"I'd never trust a Remington."
The proprietor of The Grouse Perch, an ancient gun shop in Old Saybrook, CT is handing over his preferred weapon, a Berreta with a handsome stock. I blink. My friend, Aaron, grabs it and checks the sight.
Aaron's famous around these parts. The youngest guy hunting ducks on Massachusetts's South Coast, he carves his own decoys and has been training his dog, a black lab so perfect other residents of Martha's Vineyard are envious, to thirst for water fowl. We grew up together, though at some point in college drifted apart. I took solace in books about colonial American furniture. Aaron learned how to build houses with his bare hands and shoot animals with admirable accuracy. Still, we were in a gun shop for the same reason.
We wanted some excellent fucking bags.
Before keyboard jockeys with white collar jobs commandeered American history and convinced the majority of spotty faced suburban youth that the past was the future, good gear came from specialty shops and not J. Crew. Aaron and I were both hunting for a similar satchel—some version of Filson's sportsman. I'd haul auction catalogs from Christie's to York Avenue. He'd fill his with shells. Two different tasks, one common requirement: the best product available.
This summer, Aaron has gone to western Montana, taking a short spell to apprentice with a master blacksmith. I've snuck out of Complex's midtown office tower to travel to Seattle and visit Filson's months-old new headquarters on South 1st avenue. It doesn't take long to clock the famous bags—only a glass wall separates the factory facility from the firm's reception desk. Since 1897, Filson has provided gear suited for tackling life's rigors. Initially, founder C.C. Filson outfitted tough gents headed to the Klondike in search of glory and, if lucky, some gold too. He called his company C.C. Filson's Pioneer Alaska Clothing and Blanket Manufacturers. He delivered a promise to his clients, printed in a 1914 edition of his catalog: "YOU CAN DEPEND ABSOLUTELY UPON OUR GOODS BOTH AS TO MATERIAL AND WORKMANSHIP." The claim stands today, even as the brand recognizes a division in customer.
While the bags remain largely the same (yes, some are now designed for urbane tasks, like protecting one's iPad at a coffee shop, the garments have changed. For guys like Aaron—men who construct their own homes, raise their own pigs, and take summer's off to learn ancient crafts—the Alaska collection maintains Filson's commitment to high-quality outdoor gear built to withstand tough working conditions. The stuff is roomy, specifically for the type of layering required to survive the harsh environment of the Klondike. Who needs that shit in New York City?
Here, we are just a bunch of pussies. We don't even grind our own coffee beans. BUT, we allow dudes dressed for an outdoorsman masquerade ball to do it for us, and by god they should wear flattering fits. That logic (note: probably not that logical at all) has inspired Filson's Seattle fit. Not much to it: Take classic Filson clothing, adjust the fit for folks who don't require protection from anything more rugged than a crackhead on the subway. Heritage bloggers celebrate. Now, singing the praises of America's great manufactures doesn't require a trip to ones local tailor.
Nine years ago, I watched my friend expertly grasp a gun while I quietly thought, "Fuck, I hope I'm not called out as a poser." I followed his lead. I confidently grabbed the same bag as him and mumbled a few similar words, lest I be outed as a city slicker. Times have changed.
Today, we can all happily wear Filson without fear. We don't have to invent stories of grandfather's glories in grouse shooting. We can join our more brethren in championing Filson and feel no need to reconcile that fact. Still made in Seattle as it was in 1897. Still supporting the charge. Still making things right.