A Brief History of Filson's Most Important Fabric

Why Tin Cloth is worth a permanent place in your wardobe.

In a 109-year-old wooden building located on the shores of Bellingham, Washington sits Nielsen Brothers Incorporated, one of the most extensive logging operations in Northern Washington. It was founded in 1979 by brothers David and Robert Nielsen, who, now in their mid-sixties, are still at the core of the business. They are the heartbeat, and embody the spirit of rugged hard work.

That spirit of rugged hard work seems woven into the very fabric of the Pacific Northwest. Take its most important outdoor outfitter for example. If there was ever a brand that shared an ethos with the Nielsen Brothers, it's the one founded by Clinton C. Filson in 1897 — who provided gear for hunters, fishermen and of course, loggers.

filson logger

Though times have changed somewhat since Clinton operated his store out of Seattle, Filson's spirit remains the same, and still makes high-quality outdoor gear that is made to stand the test of time. In Filson's arsenal of outdoor goods, one material stands above the rest: Tin Cloth. Tin Cloth and Filson are synonymous with each other. As David and Robert Nielsen are integral to their operation, so is Tin Cloth to Filson.

The exact time that Filson started using Tin Cloth in its products is somewhat unknown — Filson estimates it was around 50 years ago, though British Millerain (the company that provides Filson exclusively with the fabric), estimates that they have supplied the brand with Tin Cloth for over a century. What is clear, is that the material first appeared on the Tin Cruiser, Double Logger and Original Hunter Coat.

filson tin cloth cruiser
Filson Tin Cloth Cruiser Jacket

Buy Now: $350

filson logger
Filson Double Logger Coat

Buy Now: $295

While 50 years may not seem like a long time for a company that's been around since the 1800s, Filson has offered waterproofed clothing in one form or another since 1914 (waterproofed khakis appear in that year's catalog). This material continues to appear in Filson's catalog until the 1940s, when the '47 catalog references a waterproofed duck canvas. This duck may have been the first iteration of Tin Cloth, or simply its predecessor.

The name Tin Cloth first started to appear in the 1970s, and is coined from a term Pacific Northwest loggers used to use to describe their waxed pants. They would refer to waxed clothing as having been “tinned” — a term that originally comes from solder being applied to copper wires to prevent them from oxidizing.

Today, Tin Cloth has been used to construct everything from hats to wallets, chaps to briefcases and even a dog coat. It's found as much in city centers as it is in the rugged forests of the Pacific Northwest. Most importantly though, its spirit remains the same: rugged, hard-working and built to last.

Learn More

And if you already own garments made with Filson's Tin Cloth, you can check out how to re-wax them here.

Or, if you'd like to learn more about the history of Tin Cloth and Filson's other waxed cotton materials, you can read more here.

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