Outdoorsmen setting out into the northern forests that run from Maine to Washington have always worn loose-fitting, boxy apparel. The reasons are simple: Broader shoulders and expanded chests allow layering, and large arm holes facilitate movement, making it easy to cast or fire. Besides, no reasonable man enters the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge trying to look like a fashion plate. But, as the rugged look becomes an urban mainstay, traditional cuts have been bad news for traditional outfitters like L.L. Bean and Pendleton, which have started new fashion-forward lines to reach a broader customer base. The 116-year-old brand Filson has solved this problem in a simpler way by offering its outerwear in two fits, a traditional pragmatic shape and a narrower, urban cut.
Filson's new Seattle Fit, named for the company's hometown, is not exactly a departure from the brand's outfitting roots – the same apparel is still offered in an Alaska fit, named for America's capital of layering. Still, a few cosmetic changes make a big difference. Moleskin shirts, traditionally a less-than-complimentary camp classic, suddenly look great worn open or closed over a simple tee. Tin cloth cruiser jackets, built to withstand a beating at the hands of the elements, pair well with a simple oxford and jeans. The clothes retain their rugged feel, but a narrower cut allows for broader use.
"We've got to keep our core customer happy," says Filson CEO Alan Kirk. "But we also want to reach people who aren't hunting in Alaska."
Kirk says the new cut has helped drum up business for the brand – best known for its classic bags – in London, where Filson recently opened a shop. With a Seattle store open near a sparkling new office-cum-factory a stone's throw from CenturyLink Field, and a New York outpost in the offing, the classic brand is coming in from the wilderness. The question is whether or not other outfitters will follow Filson's lead and offer classic pieces in multiple cuts.
And just because the clothes have been tailored to the city doesn't mean that they can't still take a beating. What the Seattle cut does is allow weekend warriors to choose whether or not they want to prioritize looking slick on Monday in the office or having a fuller range of motion Sunday on the river. There is no wrong choice, but – for the first time – there is one. [Tin Cloth Cruisers from $260; filson.com]