John Partridge, a British purveyor of outerwear, began to design and offer the duffle coat for sale in 1887. The look back then was quite different from today, though it already featured the characteristic wooden toggles.
A few years later, the Royal Navy was searching for a hard-wearing, sailor-proof coat, and so the British Admiralty commissioned the duffle coat, which turned out to be a great success and was worn on military ships around the world.
The duffle coat peaked in popularity during the 1950s and 1960s. After the war, the military released surplus duffle coats to the public, and artists, students, and intellectuals wore them, and mothers dressed their children in them.
The most common myth about the origins of the Duffle is that the coat is of Belgian heritage. The Belgian town of Duffel in the province of Antwerp was known as a cloth making town in the 15th century that exported its cloth all over Europe.
The “duffel” fabric itself was a black, rough woolen fabric, and the duffle coat was in fact named after it. However, the duffle coat itself was never produced in the namesake city, nor was it made from Duffel fabric.