Dusters are long, loose-fitting coats that are typically made from canvas or linen. They were originally worn by horsemen to protect their clothing from riding dust. A distinguishing feature of a duster is that they often have a slit up the back for ease of wear while on horseback. Some dusters were even made from oilcloth or waxed cotton to better protect against the rain.
With the invention of the first gasoline-powered cars, in the late 1800’s, came a new use for the duster. Men and women both wore them while riding along dirt roads in open motorcars.
In the 1960’s Italian director Sergio Leone made the duster popular again with his use of it in the movies The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West. This caused a revival of the duster in men’s fashion in Paris. In the late 1980’s, John Woo and other directors in the Heroic Bloodshed genre made the duster an essential part of any hero’s wardrobe.
Dusters can easily be confused with trench coats. The main difference is that dusters typically are longer, reaching nearly to the ankle. They are usually more boxy in shape than trench coats as well. Many classic dusters also have an extra layer of fabric that drapes around the shoulders and the back of the coat, known as the “cape”. The look of the cape has become an accent piece on many modern long coats, for example, the shoulders of the Dante Coat certainly pay tribute to the look of the duster.
There is definitely a fine line when it comes to deciding which class some coats in. The original Matrix coat that Neo wears in the first film, for example: We (and many others) refer to it as a trench coat, but it is technically a duster. Some other famous duster-wearing characters include: Vash the Stampede from the anime series Trigun and Malcolm Reynolds from sci-fi western classics Firefly and Serenity. Each of these coats takes a different spin on the classic duster, but they still have the same cool duster edge.
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