One of the things I love about Northwest outdoor stores like the Portland Outdoor Store, Les Newmans (Salem), Roberts (Eugene) and long ago, BB&M (Richland, WA) is that the store owners and workers really know the history of regional brands like Filson, Danner, Pendleton, etc. They can give you spot sales reports, provide you with a little bit of company gossip and remind you of items that used to be in the product line. At the POS, I always beg for the same stories about recent Filson history–about Filson presidential lineage and how POS Filson sales are holding up since the Filson flagship store opened in town (“like it doesn’t exist,” says my POS source). My source did remind me of a time when Filson yanked their product line from the POS and we all stopped making Filson purchases. Fortunately, Filson company experiments in courting the department store demographic failed and once again, the POS shelves and racks are stocked with tin cloth and wool luggage (plus a crazy overstock of Pendleton blankets, western saddles, H Bar C gabardine rancher’s slacks and tiny, ladies size 5 jodphur boots).
My favorite bit of Filson gossip is the story of how Filson switched vendors for their famous tin cloth fabric. From what I hear, the Martin company out of New Jersey used to be the exclusive source for Filson tin cloth. Filson purists claim that the Martin company tin cloth was the best of all time–a true bullet proof, stand-up fabric. According to my sources, there was a disagreement between Filson and the Martin company and Filson switched vendors (to British Marine…?? trying to track down that info).
If you’re a Filson purist and long for the glory days of the ten item Filson product line (no women’s clothing in site), I’m told that a westernwear company called Schaeffer is making a waxed cotton chore coat out of the original Martin company tin cloth. I saw the coat at the POS but it was still a bit too boxy and westernwear-y for me to pull off with any confidence. The fabric on the jacket was so thick and waxy that it was difficult for me to lift and lower my arms–a hallmark of a top level waxed cotton fabric jacket. Schaeffer might be a nice option for gents (not ladies!) if you want to diversify your tin fabric jacket holdings. Make sure you order one size smaller than your regular jacket size for optimal fit. I’m ordering a catalog for inclusion in my ten year archive.