you look bigger when your clothes are too small, and no one knows the size of your clothes except you, so the size doesn't matter.

I think there should be more workers in department stores willing to help people find the best fit. That way the costumer is happy and doesn't return the clothes later usually. If someone is happy with the service they get, they are more likely to tell everyone to try the place out than if they had bad or no service.


I am glad in the article the author explained that duffel bags used to be made out of wool and like materials back in the olden days. I was thinking of a coat being made out of what I consider a modern duffel bag, which is made out of plastic.

It makes a lot more sense for a winter coat to be made out of wool or other heavy materials, instead of light materials like plastic and light fabric.

I think you could possibly make a nice raincoat out of light/plastic material, but it would be a poor idea for a heavy winter coat.

I like that women's duffel coats are usually made to be form-fitting, that way it looks more fashionable and it keeps us women warmer. Women seem to get colder quicker than most men anyway, so this is extra important for us to get and keep warm any way possible.

I think if I were to get a duffel coat, I would get it in a fun color like purple or yellow. Also, I already have two brown coats and one black coat, so I don't need anymore neutral color coats right now.


I did not know the long history of the duffel coat. I have never had one myself, but I can see why these would be both functional and stylish.

I do not have money to buy a new coat this year, but maybe next year I will be able to purchase one, and I will look into get one of these, as I do not like to bother with tons of buttons.

Zippers half the time do not last long, so a duffel coat seems like the perfect type of coat to last at least a couple years, as long as the toggles are sturdy and strong.

I can definitely see why duffel coats are so popular here and in Europe, as these coats seem to be both fashionable and functional.


@manykitties2 - I have a dark green Gloverall duffel coat that I bought when I was in London. This coat is very well made, very warm, and I wear it to work a lot in the winter.

The biggest reason is because it is the warmest coat I own. I don't see myself wearing it to a cocktail party or nice wedding, but to wear to work everyday works out great for me.

I have to walk several blocks from where I park my car, and I plan on staying warm.

This duffel coat is very versatile, as I have worn it to many casual events too. This was one of the best things I bought on my trip to Europe, and I have made sure to get a lot of good use out of it.


Having lived in Europe for several years, I can testify to the warmth and popularity of duffel coats.

Especially during the colder months, you see a lot of duffel coats for men being worn and for sale in the shops.

Some of the real wool duffel coats can be quite costly, but they will last you for many years. One thing I really love about them is the longer length.

Sometimes when the wind is strong, it is nice to have something that is longer than a coat that stops at the waist.

I don't ever see duffel coats going out of style. They have a comfortable and classic look that I think will always be in fashion.


@manykitties2 - As far as wondering if a duffel coat is suitable business attire for women, I think it depends on the type of coat you get.

I have seen some very stylish black and gray duffel coats that I think would work well with some women's business attire.

You can never go wrong with black, and as long as it fits closely and doesn't look too baggy, I think you would be just fine.

I have seen other duffel coats for women that I think look much too casual for business. Most of these are either a khaki color or some other bright color.

I also think the style of toggles makes a difference. Some of them look casual and comfortable, while others give a much classier and smoother look to the coat.


Do you think that a duffel coat for women is suitable business attire?

I will be working in an office for the first time and really want to find some some clothes that look professional and will help me better fit in with my coworkers. Right now I have a puffy bomber jacket and I honestly think it looks a bit young for me, though it is very comfortable.

Right now I have my eye on a brown duffel coat that isn't too expensive, but I am a bit worried that the toggles will look a bit young. Perhaps I should just go with buttons?


@Sara007 - I have a heavy men's duffel coat and I find that if you get a hooded duffel coat it is perfect for the winter. I personally find that the toggles keep the jacket just as secure as buttons, and to be honest, with my hands getting less agile in my old age they are easier to fasten.

If you are shopping for a long duffel coat that is suitable for frigid weather I would talk to the sales clerk about the quality of the item. If you get a coat that is made out of the right kind of wool and is lined well, there is no reason your husband should find the jacket drafty.


Do you think it is better to get a men's duffel coat or a peacoat for colder weather?

I am thinking about getting my husband a new winter coat for his birthday and while I love the look of wool duffel coats I am a bit worried that the toggles may not keep the jacket closed enough to be really warm. It gets quite cold in our area and with the wind I worry about a chill finding its way through the openings in the jacket.

I know my husband will like and wear whatever I buy for him, but I want to make sure what I get is functional and not just nice looking. The black duffel coat I have in mind is made of a heavier material so that shouldn't be an issue.



Post your comments
Forgot password?