Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tin Cloth Gossip: Schaeffer Outfitters

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.


Anonymous said...

British Millerain. Same factory that finishes Barbour. Martin had some EPA issues and were shut down for a time that forced Filson to search out other vendors. The POS relationship soured between the POS owner and the sales rep at the time. They dropped the line or Filson yanked their dealer status depending on who you talk to. Thanks for the great Filson write-ups. It's nice to know there are others out there that are emotionally attached to brands such as Filson.

Lesli Larson said...


Thanks for the clarification regarding vendors.

I'm curious to know whether Filson would re-consider sourcing fabric from Martin (maybe for a line of "heritage" products). The Martin fabric I saw at POS would make for a terrific lightweight rucksack (a little more durable than the tin cloth Filson is using for their newer lightweight totes).

I definitely have a longtime emotional connection to both Filson and POS. From what I hear, it sounds like Filson is starting to draw back some of the customers they hemoraged during the ill-fated "Lodge line" experiment. The Outdoor Store seems to be doing well too. For awhile they were no longer selling Barbour or Filson. But both brands are back on the shelf.

Are you a Filson person or just a citizen booster like me?

Billy Dee said...

Do you have contact or full name of this Martin company? I would like to purchase some tin cloth in order to construct a backpack of my own. Thanks

Lesli Larson said...

I have an old email from a friend who refers to the Martin company as "Martin Mills." They're located in New Jersey. I don't have a phone number. What I've been told is that Martin couldn't sell Filson tin fabric but they could sell seconds. I'm sorry but I do not have more info. If Anon is right, it sounds like they were shut down for a bit. Still open? At some point in the last five years, I was told that McAlister was buying their tin fabric from Martin Mills so maybe they could help you out.

Please report back if you find contact info for Martin Mills.



Matt said...

It would appear this is Martin Corp.

Martin Corporation
171 N Pearl St
Bridgeton, NJ 08302
Phone: (856) 451-0900

Lesli Larson said...

Waxwear is the franchised front for Martin Co. If you're a fan of original Filson fabrics, you can buy modern updates via Waxwear.

Jodie said...

Any ideas where to get women's tin cloth or waxed cloth pants?

Lesli Larson said...


You could order through Filson (they do waxed trousers and tin cloth pants). Filson can also do custom orders from discontinued patterns. They used to offer a wider spectrum of trousers for women. I just wear the gents smallest size and have them tailored. Waist sizes go down to 28".

Jodie said...

Its worth a shot- thank you!