A duffel bag, known to some as a duffle bag, kit bag or gym bag, is a large cylindrical bag made of fabric with a drawstring or zipper closure at the top. The origins of duffel or duffle came in the mid 17th century: from Duffel, the name of a town in Belgium where the cloth was originally made.
However, in more recent history the duffle made a global impact predominately after WWII. This bag, a perfect vessel to carry your kit, be it your deck pegs (trousers) or dress whites. They flooded into the shores of east-coast America, Australia and carried by other Naval personnel further on throughout Europe no doubt. These bags were also known to some as Seabags or Ditty bags. The now heavy canvas surplus sacks were picked up by whoever wanted them. Handed down or purchased at an Army surplus store in surrounding towns and cities. Adopted by different countries and slowly over time molded into their own variations of this ever iconic versatile bag.
The duffel bag acquired considerable status in the surfer sub-cultures of post-WW II California and east coast Australia. In Australia its use became popular in the early 1960s. Carrying a duffel bag was synonymous to being (or pretending to be) a surfie. Australian duffel bags of the early 1960s were made of canvas and were usually light khaki or faded color. Dispensing with the use of rope to pull the eyelets of the top together, the surfie would simply hold the throat of the duffel bag—containing towel, swimming trunks and other personal belongings in one hand and sling it over his shoulder (they were very rarely used by beach-going girls). Their use had died out by the mid-1960s.
The Australian duffel bag may well have as its direct cultural ancestor the swag—the rolled-up woollen blanket slung in bandolier-fashion across the shoulder and chest—which was carried by itinerant workers or persons of no fixed abode (swagmen) in country areas of the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries.
As I said this is what I know, short as it is. That’s it.