I have recently decided, after rather too many years of remaining faithful to my navy cropped pea coat, it was time to invest in a hardy, new winter coat to see me through these bitter months in a stylish manner.
Of course, as for any self-respecting sartorial wannabe, my first port of call was right here on FashionBeans to garner some inspiration for my new outerwear. Imagine my (not-so) surprise when I came across an article written by our humble Editor-In-Chief Ben Herbert on the traditional duffle coat.
Prior to reading the article, I had personally associated the duffle coat (what with its large hood, rough wool finish and oversized pockets) with thrifty students, scruffy tramps, or everybody’s favourite marmalade-eating mammal, Paddington Bear.
The duffle coat was almost childlike to me, and I recall reading an article in the Guardian last year where it was described as ‘the Peter Pan of coats’ – supporting the image of never growing up. I also thought that the traditional duffle coat looked quite scruffy and would not fit in with other aspects of my weekly wardrobe that tend to be slightly smarter and more refined.
From this, it is safe to say that I never saw the appeal – especially as a city-based working professional at the age of 30. However, further research on this particular garment highlighted the rich history of the duffle coat as an interesting one. Cue the idea that the duffle has more variation than meets the untrained eye…
The original duffle coat has its origins in the British Royal Navy where it was worn by sailors and naval officers during both World Wars (see images below from Gloverall’s archive). The duffle coat, with its oversized hood and large wooden toggle fastenings (known as walrus teeth), was designed to comfortably protect the naval workers whilst working at sea.
During World War I particularly, Field Marshal Montgomery was famous for wearing the duffle coat during his time in the military, which eventually led to the nickname used by some, ‘The Monty.’
Following the end of World War II, the Ministry of Defence discovered that were left with a surplus of military stock of duffle coats and were looking for a constructive and efficient way to get rid of them.
In 1951, the MoD approached Harold and Freda Morris, who ran a company specialising in selling gloves and overalls, in order to help dispose of their remaining coats. This led to Harold Morris conceiving a new company, Gloverall – a proudly historical British brand that is synonymous with traditional and classic quality-driven duffle. Today, Gloverall remains one of the most well respected and loved British brands due to their continued drawing on Britain’s military and industrial heritage.
The biggest and most popular range of duffles can be found in Gloverall’s ‘Made in England’ collection and, to this day, all designs remain true to this collection name – fabricated within England to retain its British historical roots.
In September 2011, David Nicholls wrote an article for the Telegraph on the Gloverall brand describing it as, “an increasingly rare example of British manufacturing at it’s best.” Even fashion-enthusiasts love a brand that has its roots firmly planted in a sense of history. It goes without saying – but not without acknowledgment – that everyone enjoys a garment that has a story behind it.
Gloverall mass-purchased the surplus military duffle coats before beginning to sell them to the British public. This led to a boom in the widespread popularity of these coats amongst both sexes in Britain during the 1950s and 1960s. In fact, the coats proved to be such popular sellers that by 1954 the surplus stock had been successfully exhausted.
Due to the continued high demand, Harold Morris saw the potential and decided to continue manufacturing the coats to meet the demands of the masses. As luck would have it, Morris’ father, Moshe Isenberg, was a master tailor and willingly offered his help to his son, and together they created a ‘Gloverall’ version of the duffle coat with a more structured fit and containing the characteristic tartan-pattern lining synonymous with Gloverall to this day.
This new design featured the inherent oversized hood, the 2 large outside pockets and the traditional four wooden horn-toggle fastenings with rope or leather looping.
The creation went down a proverbial storm during the 50s and 60s and the brand name today remains hugely appealing to the British and global fashion market.
In 2011 Gloverall celebrated its 60th anniversary and marked the occasion by producing a new collection containing a slight deviation from the classic duffle coat. The updated approach featured sharper silhouettes, sleeker cuts and expansion in the use of fabrics – including breathable synthetic fabrics, canvas and lightweight cotton.
It is Gloverall’s willingness to reinvent their collections and add a contemporary twist on a classic original which has aided in their longevity and continued appeal amongst the outerwear market.
The reinvention has appeared constant since the early 2000s, with Gloverall collaborating with several different progressive brands such as Junya Watanabe, Fred Perry, J.Crew and YMC. In 2010, the Gloverall x YMC collaboration was a resounding success, receiving praise from both Attitude and Shortlist magazine.
The collection of coats and jackets retained the classic features of the duffle but contained more contemporary aspects such as less-bulky, cropped cuts and toggle-detailing in varying colourways, an aspect which clearly showed the influence of the hip, younger YMC brand.
Again in 2010, Gloverall tapped into the festival-goer market by introducing a revolutionary ‘pac-a-duffle’. This adhered to the same design as the traditional duffle coat but came in a much slimmer fit and was constructed from a streamlined, waterproof fabric which folded up into a handy portable size.
With future collaborations planned with bStore, Daks and Dr. Martens, Gloverall look set to continue their reinvention, inevitably leading to even more exciting collections.
Since the conception of Gloverall and their staple outerwear, several other brands have attempted to replicate the duffle by designing and manufacturing their own takes the coat.
However, the general consensus is that all other duffle coats developed and produced by other brands since the 1950s have clear influences from the Gloverall original, which clearly identifies their overriding influence within the piece.
Following their recent collaborations with young, fresh brands, Gloverall continue to achieve a successful balance between the traditional and progressively modern and remain to be as popular now as they were in their 50s heyday.
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