Welcome to The Ivy League Look

This blog presents a historical view through articles, photographs, reminiscences, and advertisements, of an American style of men's fashion of the mid-20th century known as "The Ivy League Look" or "The Ivy Look."

This blog will not present modern-day iterations of this "look"; it will be shown in its original context as an American style worn during this specific era. Author commentary will be kept to a minimum.

This is not a commercial site and links to commercial sites will not be posted.

September 23, 2009

The Duffle Coat

(alternately: Duffel, Toggle, Duffer, Convoy)

The history of the duffle coat, from British maker Gloverall:

The word Duffle originally referred to a Heavy Woollen Cloth closely woven for warmth and manufactured in the Belgian Town of Duffel. However over the years it has come to signify a hooded coat with distinctive toggle fastenings which was adopted by the British Navy and used by officers and men of the watch to protect against the biting Atlantic and North Sea winds. The toggles could be unfastened whilst wearing thick gloves, and hoods were carefully designed to fit over peaked Naval caps.

Photographs of servicemen during the 1914 - 18 war show a duffle type coat. Between the end of World War I and the start of World War II the coat was modified into the traditional Naval Duffle.

Gloverall still maintains this Naval link through the Iconic ‘Monty’ and its application to the service highlighted by its namesake Field Viscount Montgomery and is worn by Jack Hawkins in the film ‘The Cruel Sea’. The design of the latter is a replica of the original retaining its characteristic rope and wood toggling, webbing stays and two piece hood.

In 1951 Harold & Freda Morris who specialised in selling cotton, leather, Gloves and Overalls were approached the by the Ministry of defence to help dispose of their surplus supplies of World War II duffle coats. Mr Harold Morris then conceived the name Gloverall.

from "The Cruel Sea"

Here is a World War 1 Royal Navy duffle coat in a photograph from the RN Submarine Museum.

The caption reads:

A photograph of Lieutenant Basil Beal wearing foul weather gear, taken in 1914. Beal stands on the fore casing of HMS B1 wearing typical foul weather clothing of the period. A ‘Lammy’ or ‘Duffle’ coat is worn over the uniform jacket, together with leather gauntlets and heavy sea boots.... Beal was one of the earliest officers to specialise in submarines. He was killed in March 1917, whilst in command of HMS E49 when the submarine hit a German mine off the Shetland Islands.

From a December 23, 1941 article in the Milwaukee Journal:

Right from the British royal navy comes a warm coat that men in American civilian life may wear for sports and when the weather gets really uncomfortable. It is the duffle coat. Worn now by civilians as well as officers in the British navy it gets its name from a durable weatherproof wool fleece woven first in Belgium about 200 years ago and worn later by English channel boatmen.

The material used in this American made version is very similar and the coat itself is an exact replica of the one issued by the navy. American made coats are now going to Britain to augment supplies produced there.

The duffle coat is natural camel color. It is very loose fitting and the smart knee length men like for sports and casual wear. The shoulders are reinforced, pockets are enormous and there is an attached hood which buttons closely about the neck.

There is a nautical air about the frog fastenings which are made from tacking rope and wood peg cones from the ship's rigging boxes. The coat also comes with regular buttons, if preferred.

For added comfort there are leg straps which button around the legs to keep the coat securely in place.

In Britain, the duffle coat is worn by officers on convoy duty and by civilians for country sports wear. American men find it a good choice for campus and after skiing as well as general knockabout wear.

Illustration from the Milwaukee Journal - 12/23/41
(click to enlarge)

Additional images:

Trevor Howard in the 1949 film "The Third Man"


Gentry magazine, winter 1951. Caption: The Duffle coat with fishing hemp loops and wooden peg buttons, seen at Meadowbrook. This is an adaptation of the British and Norwegian naval officer's coats.

American Fabrics #17, 1951

American Fabrics #17, 1951

American Fabrics #17, 1951. Oxford's Bullingdon race meet. "The Duffle coat is worn by Mr. John Richardson, while Mr. Ilay Campell wears cavalry twill trousers with the solid color waistcoat so much in vogue."

Squire Shop (Ithaca, New York), October 1963

Irv Lewis (Ithaca, New York), October 1965

Current Gloverall, Model 575, "Original Monty"


Anonymous said...

Very informative. It's nice to have some background on one of my favorite coats.

Anonymous said...

From the late , great George Frazier : "Innovations in clothing are only worthwhile if they are both functional and attractive, like the duffer coat".

Lucy R. Fisher said...

How many garments have been borrowed from the military? V interesting.

Anonymous said...

Ah.. I love the classic duffles. I'm very lucky to have a rare one from the Duffer of St. George almost for free. It fits perfect, red satin inside, with flax braided ropes. I got so many positive reactions. Don't want to wear it, it realy hurts everyday when I feel it is losing weight, see the wear and tear. It makes me feel sad, I will never find this one again. If someone knows where to get one again, please tell me! Cheers from Amsterdam, Joppe

rothcomilitary said...

Hi, this blog is really amazing and provide me answers to all my questions. This is really informative and I will for sure refer my friends the same. Thanks.

Sven Raphael Schneider said...

I find it so interesting that Gloverall calls themselves the heritage maker and original although the duffle coat is so much older.
I just published my guide about duffle coat where I outline the history, of the garments and the role of gloverall. Sure, they make good coats but they don't even use the real fabric they used in the fifties for their Monty coat.