A Guide to Dating Filson Clothing
Unlike other clothing companies, there isn’t a clear cut guide to dating Filson garments. Adding to the level of difficulty is the fact that even Filson themselves don’t have the most comprehensive records of details that would help to date the garments. All that remains is the tribal knowledge that is handed down from generation to generation which I’ve attempted to document as best I can here. This is meant to be a guide to dating Filson garments, but it’s incomplete and will continue to be updated the more that is learned about other areas to consider when dating Filson clothes and accessories. I've attempted to identify the time periods the Filson clothes were produced, but again, this is an inexact science.
C.C. FILSON MANUFACTURERS (With Address) (1910-1930s)
In the 1910-1930 time period, Filson HQ moved a few times and each time they moved, the tag needed to change as well. When Filson began using this label their manufacturing facility was located at 1011 First Ave. By 1924, Filson HQ had moved to 1005 First Ave and then in 1930 they were on the move again, this time to 1001 2nd Ave. After three moves in the space of 20 years, Filson wisely decided to ditch the address from their tags and just go with Seattle, Wash to preclude any further changes in location. Now, some leftover tags were used for garments being produced so the addresses above are not always a hard and fast rule, but they are good to generally orient yourself for the rare opportunity when you may discover one of these nascent gems.
Above: Example of C.C. Filson Manufacturers Tag with Address. Hat tip to Spencer from vtghaberdashers for the photos and some of the info for this entry. I have yet to run across one of these ancient wonders in the wild.
FILSON FIL-CLO TAG (1930s-1940s)
At some point in the early 1900’s some marketing hack must have approached the Filsons and sold them on a rebranding effort. Apparently Filson just didn’t have that zing that sold clothes as the FIL-CLO era of Filson clothing was born. Now, I get it. FILson CLOthing. Still, by the late 40’s thankfully cooler heads prevailed and Filson reverted back to branding everything with Filson.
Above: Filson Clothing, or FIL-CLO tag on a Filson vest from the 1930-1940 time period.
FILSON ENAMELED BUTTON SNAPS (1920s-1950s)
One of my favorite elements on the older Filson pieces is the enameled buttons. In use until the late 50’s and generally provided by United Carr, the design feature generally comes in black, green, or gold variations. As with the offset pockets, they don’t definitively provide a timeframe but can provide additional clues to date your garment. The enameled buttons were generally used in the earlier portion of the Union Made Era and by the 60’s had been replaced by debossed button snaps. If you find a garment with the enameled buttons, odds are you’re looking at a piece from the 40’s or 50’s.
Above: Two examples of Enameled Snaps on Filson garments. The gold enameled snap on the left dates to the 1920-1930 time period while the one on the right dates to the 1940-1950 time period.
FILSON UNION MADE ERA (1940s-1960s)
Filson’s distinctive diamond tag has gone through many permutations since 1897 but one of the more clearly defined dating tips comes into play with the Union Made Era of the diamond tag. The Union Made tag was in use from the 1940's until the late 1960's.
Above: 2 examples of the Union Made Era tags on Filson Mackinaw Cruisers.
UNION TAG (1940s-1960s)
We’ve discussed the Union Made Tag already but one of the more subtle elements that often goes hand in hand with the Union Made Era is the Union Tag. Generally, you’re going to find the Garment Workers Union Tag inside the upper right pocket on the garment. The tag is either attached to the inside flap of the pocket or sewn onto the body of the garment hidden inside the pocket. The Garment Workers Union Tag was in use concurrent with the Union Made diamond tag previously discussed but also existed after the Union Made tag was changed to the Dry Clean Only Tag in the early 70’s.
Above: Three separate examples of the placement of the Union tag within the upper right pocket on Filson garments.
FILSON OFFSET POCKETS (1940s-1950s)
On the Filson Cruisers produced today, both the upper and lower pockets on the left side are the same width and are generally produced by placing a strip of pockets over the jacket material and sewn into place. During the 50’s timeframe, however, the lower pocket (generally containing the compass pocket) was a slightly smaller width and produced separately from the other pockets on the jacket. As they were sewn into place the lower pocket was offset slightly from the wider pocket above. While the presence of the offset pockets by itself does not reveal a particular timeframe, you can generally determine that the use of the offset pockets places the garment in the 40’s/50’s timeframe.
Above: The left image has an offset lower pocket. You can see that the lower pocket is slightly smaller than the pocket above and is moved in slightly from the edge of the chest. The right pocket shows a 1960's era Filson Mackinaw with standard pockets which are the same dimensions and placed identically on the chest.
FILSON WOOLMARK ERA (1990s)
Odds are if you’re a wool connoisseur, you’ve run into the Woolmark in one of your garments throughout the years. The woolmark graphic resembles a triangle made of spaghetti, though it’s meant to resemble a skein of wool yarn. The Woolmark was developed by the Australian Wool Innovation Limited (or AWI) in an attempt to fight against the rise of synthetic materials and the graphic itself was created in 1964 and started appearing on garments shortly thereafter and is still in use today. The thing about the Woolmark is that companies need to pay to have their garments authenticated and then reach a marketing agreement to use the graphic on their garments. Filson licensed the use of the Woolmark in the 90’s and the tag was added to the left of the Filson Diamond Tag.
Above: Filson Garment tag with Woolmark attached to the side.
FILSON SIZING/PRODUCTION TAGS (VARIES)
Before Filson started producing over 200 items, the items could be found defined on the tags by lots and those lots were consistent across products Examples include Lot 16--the Forestry Cloth Cruiser, Lot 83--Double Mackinaw Cruiser, Lot 90--Jac Shirt, and of course Lot 110--the Mackinaw Cruiser. When the Filson family sold the company back in 1981 and the product offerings increased to well over 200 items, we start to see style come in as the preferred nomenclature for products and the three digit identifier goes by the wayside and the style numbers expand to become much longer.
As the 90’s began, a new formatting was used which helps in identifying month and date of production as beneath the Style on the production tags a 4 digit identifier is added. Now, just to make it interesting, in the 90’s Filson formatted the 4 digit code so the first 2 digits indicated the year, while the two later digits indicated the month. For example a garment may have a 4 digit code of 9406 under the style code on the tag which would indicate that the garment was produced on June of 1994. As we enter the 2000’s, however, Filson changes it up yet again and reverses the order so that the first two digits represent the month and the numbers after that represent the year so a garment with the 0113 designation would be produced in January of 2013. Confused yet?
While the change of formatting causes some head scratching, it’s generally a fairly easy exercise to determine month and date of production just by utilizing common sense as long as you don’t run into potentially confusing indicators such as 0608 or the ilk. While I’m unclear as to when the www.Filson.com URL was added to the tags, that’s another clue that you can use to determine which pattern should be used to determine the date as clearly items produced without the URL would indicate earlier in the 90’s/00’s timeframe.
Above: 2 Examples of Filson Production tags from which we can deduce the dates of production. The garment on the left was produced in November of 1997 as evidenced by the 9711 beneath the style entry. The garment production tag on the right was produced in January of 2013.
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