The origin of the duffel bag

Duffel bags, also spelled duffle bags, are mainly used as travel bags or gym bags. Duffel bags are originally big, cylindrical in shape, and made of thick fabric, that close with a zipper. Especially popular with people who, just like me, prefer throwing their belongings in a bag without spending much time folding their clothes beforehand.

But did you know why the duffel bag is called duffel bag?

The thick coarse material the first duffel bags were made of was produced in Duffel, a small town in Belgium, Europe, which gave its name to the bag.  This was in mid 17th century. Today you also find duffel coats in your cloth shops, which were originally made out of the same robust woollen material as the duffel bags.

Duffle Bags

The first time one could read about duffel bags was in letters from World War I. The duffel bag was heavily used in the military. Giving the soldiers the opportunity to bring a lot of things with them, without taking long to pack as items could be easily throw in the bag and the bag itself was durable and could be handled like a sack of rice. Stacked on top of one another on the ship or airplane, and quick to be hung over one’s shoulder when changing location.

World War II already saw improvements done to the duffel bag, as the first design was difficult to carry. The strap was turned into a more sturdy version and the bag’s size was reduced.

Soon you could witness brands copying the shape and style of the until then known military bag, and produce variations made of all sorts of sturdy fabrics including leather.

The term duffel bag today is used more loosely, so most big, long ‘holdall’ bags fall under that category. You can see the varity in the examples of our duffel bags below.


If you would like to see some heavy-duty leather duffel bags for your next adventure, classic in style or vintage, or smaller sized duffel bags for the gym, come visit one of our leather shops in Hoi An for a big selection of leather bags.

If you prefer carrying your belongings on your back, come have a look at our leather backpacks.

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