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Old West reenactor wearing a duster

A duster is a light, loose-fitting long coat.

The original dusters were full-length, light-colored canvas or linen coats worn by horsemen to protect their clothing from trail dust. These dusters were typically slit up the back to hip level for ease of wear on horseback and were the recommended "uniform" for Texas Rangers. Dusters intended for riding may have features such as a buttonable rear slit and leg straps to hold the flaps in place. To improve waterproofing against rain, the fabric was also treated as oilcloth, then later as waxed cotton.

At the turn of the twentieth century, both men and women wore dusters to protect their clothes when riding in open motorcars on the dirt roads of the day.[1]

In the 1950s, a duster was a woman's knee-length, button-front unfitted housecoat which could be thrown on over underwear for housework or cooking.[2]


Contemporary dusters

Western horsemen's dusters gained renewed popularity in the late twentieth century, primarily through the J. Peterman catalog, and are now a standard item of western wear. They figured little in Western films until Sergio Leone re-introduced them in his movies The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West. The latter played for many months in Paris and was in part credited with a revival of the duster in men's fashions in that city.

In contemporary women's clothing, a duster is any knee-length or longer unfitted coat. Women's dusters may be similar to bath robes, sometimes sleeveless, and are often sold with matching pants or skirt.

In My Merry Oldsmobile songbook featuring intrepid automobilists wearing dusters

In fiction

  • Harry Dresden, titular character of The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, wears a black canvas duster that is eventually replaced with a leather replica.
  • In Thorne Smith's novel The Bishop's Jaegers, Josephine Duval disguises herself in a large duster before emerging from the loquacious closet of chapter six.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has multiple references to the duster and the characters of Mac, Charlie and Dennis wear a black duster in several episodes.
  • Omar Little, one of the main characters in HBO's The Wire, wears a duster whilst robbing drug dealers on the mean streets of Baltimore.
  • In the Call of Juarez games, the character Reverend Ray McCall wears a black duster.
  • In the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead, the character Dimitri Belikov frequently wears a 'cowboy duster'.
  • In Rob Thruman's novel "Nightlife", the main character's brother Niko often wears a duster filled with swords.
  • The Creeper (Jeepers Creepers) wears a brown duster to conceal his large wings.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the vampire Spike wears a duster he took as a trophy from killing the slayer Nikki Wood.
  • In the TV series Firefly, soldiers of the Independents wore brown dusters, earning them the moniker "Browncoats". Organized fandom of the series now goes by the same name.
  • In the anime Trigun the main protagonist Vash the Stampede is almost always shown in his red duster.
  • In the Dark Tower series by author Stephen King, several villains wear yellow dusters, garnering them the nickname "Low Men in Yellow Coats". Also from the Dark Tower series are a trio of outlaws known as "Big Coffin Hunters" portrayed as classic villains that at times don dusters. The cover art on a reprint of the first volume in the series also depicts a duster as worn by Roland; the main protagonist of the series.
  • In the CW series Smallville's ninth season, Clark Kent begins wearing a duster in order to fight crime as "the Blur."
  • In video game Final Fantasy VIII, Rinoa wears a duster.
  • In Rick Riordan's novel "Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters", Ares, god of war, is described wearing a black duster to fit in with his motorcycle 'greaser' persona.
  • Neo in The Matrix wears a duster throughout his rescuing of Morpheus

See also


  1. ^ Picken, Fashion Dictionary
  2. ^ "A dress length housecoat", Merriam Webster's 10th Collegiate dictionary


  • George-Warren, Holly, and Michelle Freedman: How the West Was Worn, Harry N. Abrams (2001), ISBN 0-8109-0615-5.
  • Picken, Mary Brooks: The Fashion Dictionary, Funk and Wagnalls, 1957. (1973 edition ISBN 0-308-10052-2)
  • Merriam Webster's 10th Collegiate Dictionary
  • Oxford English Dictionary

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