The GREAT BRITISH DUFFEL COAT thread

Discussion in 'Outerwear' started by Alan Eardley, Oct 24, 2007.

  1. Doctor Damage

    Doctor Damage My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    Honestly, if you want a coat that seals up well in bad weather, then a duffle coat is not the best choice. Toggles and a hood without drawstring are not ideal.
     
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  2. Setok

    Setok New in Town

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    If this was in a response to my post, then I've previously had a Monty duffle in use here in Finland. It was one of my favourite coats. Admittedly there were days when I wished it had a belt to tie up around the waist to stop the wind blowing up. The front and toggles were less of a problem. So my question was specifically about the effective differences between the 3-toggle and 4-toggle version, and their functionality.

    They were used by the Royal Navy in what I'd assume were pretty harsh conditions. Though who knows, maybe they were more of a chilling out coat :)
     
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  3. Setok

    Setok New in Town

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    Another interesting new question has popped up: how long were duffle coats issued to the Royal Navy? Did they simply stop with WW2, or did they continue to be issued after that?

    Seems to be very difficult to find information about these things!
     
  4. Doctor Damage

    Doctor Damage My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    Later during the war garment technology was advancing and it's safe to assume duffel coats would have been phased out fairly soon after the wear ended, hence the large numbers of surplus coats on the used clothing market and their entry into civilian life. Precise dates? It's unlikely you'll ever find definitive information on that. You might have better luck finding out when Gloverall, for instance, started getting large amounts of surplus coats from the RN (which is how they got their start, re-selling military surplus coats to civilians before shifting to manufacturing their own for the civilian market).
     
  5. Setok

    Setok New in Town

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    Yeah, it does seem to often be difficult to find details when it comes to military issue dates.

    The reason I asked was that I spotted a duffle that had an MOD code on it, but a code that placed it in the 60s/70s. I was surprised that they might still have been issued then. Or then the code was just for show.

    The (label stated) manufacturer was a government contractor, though.
     
  6. rotate

    rotate New in Town

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    This may serve to confuse a little but as an engineering apprentice with B.O.A.C. (British Overseas Airways Corporation) in the 1960's my clothing issue included a Duffle coat clearly labelled as 'Air Ministry Property' over stamped with 'B.O.A.C. Property' which bore the Pheon crows foot/arrow head British government marking and military sizing, sewn into the Duffle coat was a cardboard label bearing the manufacturers name the contract number and presumably the date of manufacture which was 1962. The Duffle coat was identical to those issued to the Royal Navy except for the fastening, it being double breasted with eight large plastic buttons instead of the rope and toggle set up and the colour of the coat which was black.

    B.O.A.C. was a state owned airline influenced as much and perhaps more so by the requirements of the UK Foreign Office and Diplomatic Corp to 'Show the Flag' as by commercial acumen and it is most likely that any overstock of equipment or clothing by one branch of government would have been sold on to another branch of government, in this case the airline to balance the books. The Duffle coat, whilst desirable to own and probably excellent for guard duty or walking the dog was to all intents and purposes useless for the work that we carried out as it was too big and bulky and everyone that I worked with replaced it either with a donkey jacket or an anorak. The Duffle coats by the end of the sixties had been withdrawn from issue and mine stayed virtually unworn in the attic until the 1980's when I perhaps foolishly as it would now be of some value donated it to the British Airways museum where it adorned a quite good looking mannequin. One day I'll revisit the museum and see if the Duffle and the other bits of uniform issue that I donated are still on display.
     
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  7. Doctor Damage

    Doctor Damage My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    ^ Thanks for the info about BOAC duffle coats. The coal board used to issue them too (in black wool with orange reflective shoulders) and you sometimes see them on e-bay.
     
  8. Doctor Damage

    Doctor Damage My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    here's the current coat from the Ralph Lauren website

    [​IMG]
     
  9. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    Based on my experience with surplus in the eighties and nineties, it seems that the average period between in-service and peak availability in army surplus stores was anywhere between ten and twenty years. Vietnam era US clothing and eighties West-German were all the rage when I started dressing out of our local surplus place in 1989.
     
  10. Doctor Damage

    Doctor Damage My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    That's quite a delay. I guess once gear was taken out of service it was stored for a while before being disposed of (sold onto the civilian market). I suspect duffle coats didn't take that long since I think there are photos of civilians wearing them in the 1950s but no doubt some "fell off the back of the ship" so who knows. Given the scarcity of records kept by the UK and US on military clothing of WW2 and the 1950s a definitive answer will likely never be found!
     
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  11. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    I imagine it would have been hard to keep strict records given the sheer mass of the conscript army that was being demobbed after WW2 (or, indeed, Vietnam). The other thing to bear in mind was that a lot of stuff was sat in QM stores and still issued long after the stopped making it (though afaik by the eighties they clamped down a lot more on this - a friend who used to work for the RAF used to bemoan that he couldn't still wear the previous issue gloves,as they were better than the new ones they were told was obligatory).
     
  12. Hal

    Hal Practically Family

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    A great many university students in the UK wore duffel coats in the mid to late 1950s, but whether these were the genuine RN article or cheap imitations I have no idea.
     
  13. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    Vietnam era surplus gear was in our stores from the 1970's. And you could still buy WW1 and 2 surplus, right down to the 303 carbine rifles which cost $35 form a store near me in the early 1980's. I remember dozens of them jammed into tea chests.

    My dad says he and many of his contemporaries were wearing WW2 surplus in Europe from the late 1940's on as there was loads of ex-military items available. Much of it sold by the side of the road or in pubs. One of the most sought after items was what he called a Tommy duffle coat. Ex-army gear was especially popular with labourers and students.
     
  14. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    Traditionally it was popular as labouring workwear (and had been for decades - many brickies in the 20s were wearing greyback shirts to do a day's work) and with students for the same reason: it was cheap and hardwearing. Of course, its cheapness also had a stigma in some parts. When I started wearing a lot of military surplus as a fashion choice around 1989 (common among both the metal and punk subcultures in those days), my dad used to remark that in his youth it was something people avoided (other than for labouring jobs) unless they really couldn't afford anything else.

    Ironically, I still often buy milspec, but now WW2 reproduction, to wear as civilian clothing because it's so often a cheaper way of getting a sturdy pair of trews that I'll want to wear....
     
  15. HanauMan

    HanauMan Practically Family

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    Hmmm......
    I've lived in the UK since the '80s and, frankly, I've never seen that many people wearing duffel coats. I do recall that dark woollen coats called Donkey Jackets were popular when I first arrived here. They had plastic or leather shoulder pads to protect the material from wear and tear.

    As a child my mom bought me a British made children's size blue woollen duffel coat for winter. It had the usual hood and those 'horn' (plastic in my case) button things. The thing was scratchy as hell and the wool stank every time it got wet. I quickly ditched it and refused to wear it again and opted for a German army style parka coat instead which I wore for some years. Never went back to duffel coats again.

    I did, for a season, wear a British battledress jacket when I was 18. It was a blue RAF jacket, probably a '50s version. It also scratched like hell and in the end I threw it out.
     
  16. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    I think that's right about military wear and stigma. My Dad says he and his friends would not wear any military gear after a certain point because they were no longer young and wearing ex-army cast offs was seen as sloppy, cheap or déclassé.

    As it happens, I don't think I have ever seen anyone wear a duffle coat here. I have seen ex-military ones for sale in disposal stores here some years ago and I did wear a black one for a year or two in the mid 1970's. Duffle coats were very popular with our version of beatniks who wore them with brown corduroy pants and back turtlenecks in the 1950's and early 1960's.
     
  17. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    Similar in the UK; they were worn by a mix of people who just wanted a good, practical Winter coat and people who considered themselves outsiders, rebels, standing up to the establishment - students, student politicians, NICRA - it had that kind of thing. By the early 80s, you could buy them in Marks & Spencers and other similar retailers, and they were predominantly seen as coats for children. I'm guessing Paddington Bear's wave of popularity in the 1970s rather robbed them of their radical charge!
     
  18. David Conwill

    David Conwill Call Me a Cab

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    My parents referred to duffel coats as "benchwarmer" coats. Can anybody explain how they got this name? I'm wondering if it was tied to collegiate culture somehow?
     
  19. Doctor Damage

    Doctor Damage My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    I think the name says it all, right?

    Although there is usually a proper name for clothing items, there are often additional names. As for the name "duffel coat", I was just reading a book on Roman Britain and apparently duffel coats were part of the trade between Britain and Gaul, although we can be sure they were not what we think of as a duffel coat (although the special military-only cloaks worn by legionaries in bad weather share many details with modern duffel coats and if they'd had sleeves would be more or less the same as modern duffel coats).
     
  20. David Conwill

    David Conwill Call Me a Cab

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    Speculation is all well and good, but there was a time when this site was excellent for going beyond that and getting the hard facts of our cultural history. Yes, I can easily envision football players in duffel coats during a chilly November game (and I always have) but to know the when and how would be even better.
     
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