Fashion trend: The duffle coat
Designers are singing "Let's do the duffle," but should we?
STYLE & ERROR One woman tests the trends of the day.
WHY? Because Proenza Schouler, Bottega Veneta, Margaret Howell, Carven and Fred Perry x Gloverall did duffle coats this season and Lily Allen, Gwyneth Paltrow and Thandie Newton wear them.
TRENDOLOGY Like the peacoat, the duffle coat originated with the British Royal Navy and was worn most consistently—if not most stylishly— by Paddington Bear and Second World War hero Field Marshal Montgomery. In 1965, Charlotte Ford, granddaughter of Henry Ford, eloped with a Greek shipping scion to St. Moritz in a Gloverall.
TEST DRIVE Right off the bat, let me say that I am a dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist. I admit that I have a repressed fondness for the old-school uniform and, along with that, the navy duffle coat. Not green, red or, God forbid, black. Not even beige or grey but navy. (Sorry,
Burberry.) The fabric must be boiled wool, or whatever Gloverall does its duffles in. Not herringbone wool as the French do it. There must be a hood. There must be no zipper. The toggles must be buffalo horn, not wood. So devoted am I to duffle coats that I went to the uniform shop at my old high school one summer to procure some for my children, whom I could never in a million years afford to send to that school. To my horror, I was told that students had switched to regulation fleece.
There is only one problem with duffle coats: I can no longer wear them. Duffles, when worn by adults, confer an arrested quality on the wearer. On men, they give the impression of prolonged preppyhood—of the boy not having quite grown into the man. On women, the duffle— with its breadth, generous sleeve size, trusty shoulders and comprehensive coverage to the lower thigh—is simply the least sexy thing you could possibly wear. It’s like wearing a wool box.
Above images courtesy of ImaxTREE.com and Marcio Madeira.
So, it was with these reservations that I revisited this childhood classic. I tried my Fred Perry x Gloverall duffle with many outfits: a black Loewe leather skirt and high-wedge hiking
boots, an all-beige Chloé ensemble of a blouse and wide-leg trousers, and a ’50s style
Louis Vuitton skirt that made for a very lumpy look. The duffle siphoned the style out of everything. “
Eh, bah, ce n’est pas sexy, ça,” said Gregory at my café. My daughter, Segovia, on the other hand, loved that we were finally dressed the same. And that’s when I had my brainwave: I picked up my son’s duffle coat and tried it on. He’s 12, so it was a bit too small, but the shoulders and girth were narrow enough and the length was short enough to render the duffle cute—even sexy—with Band of Outsiders trousers or, more perversely, a slinky, draped Lanvin dress and heels. Twelve was, admittedly, tight, but is there a duffle for 14-year-olds? The style possibilities are endless.
1/10 for duffles that fit. 8/10 for duffles that barely do.