Duffle debut, overdue

The duffle coat, can you believe it, has been around for two years, and as yet hasn’t had a proper introduction. What is this place coming to? Especially egregious, this, since, in its construction, the duffle blazed the trail for many of the coats and jackets that’ve come along here since.

The coat itself is in most ways true to the spirit of duffle coats from days gone by. It is the absolute top layer, and is there to smother, to shield, anything else worn by the wearer, and the wearer themselves, from the cold and cruel outside world. It is, as such, in charitable terms, the least shapely coat on the rack. Its sleeves — pitch-perfect though they are — are wide; its body the same. And it has no lining of which to speak. A seemingly arcane point of fact, you might think, but, in fact, a key tell for the carefree nature that defines a duffle, for which relaxed cut and sturdy cloth are deemed more than enough.

This, though, isn’t any old duffle coat, and the cloth is a worsted overcoating — woven in Somerset by a mill so venerable it would refuse further participation if it knew its wares were being put to use for something so common as a duffle coat. Keep shtum on that one, then. But even more fancy are its toggles. The British Isles being a barren place these days, at least as far as good wooden toggles go, a workaround was found in the form of a centuries-old horn works, in the north-west of England. And there, cut from the sturdiest bovine horn, and turned by hand, a most tactile toy-like fastener comes about. The pleasingly ordinary form of a duffle toggle, this, made anew in a-grade natural material.

The way the coat is made also sets it a few steps away from ordinary. It has a split-sleeve — half raglan, half inset — which, since the duffle debuted, has made a name for itself on the peacoat, and in a two-piece version on the topcoat and popover. It marries all the accommodating qualities of a raglan sleeve, with the upstanding comportment — which classic styles of coat should always have, if anything is to be right and true in this world — of an inset sleeve. The potential it brings for layering is great. And yet the clever engineering of this sleeve, in keeping with the workmanlike nature of the duffle coat in general, is hidden, entirely, beneath the yoke: the yoke being another thing which without a duffle coat is hardly fit to bear the name. This yoke extends fairly low across the front, and on one side shelters a little side-pocket, whose camouflage is such that one owner of the duffle coat was unaware of its existence for months until it was pointed out in person.

The duffle, in part — but not exclusively — because it has no lining, is one of the most simple coats here at the workshop. This is not to say it is undemanding to make. The truism that simple is the trickiest of all to get right in this instance rings valid: twice as many pieces of cloth go into the trench coat, say. But, then, that’s what a duffle coat — always at ease in its own skin; seemingly never out to impress — is arguably all about.