From Field to Fashion: Gloverall and the History of the Duffle Coat

Posted: 16/01/2019 @ 11:40AM

The Duffle Coat: first introduced to the British Navy in the 19th century and popularised by Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery during World War II, this retro coat has come a long way from war-time wear to wardrobe mainstay. The first British made Duffle Coat came from Gloverall, who is still synonymous with the coat today. Atom Retro has been delving into its fascinating journey and we’ve got a rundown of everything you need to know about the duffle coat.

What is a duffle coat?

The first duffle coats were created in the 1850s by outerwear manufacturer, John Partridge. Thanks to the toggle fastenings on the placket, pancake-style hood and box-cut shape, many suspect Partridge looked to the Polish ‘frock’ coat when creating the duffle coat. Toggles, rather than buttons, were a practical feature for those at sea as they were less cumbersome to fasten with cold or gloved hands. The toggles aren’t the only thing that make the duffle coat stand out from alternative casual outerwear: the large patch pockets and hardy fabrication are just as intrinsic.

Early iterations of the duffle coat were crafted from Belgian wool, in the town of Duffel, would you believe it? Coarse, thick and heavy-duty, the coats were favoured by the British Navy as they provided vital coverage from harsh North Sea winds.

Gloverall Duffle Coats for Men and Womens
Photo: Gloverall

The Gloverall Duffle Coat

Heritage outerwear brand renowned for expert British craftsmanship, Gloverall was the first company to take the duffle coat to the civilian streets of the UK. Founded by Freda and Harold Morris in 1951, Gloverall came to be when the Ministry of Defense offered them a huge excess of unused WWII Naval duffle coats. At the time, Freda and Harold owned H&F Morris – a wholesale company that specialised in gloves and overalls – and so the coats were distributed for general sale through a network of retailers.

Through Gloverall, the Duffle Coat was for the available for the first time to the general public and their popularity was unprecedented. Embraced by cash-strapped students and anti-establishment types in the 1960s and 70s, the duffle coat was a world away from their military origins; instead, they adorned peace protesters on the frontline of CND’s Ban the Bomb marches.


Refining the traditional duffle coat design

By 1953, stocks were heavily depleted and the demand for the duffle coat showed no signs of diminishing. With Harold – the son of a Savile Row master tailor – at the company’s helm, they were able to refine the original duffle design and in no time at all, the first Gloverall duffle coat was born. Its silhouette was streamlined, the thick jute rope hoop fastening was abandoned in favour of leather, striking horn toggles were added and a sumptuous check back Italian fabric lining was introduced. These finer details not only brought with them a sense of luxury, they also helped Gloverall move the duffle coat beyond its military roots. This separation was reinforced further by the release of a ladies’ cut in 1956 and a children’s version soon after.

Photo: Gloverall

Taking casual outerwear to a global market

Gloverall had reached a global scale by the early 1960s. To meet demand, Gloverall required new factory premises. With Government restrictions preventing them from doing so in London, Gloverall opened a custom-built factory in the Northamptonshire town of Wellingborough. The Gloverall outerwear range grew. Alongside duffle coats, Gloverall also designed and made reefer jackets, peacoats and car coats. Gloverall quickly secured its position as the leading manufacturer of British casual outerwear and international interest grew exponentially – particularly in the US, Sweden and France. By the end of the 1960s, Gloverall was selling to over forty countries, including Hong Kong, Japan and Australia.

Gloverall Duffle Coats in 1970
Photo: Gloverall

Royal recognition and award-winning outerwear

With its huge international following, the Gloverall name went from strength to strength. Already a part of Prince Charles’ wardrobe, Gloverall was recognised formally by the monarchy in 1977 when it was included in the Silver Jubilee Honours list. Soon after, Gloverall was commissioned to supply coats to the British Transglobe Expedition, which included HRH Prince of Wales.

Gloverall at the 1980 Winter Olympics
Photo: Gloverall

In 1980, Gloverall was approached to make and design duffle coats for the British Winter Olympics team in Lake Placid and again, in 1988, when they created part of the official GB team uniform. In the same decade, the brand’s authenticity and superior craftsmanship became award-winning as Gloverall became the first company to win the British Apparel Export Award.

Expanding Gloverall

The 1990s saw Gloverall diversify the brand further than ever before. Not only were super-wax and heavy-duty cottons introduced, but luxury fabrics including cashmere mixes, Harris Tweed and Elysian Herringbone came into production. Not content with their position as an internationally celebrated British outerwear label, Gloverall expanded their range further still to include hats and scarves in the 90s – adding outerwear accessories as another string to their bow.

Gloverall Duffle Coats for this season
Photo: Gloverall

Made in England: The Gloverall Duffle Coat Today

After nearly 70s years in business, the Gloverall Duffle Coat is still made in England to the highest quality and specifications. Since Harold’s refinements in the 1950s, the Gloverall duffle coat characteristics and silhouette are largely unchanged. From the striking lining and fixed saddle shoulder to the loop fastenings, toggle closures and pancake hood, the details that made the Gloverall duffle so iconic remain in place today. 

Gloverall have stayed true to the British authenticity and craftsmanship they pride themselves on; invigorating classic outerwear favourites with Premium British fabrics that encapsulate the luxury, rustic aesthetic they’re known and loved for. 

This Seasons Duffle Coats: 

Gloverall ‘Portland Monty’ Textured Wool Duffle Coat

Gloverall Portland Monty Teddy Duffle Coat
The Portland Monty Retro Teddy Duffle Coat by Gloverall

Made in the UK, the ‘Portland Monty’ duffle coat is crafted from a fine Italian wool blend that is this lavish and – dare we say it? – teddy bear-like. The outer is finished with signature branded toggles, a detachable throat tab, and pockets so cosy and deep you’ll never want to take your hands back out. Gloverall know that what’s on the inside counts and with that, they’ve lined the coat with 100% cotton chambray and a subtle herringbone webbing. In short, the ‘Portland Monty’ is a reimagined classic and everything you could want from a winter coat. A seasonal twist on a much loved ‘Monty’, the ‘Portland Monty’ carries the hallmarks of the original military coat made popular by commander Field Marshall Montgomery, including the oversized box-cut shape, camel-beige colour, and retro jute rope and wooden toggle fastenings. BUY HERE.

Stuck on how to style this duffle coat? Atom Retro is here to help. Complete the look with a pair of Levi jeans, Clarks Sand desert boots and a John Smedley Dorset polo shirt – simple design, quality knitwear and a real Mod favourite.

Gloverall Yarmouth Monty Mod Wax Patch Duffle Coat

Gloverall Yarmouth Wax Patch Duffle Coat
The Yarmouth Monty Wax Patch Duffle Coat by Gloverall

On the look-out for something a little lighter as we approach spring? This Gloverall ‘Yarmouth Monty’ mod wax patch duffle coat ought to fit the bill nicely. It adheres to the ‘Monty’ silhouette and is preordained to garner plenty of interest because of that, but what really sets the Yarmouth apart from duffle coat alternatives are the wax patch detail and lightweight blended fabric. Made with a blend of lightweight Italian wool and nylon, the ‘Yarmouth Monty’ duffle coat offers style and protection without the heaviness of its predecessors. The wax patch detail to the shoulder cape and pocket will undoubtedly be a hit among mod lovers. The touch is simple, striking, and there’s something about the waxed cotton fabric and its resilience that gives a nod to the coat’s military heritage.

The key to wearing the ‘Yarmouth Monty’? Let the coat do the talking and keep the rest of your outfit minimal. We’d team it with a Lyle & Scott crew neck jumper, Wrangler ‘Larston’ slim tapered denim jeans and a pair of retro boots.

Gloverall Women’s Short Slim Fitted Duffle Coat

Gloverall Womens Slim Fit Duffle Coat in Burgundy Gloverall Womens Slim Fit Duffle Coat in Blue
Gloverall Womens Slim Fit Duffle Coat in Burgundy Gloverall Womens Slim Fit Duffle Coat in Blue

Shopping for a new coat is tricky. You want to get plenty of wear out of it, it has to go with everything and before you know it, you’re back to black. Ready to break the colour rut? Opt for burgundy. As the go-to winter hue, it brings a splash of colour whilst remaining stylish and ‘grown-up’, and best of all, it’s one of those colours that seems to suit everyone. 

Easy to dress up or down, this women’s fitted retro duffle coat is crafted with an Italian wool outer in a rich, sumptuous burgundy. On the inside, the colour is carried through a complementary check back lining. It’s a timeless design with eye-catching details and with those buffalo horn toggles and leather loop fasteners, it has more than a touch of retro.

The Gloverall Women’s duffle coat is ideal for inclement British weather. The outer is hard-wearing and protective in the way all Gloverall outerwear is, and thanks to the blended wool outer (80% wool and 20% polyamide), it isn’t prone to pilling. Layer over a jumper and wear with boots and chunky outerwear accessories. Not a fan of burgundy? Never fear... we also stock the Gloverall Women’s short slim-fitted duffle coat in sky.

The mainstay of winter outerwear

Seventy years on, Gloverall is still thriving and will do so for as long as people wantclassic, well-made garments that will stand the test of time. Invest in a Gloverall duffle coat and you’ll thank yourself for it years from now. There’s a reason Paddington’s outerwear looks as good today as it did when the Brown family gifted it back in 1958.