Many people have owned a duffel coat or duffel bag at some point and probably have never thought twice about their origin. These items actually hail from a small Belgian town that carries the same name.
The design of the coat was influenced by the Polish frock coat from the 1820s, which grew in popularity throughout Europe in the years leading up to the 1850s. This was capitalized by the British John Partridge outerwear manufacturer, who produced the first real duffel coat the same year. These coats became popular with the British Navy and Army, who produced them en masse for the next century. After World War II, they became available to the public via military surplus stores and were popular once again.
Unfortunately by then, their Belgian origin was completely forgotten and even the pronunciation of the word was transformed from the original, with the “u” sounding more like the first vowel sound in “surplus” than the current enunciation.
The town of Duffel still remembers and celebrates its claim to fame. In 2007, a statue of a duffel coat by Frans Vermeulen was created and later placed on the main roundabout in 2013 by the municipality.
Thanks to this statue and the name, many people email the municipality regularly with questions about the duffel coat factory, but this actually never existed. Only the fabric was made here.