These days, the duffel bag is the perfect kit bag or travel bag and is hugely popular the world-over, but did you know that this style of bag also has a fascinating history?
Rucksacks have been around for hundreds if not thousands of years, but they were traditionally made of wool or animal skins and so they were not very effective at keeping their contents safe from the elements. In the 17th century, Spanish and Portuguese sailors, fed up with their clothes being soaked through by seawater, came up with an ingenious solution to the problem of how to keep their possessions safe and dry when they were out at sea for long stretches of time. They began to fashion cylindrical bags out of the leftover scraps of fabric that they used to patch up tears and holes in a ship’s sails. These quickly became known as duffel bags as the durable and weatherproof material that was used to mend the sails was only manufactured in the town of Duffel in Belgium.
The duffel bag was used by sailors for the next couple of hundred years, but its popularity exploded during and after the second world war, during which they were distributed to US military forces, and they were then adopted by surfers in California and east coast Australia. The original duffel bags had drawstrings to close them, but surfers in Australia, having discovered the style of bag in the 1960s, gave up on the idea of drawstrings and simply held the throat of their bag and swung it over their shoulders with their swimming shorts and towel safely inside.
The Duffel Bag Today
Today, this style of bag is no longer only used by the military or amongst surfers, and it comes in various different designs. These days the term duffel bag is generally used to describe any large hold-all or bag made of thick fabric or leather that can be used for travelling or for carrying sports equipment, as they are both capacious and durable. Some still have drawstrings to close them, but the majority have different styles of zip fastenings for reasons of both ease and practicality. Some are still made of canvas, similar to the original cloth that was used for fixing sails by the sailors, but many are made of synthetic materials or leather. Different materials have their advantages depending on what they bag is going to be used for, whether it be for travelling or for sports.