Clothes in Storytelling – The Duffle Coat

Clothes in Storytelling – The Duffle Coat


Hi, I’m Katy, and this is Clothes in Storytelling. A miniseries where I talk about different attire and how it’s used in fiction. Because the clothes a character wears can tell you a story too. Today, we’ll be talking about the duffle coat. First appearing in the 1850s, the duffel coat is made from a coarse, thick, woollen material. It’s three quarters long, ending at the knees, has large outside patch pockets, and a deep hood. Probably the most distinct thing about duffle coats are their toggle-fastenings, making them easier to do up with gloves than having buttons. Remember, duffel coats have “toggles.” “Do you remember we showed you a button?” “Button? No.” “Oh the toggle.” “Do get it right, Ducky. Yes.” The name derives from Duffel, a town in Belgium where the material originated. The actual *design* of the duffle coat was inspired by a Polish military frock coat from the 1820s. The hood and toggle fastenings proved to be useful in harsh winds, so by 1890, it was being supplied to the British Royal Navy in World War I, and Field Marshal Lord Montgomery was a famous wearer of the coat in the Second World War. After the war, the coats became available as government surplus stock and became popular to British youth in the 50s and 60s. And is still manufactured today. Now let’s talk symbolism. When a character is seen wearing a duffel coat, what does that say about them? Firstly, it’s associated with Britishness. If a character is seen in a duffle coat, odds are, they are English, and-or the story is set in Britain. Or in Japan. Duffle coats are particularly popular with the Japanese. According to British manufacturer Gloverall, Japan became their biggest export by the mid-70s. In terms of country versus city, the duffel coat can fit well in either. It began as popular in rural villages, but soon became popular to wear in the city, and even worn by the rich, though it never seemed to lose its association with the working class. The coats can go well with casual clothes, such as jeans, yet can also go well with suits, owing to the coat’s breathing room. And perhaps more importantly, characters who wear a duffle coat are usually Underdogs or outcasts. The coat was popular among the Working class. Worn by fisherman and hardy manual types, the Duffle is the epitome of function over fashion. Duffel coats also have a yoke. An extra layer of cloth over the shoulders to prevent premature wear from carrying items on one’s shoulder. On top of that, its rather shapeless body and practical hood make it the go-coat to show your hero has a no nonsense approach to life. Its design is utilitarian. It’s good for showing your protagonist is willing to get their hands dirty and make mistakes. “Oof!” 🙁 Duffle coated characters are hard workers, but at the same time, may have a quiet, laid-back, unassuming personality around other characters. Jonathan Creek is an amateur detective who is constantly underestimated by others because of his unassuming nature. He also doesn’t care about what others think of him. In just about every episode, he’s seen wearing a duffle coat. The coat makes a character stand out, but not in an obvious way. It’s old-fashioned, without being anachronistic in a modern setting. Duffle coats are also worn during winter and autumn. The “resting” periods of the year. Winter especially symbolises things like hibernation, the end of things, and death. The Japanese video game, Let It Die, gives Death a duffel coat, putting a modern, Terry Pratchett-y comical spin on the Grim Reaper. Though now duffles can be found in every colour, they’re traditionally beige or deep blue, which are muted, neutral colours. Characters wearing classic duffle coats aren’t wearing colours that are loud, so they themselves are probably not loud personalities. Characters wearing the coat are generally pretty gentle and modest. Samuel Pinkett is a good example for this. Sam is a shy office worker who gets tangled up in a deadly conspiracy. He wears a duffel coat throughout season one, but loses it in season two. Not just for the practical reason that he’s going to Texas, where it’s too hot for him to wear it, but also to symbolise that he’s become more confident, and is shedding his British identity to start a new life in America. Jack in A Fantastic Fear Of Everything is a meek children’s book author who, throughout the film, has to face his inner demons from his childhood. The coats are also associated with childlike characters. Duffels, being soft, cozy, and hard to wear down, have become popular with young children. Perhaps the most famous owner of a duffel coat is Paddington Bear, who first wore one in Michael Bond’s book, “A Bear Called Paddington.” Every adaptation of Paddington has kept this design. So the next time you watch a film or a series, consider this: What are the characters wearing? The duffle coat has a long history and has gone through many alterations. But like its toggles, some things about it refuse to change. It represents a character who is hardworking, humble, calm, and childlike. And is a symbol of the underdog. Thank you so much for watching. If you liked this and other videos here, please consider donating over at Patreon. And if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe. This is my first video essay, so I need all the help I can get finding an audience. Turrah! (English subtitles by Katy133)

8 Replies to “Clothes in Storytelling – The Duffle Coat”

  1. A video essay on the duffle coat, and how it's used in storytelling.
    Toggle-able subtitles are included.
    Note: Some countries alternatively spell duffle as duffel.

    Support me on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/Katy133
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    Things I learned/need to work on for my next video:
    – Audio: Unplug the refrigerator before recording.
    – Audio: Turn the music down even lower (current level used was 20%).
    – Use a different video editor: OpenShot lags and crashes way too much. (It seems to render audio is an odd way too?)

  2. I really enjoyed this video! 🙂 Though I've seen your love of duffel coats quite a few times before, it was very insightful to see it in a video format. I really liked learning the history and seeing the different clips. Also, you have a lovely voice. C:
    This will be a detailed critique comment to hopefully help you improve. I'll be specific as possible when laying out my positives and negatives on multiple aspects of the video. Let me know if there's anything you'd like me to clarify.
    For your first video essay, you did quite a lot right. The topic is very interesting, and while it could be considered rather niche, your coverage of the duffel coat is mostly well done. It also helps that the video is short (unlike my videos HA! X] ), which makes it rather digestable for most viewers.
    The basic ideas in the script are good, and the subtopics as well. But the script dances all over the place, talking about the subtopics and then switching to discussing a duffel-coated character/movie, and then back again. It's clear you enjoy the topic, which is absolutely wonderful! But while the video is clearly made with passion, it lacks some focus, which could have given it more punch. There are also parts of the script that are in different parts of the video than expected–you discuss quite a bit of the duffel coat's history with Japan and the working class in the "Symbolism" section. Perhaps the video could have been broken up into "History", "Symbolism" and "Examples", or something like that.
    The text on screen is well done in multiple ways: the choice of font, the way it's edited in (the fade-ins for each clip's title are non-obtrusive and mostly not easy to miss–the only one I somehow didn't catch until my 3rd viewing of this video was Kanon), and the consistancy of sans serif choices. The clip title did get a bit confusing, since every bit of media you used was grouped under it–from the way it was framed, I'd have assumed that the Gentleman's Gazette was a show of some sort, but I don't believe that is the case. Also, "A Teensy Bit Of History" is an adorable way of phrasing that heading. :3
    (Btw, you called "No. 6" "No. 9" during this video. It's an easy mistake to make, and I just wanted to let you know. Also, I haven't watched No. 6 in quite a long time. . . I've only seen it once, around 6 years ago, though I do vaguely remember flipping through the manga ~2 years ago and thinking it was quite terrible.)
    The audio is . . . ok. You yourself note in the description that there are some issues. I listened to this video with headphones, as to be able to hear the audio as best I can to give good feedback. Now I will give feedback for first the voiceover, and then the music selection.
    The script is well spoken, no problems there. Throughout the video, the voice-over volume does fluxuate up and down slightly, and–more importantly–there is a strange tapping sound in the background, like a typewriter. I'm not at all sure how/why it's there (could be because of how the audio was rendered in OpenShot), but it seems to come in at the start of each syllable, though I can't be sure. On a related note, I don't know if you cleaned the audio or not, but I'd recommend using Audacity if you don't already.
    The music is quite an odd selection, at least in my opinion. It is mostly quite gentle tracks, perhaps to reflect the unassuming nature of duffel coated characters? The music doesn't seem to reflect the British or Japanese nature of the coats, or the working class, but maybe I'm missing something. My main qualms with the music lie in the cuts: tracks are stopped suddenly when a new section begins, making each new section feel more sudden than it should be.
    Other miscilanous things:
    –The photo shoot from 1:19–1:25 is certainly interesting, but has nothing to do with what's being discussed in the script, and the camera sounds are rather distracting (mainly because this is the only time in the video you use sound effects).
    –I don't understand why you cut to Submarine at 3:21 while you're still dicsussing Jonathan Creek?
    –Why did you cut to Let It Die at 2:50? I'm slightly confused by this, especially since you don't mention the game again until later, and the clip (to me) doesn't show how a protagonist is willing to "get their hands dirty"–for all I know it's just a random dude on a skateboard.
    –I really like the Jonathan Creek section and the music paired with it.
    –The kind of sudden transition to Let It Die would have been smoother, I think, with a "Speaking of which," at 3:36.
    –For the most part, the video editing is quite good–nice job! There are a few cuts I don't think work, but I believe you'll only improve with time. If you'd like to know what they are, let me know.
    –Most of the comics you show are in French, but some of them were in English. Not sure if that was a mistake, or perhaps because some of the comics weren't translated, or what.
    –My favorite edit is at 4:48, where you fade in the Paddington cover directly over the Paddington on the screen–that's a wonderful fade-in!
    As for video editing programs, I recently downloaded the free version of DaVinci Resolve, and though I've been using it for a VERY short amount of time, it looks to be a good program that will likely give you what you're looking for (from what you said on Twitter)–check it out.
    For your first video, you're off to a good start. I eagerly look forward to the next Clothes In Storytelling video. 🙂 Also, if you'd ever want to collaborate on a video essay sometime, I'd very much welcome it. Keep up the awesomeness, Katy!

  3. Damn, did I just find a gold mine in the making? I'm curious about other longer coats now – a lot of their use in popular media is quite the contrast to what was explained here.

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