Few American companies are as rich in heritage and outdoor know-how as Eddie Bauer. While the company was formed in 1920, Eddie Bauer, the eponymous founder, had already spent a life outdoors, growing up in beautiful and rugged rural Washington State. An avid outdoorsman, hunter, and sportsman, Bauer lived the life his products preached, often putting the products he sold through the paces himself. Bauer opened his first shop in Seattle, Washington, where it is still headquartered today, in 1920, focused on sporting goods and stringing tennis rackets.
When Bauer set out to create the first commercially available quilted down jacket, he drew on his own experience in the cold wilderness and, in doing so, launched a feather-down empire. Patenting his quilted-down patterns, Bauer became the go-to in cold weather essentials, outfitting airmen during WWII, mountaineers conquering Everest, and everyday outdoorsmen. In the post-war period, with outdoor recreation on the rise in the US, Eddie Bauer became a national brand recognized across the country for their high quality and toasty wares. The brand helped create and usher in today's booming outdoor clothing industry, one rooted in technicalware and rigorous testing. Bauer’s creation of down-filled clothing was revolutionary for outdoorsmen and everyday people alike, fundamentally changing how we dress in cold weather. Today, when you reach for a piece of down-filled outerwear, it traces its roots directly back to Eddie Bauer’s first Skyliner Jacket. We’ve gone deep into the Eddie Bauer archives to uncover and reissue a few pieces that we believe are timeless in their own right.
1940 Skyliner Jacket
The jacket that started it all, the Skyliner, was Eddie Bauer’s original down jacket. While down was already used for sleeping bags, and quilting was far from new, the Skyliner is often credited with being the first down jacket. Bauer came up with the design for the iconic jacket after a brush with death on the trail in January 1935, when Bauer became hypothermic. Luckily, a friend was able to get him to safety, but for Bauer, the incident spurred him to solve an age-old problem for outdoorsmen everywhere: heavy, bulky outerwear kept the wearer warm but, once moving around, left them restricted and prone to overheating. He set out to design a jacket that was both lightweight and breathable while also warm. Inspired by stories from his uncle, he turned to goose down. He designed the first prototype Skyliner with its diamond shape quilting – which would become synonymous with Eddie Bauer –knit cuffs and neck, and cotton shell. As soon as he began producing the Skyliner, it garnered an avid following with some of the most rugged outdoorsmen, adventurers, and Alaskan bush pilots. Simply put, the Skyliner was revolutionary, an early piece of technical gear that defines outdoor wear to this day.
1942 Yukon Jacket
The Yukon jacket was patented in 1942 and first appeared in Eddie Bauer’s catalog in 1944. One of the eight original down jacket designs offered by Eddie Bauer, the Yukon departed from the diamond shape quilting made famous by the brand. Instead, the goose-down quilting was done in squares, with two large pockets along the bottom of the jacket – and hand-warming pockets behind them. With its hip length, concealed zipper, and collar, the Yukon was a more tailored and refined jacket — while still up to the task of keeping you toasty on the coldest days. It is no surprise that the Yukon found a following with Arctic adventurers and Hollywood celebrities alike. Unlike any other Eddie Bauer jacket, the Yukon had its own fitting tagline that reflected its more refined appeal, “The Aristocrat of All Down Jackets.” The Yukon would go on to be Eddie Bauer’s top-selling jacket for more than thirty years.
1942 Flight Jacket/Pant
Before the US entered WWII, Eddie Bauer was making down jackets and pants specifically for Alaskan bush pilots to ward off the cold. With the US entering the war in 1941, military personnel flooded Alaska to guard the northernmost flank of the Pacific theatre. Through word of mouth, Army Air Corps pilots, bombardiers, navigators, gunners, and other crew members began buying the Eddie Bauer flight suits. The flight suit utilized the same revolutionary down quilting in the now distinctive diamond pattern. The parka featured a zip front, hand warmer pockets, knit cuffs, and a wolverine fur trimmed hood and face guard. The trousers were an extension of the parka in the same fabric and quilting. By 1942, the US Army Quartermaster Corps took notice of Bauer’s popularity and tasked Eddie Bauer with designing a new insulated flight suit specifically for the Air Corps. The new suit was designed to keep the wearer warm at up to negative 70 degrees Fahrenheit and, in case of a crash over water, keep the wearer afloat for up to 24 hours. Before the end of the war, Eddie Bauer would produce 50,000 much-needed flying suits along with sleeping bags for the military. After the war, returning airmen remembered the name sewn into their warmest flight gear and made Eddie Bauer a national brand.
Merino Base Layers
Eighty years ago, the need for what is sometimes referred to as the layering principle was little understood outside of hardcore outdoorsmen and mountaineers. Like Eddie Bauer’s brand itself, WWII would make the layering principle commonly understood and implemented by the majority of folks spending time in the great outdoors. The US Military, working with seasoned outdoorsmen like Eddie Bauer himself and in scientific climactic testing, developed a cold weather uniform system based on multiple lightweight layers of clothing rather than one heavy coat. Of course, Eddie Bauer had worked on this very same problem years prior, developing the down jacket. The base layer, or the first layer next to the skin, is vital to the concept of layering and keeping the wearer warm. The only way to stay warm in cold conditions is to prevent body heat from escaping. The base layer traps body heat and draws this moisture out to keep you feeling warm and comfortable. One of the best fabrics for this task is wool, valued for its insulating ability even when wet and for being soft enough to wear next to the skin with no discomfort. During WWII, as Eddie Bauer’s name was sewn into their garments, so too were directions for soldiers on how to best use the layering principle in different climates, helping spread its heat-saving advantages in post-war years.