Heddels asked me to identify my “item number one,” that is, the thing I’ve owned the longest (and still use semi-regularly). Read about my rare Filson Mackinaw Cruiser for women and follow the complete series here. And reference snaps below. What is your item number one?
Filson Mackinaw Cruiser with its rare cardigan fit
Minimal signs of wear after twenty years of hard wear
Thanks to CC Filson for providing me with this archival scan of the original Filson Wool Sports Jacket. As someone who has worn Filson for twenty years, I can spot a Cruiser, Cape Coat or Packer just by catching a glimpse of a pocket configuration, fabric type or design detail. In contrast, the Filson Wool Sports Jacket is an enigmatic Filson model which comes from an era in the 1980s when the company was experimenting with a line of leisure, non hunting apparel. If you spotted this jacket at a thrift store you might not even identifying it as a Filson. I myself was thrown off by the heathered brown wool, satin lining and leather buttons – features more characteristic of a department store car coat.
Editor’s note: A month ago, Chris Adamiak, Damn-Yak Dry Goods proprietor, emailed me about a vintage Filson cruiser he spotted on Etsy. He asked for my help in identifying the fabric which is lighter weight than the 24 oz. melton wool used for current model Filson cruisers. I forwarded along some Filson catalog scans speculating that the fabric in question was a discontinued worsted wool serge. Chris purchased the Cruiser and, at my request, wrote up a review for Archival.
The Filson Cruiser in question
In Canada, Filson doesn’t have the availability as it does in the States. The distributors are few and far, and when we order online we face massive shipping, duty, and custom fees (due to the weight of Filson’s heavy fabric). It makes me so upset reading tales in forums of people finding Tin Cloth Cruisers in Thrift stores for $5. Finding Filson anything, in any store here is a miracle and being 6’5″ makes the search even harder for vintage items.
I have spent countless hours scouring Etsy, Ebay, and many other vintage clothing shops online for decently priced Filson that I can actually wear. Two weeks ago I stumbled upon this late 50’s to mid 60’s green wool cruiser for $50. The measurements seem to match my Pointer brand chore coat I wear daily. So without hesitation I scooped it up. After my purchase I contacted Lesli, in regard to its fabric, because in the picture on the listing it seemed very light. With a quick reply she sent me a link to a old catalog page (see below) suggesting that it might be worsted serge. However, on that same catalog picture there is no mention of a green worsted serge, only grey, brown, or beige. Then I saw the display tag from AC’s Flickr page for a early forestry cloth cruiser. It states that forestry cloth is a green Worsted serge. This made me even more excited. Could it be a rarer piece in my size?
Last week the Etsy Cruiser arrived and taking it out of the package, I was amazed at how “new” it was. It looked like it was only worn maybe one season. I was also surprised at the weight of the jacket. It was not light and flimsy but quite heavy and tough. The tight, diagonal wool twill does not stretch, and has no problem blocking all the light when held up to a bulb. The fit is true Filson. I wear a 44 suit and this is bang on. Although looking at the label there is no size tag, so I cannot be sure of its exact size. The green color is still very pure, with only tiny specks of fading. Also this past week here in Toronto it has been about 9*C (48*F) in the morning and I was surprised at how warm this cruiser is. Along with being very warm , the cruiser still provides plenty of movement and doesn’t catch and stay up on my back when reaching above my head. I have never worn a Filson Mackinaw, but I have heard that they are quite heavy and extremely warm. I have a early Woolrich Buffalo plaid mackinaw and you can forget being indoors for any length of time with a coat like that on! That’s where the Cruiser coat fits in perfectly. The fabric is thin enough to move from outdoors to indoors, tough enough to trek through thickets and brush, tight enough to ward off light showers and snow, and roomy enough for layering options underneath.
I am not exactly sure if it the jacket is made in forestry cloth or whipcord, as I have never held or seen either up close. But what I do know is that this cruiser is not a standard issue item. Why Filson eliminated this fabric as a standard cruiser option baffles me — they still make shirts out of serge and pants out of whipcord. From what I have been told, they will still make whipcord cruisers in their custom shop for a greater price. Its a great seasonal transition coat, from Summer to Fall and Winter to Spring. This coat will definitely be a new daily driver for me from city to forest. And as much as I really like this coat, the search for these kind of pieces never ever really ends!
On Sunday, I participated in the second Eugene Tweed ride of 2009 (disclosure: I was not present for Tweed Ride #1 which took place, according to this blog report, in slanting rain). By comparison with the original London Tweed Run, the Eugene version lacked eccentric Brits in matching plus fours and cycling brogues. However, our ride, 15-ish, strong, sported a surprisingly deep range of tweed themed outfits. Several folks even created their own refab knickers from found, thrift store woolens (most notably, this pair of donegal tweed trousers).
There was also an admirable roster of bicycles on the ride including a Kogswell porteur, a pair of Winter customs, a Velo-Orange (mine), Sara’s refurbished Bottecchia, vintage Raleighs and Schwinns, modern-brand uprights and a supporting cast of child bikes and cargo trailers. The optical center of the ride was this custom, wooden trunk-trailer which transported our tea and picnic provisions:
Aside from a few collections and reports to the contrary, the heritage clothing revival has yet to make its way to the female consumer.
Sometimes I think I’m the only woman admiring all the beautiful, Americana inspired sportswear, footwear and accessories featured on blogs like A Continuous Lean and h(y)r collective, etc.
Last Spring 2008, Filson launched their collection for women (a nice effort save for the “peach poplin” blend fabrics and a few unfortunate cut and color choices). Barbour, Carhartt, Beretta and John Partridge all now market outdoor (albeit, activity specific) clothing to women. But beyond this short list (plus a few others, of course), most US and UK heritage brands assume an all male audience for their product lines. Red Wing, a company known for offering shoes and boots in a wide range of sizes, starts sizing for their “Lifestyle Heritage Range” range at 7. Although Red Wing sells smaller sizes to the Japanese market, there are no plans to bring them to the US. Why is the heritage line not being sized to fit a broader market of women and gents with smaller feet? I put the same question to Filson since they have been deflecting requests for footwear for women since the men’s line was introduced in the 1990s.
Even cycling brands like Rapha, Swobo and Showers Pass, all known for non-mainstream designs, reserve their new vintage/”old school” outerwear collections for men only. For examples, see Rapha’s tweed softshell or the Showerspass Portland jacket which are all sized to edit out (all but the most robust) women. On the Swobo website, the pulldown menu for men lists organic cotton, wool and waxed cotton jackets (beyond the staple cycling clothing offerings). The women’s menu offers a few bland selection of jersyes and cotton shorts–but no waxed cotton or wool outerwear. No demand?
All I’m asking for is modern access to the teenage sportswear department of 1949 Montgomery Ward cataog. Those three pages (shown above) contain everything I need, if ordered in multiples, to get me through to my first retirement check: pinwale corduroy and gabardine shirts, glen plaid slacks, denim dungaries, new wool turtleneck pullovers, a nice pea coat and/or a donegal wool “abbreviated storm jacket.” Loafers and jophur boot appear to be the default style of footwear.
You’ll note that the Montgomery Ward catalog items do not default to the easy “feminizing” of overt/excessive pleating, hourglass paneling and terrible color selections of some heritage products resized/restyled for women.
Given how trends shake out, reverberation style, I anticipate nods to the heritage movement in the mainstream Gap and JCREW collections for women in the next year. Any speculation on how they might play out on a literal level? What I’m anticipating is the trace appearance of heritage styling, for example, in the form of models wearing alpine climbing boots with red laces, etc.
Before we get the heritage knock-offs and next generation homages for women, I’d love to see the reissue of a few more first generation originals.
Ginger Rogers and friends in 1937 (from Ginger Roger: My Story)
Vaughn W. is my kind of archival collector. I might even have to appoint him as an understudy for the time when my own visual content runs dry. Originally, Vaughn sent me a few photographs of bicycles from his collection (“14 at last count”). Each bicycle is nicely appointed with a default Brooks saddle and a Carradice saddlebag, wire basket or some functional racking system. But Vaughn subsequently distracted me with images and commentary on handmade knives (by an in-the-know master), Stormy Kromer hats, Klepper boats, tube amp stereo equipment, US made galvanized pales and buckets, manual wrist watches, and to boot, stills of a (Filson?) wool cruiser style jacket worn by the Joe Waters characters in episode 45 of TheAndy Griffith Show, “The Farmer Takes a wife” (a new source for sartorial screengrabs, I’m certain). More on Vaughn and his guest archive coming soon.
Shopping from The Andy Griffith Show (Episode #45)
Editor’s Note: Friend Tom B. also hails from Eugene, and went to college in rural New Hampshire where he started building timber frame buildings. He seems to be more proud of his Forest Service chainsaw certification than his architecture degree. I’ve brought him in as a guest blogger to highlight some stylish, alternative, often budget work wear brands and stockists. Tom’s first entry deals with Labonville, a manufacturer and retailer of “Logging Supplies and Safety Apparel.”
I was introduced to Labonville through the outing club at my college. The college’s forestry team was a major patron of the store; they placed massive orders for wool jackets in the school’s colors.
Labonville provides perfect material for the logger’s wardrobe. Walk into a Filson store and you may feel like you’re in a boutique. Visit Labonville and you enter the world of the working logger. The clothing available is affordable, functional and plain. There’s less of an obsession with traditional materials, although you will find traditional products such as wool cape coats and Malone wool pants. I’d like to put forth the argument that Labonville—and similar retailers — offer excellent basic garments that complement other showpiece brands like Filson. Cruising the L-Ville site, you can find garments so archetypal, so familiar, that they play like a tired cliché that you must acknowledge is true: pancakes are mighty flat, it is better safe than sorry, and Traditional Dickies Work Pants are very close to being the Perfect Pant.
It’s stating the obvious, but the Dickies pant is so cheap, durable, and neutral that it serves as an ideal daily driver. Thousands of delivery drivers, cooks, and painters can’t be wrong. As for the coverall—it’s less suited for daily wear than the Dickies pants, but it’s still a lovely example of cheap and lasting garb.
Carhartt has been done to death, but the fact remains that, like Dickies, the company does make some superb clothing. Their canvas pants, when combined with good boots, a hickory shirt, and a baseball cap, anchor a comfortable and durable get-up that does the trick for more abrasive work.
Labonville also has a house-brand line of clothing, with real winners such as their classic plaid coat, as well as a nylon bomber-type vest and several brilliant logger boots:
I know that LL Bean has been shopped to death, but one must prepare oneself for possible holiday gift certificates. If I were Bob Lee on a Freeport, Maine shopping spree, these are some of the items I might buy. Bean boots (hi and lo) for modulating muck levels in the dog park.
At Bean, I might also poke around the racks of Filson knock-off wool cruiser vests and possibly try on one of the waxed cotton down vests. But if someone gave me one as a gift, I’d return it and reinvest the funds in the superior version by McAlister.