The term “cruiser jacket” can often apply to a riding motorcycle jacket, but the term is also used in workwear. If you see a work jacket referred to as a “cruiser jacket”, the meaning may be hard to interpret on its own. These jackets have a unique design compared to normal work jackets. What is a cruiser jacket and what is it used for in workwear?
Cruiser jackets are outdoor work jackets that were originally made for Timber Cruisers in the Pacific Northwest. Timber Cruising is the process of evaluating a forest timber line for its potential merchantable value. As you can imagine, the forest terrain is rugged, and Cruiser Jackets provided a durable material with plenty of front-side pockets for storage.
One of the most common fabrics used originally for cruiser jackets was canvas cotton. Wool, although not as durable, was also used regularly because it is naturally water-resistant and very good at insulating even when damp, which was useful in wet forest regions.
The Filson brand has long been credited with establishing the Cruiser Jacket because owner C.C. Filson first created a “cruiser shirt” in 1912 to be used by outdoor tradesmen, including Timber Cruisers. A patent was awarded to C.C. Filson in 1914 for the cruiser design. The Cruiser jacket may have been originally designed for timber cruisers, but it was quickly adopted by trades working in similar conditions such as miners, loggers, dam builders, prospectors, and fisherman.
Modern day, the cruiser jacket has expanded beyond being a simple work jacket, and is often worn as a casual jacket. The material used for cruiser jackets has also expanded beyond just canvas and wool, and includes things such as denim, moleskin cotton, and certain types of waxed fabric.
Even though the jacket has now found second life as a casual jacket, it’s still most commonly used as a durable outdoor work and recreation jacket. It has several front-side pockets, similar to that of a chore coat, which helps provide needed storage for workers and outdoorsmen. Because fabric varies, the actual warmth and weather protection can vary dramatically.
Again, it is worth noting that present day, the term “cruiser jacket” can also be used in reference to a riding or motorcycle jacket. But the term cruiser jacket, when used for workwear, is rooted in the Timber Cruising trade, and built for outdoor tradesmen.
In this article let’s take a closer look at cruiser jackets so you know what you have a better understanding how they might help you. Let’s also discuss the pros and cons of a cruiser jacket, and what type of material might make sense for your job and climate.
What is a Cruiser Jacket?
As we discussed above, cruiser jackets are outdoor work jackets that were originally made for Timber Cruisers in the Pacific Northwest. Timber Cruising is the process of evaluating a forest timber line for its potential merchantable value.
As you can imagine, forest cruisers faced harsh, rugged conditions, and cruiser jackets provided a durable material with plenty of front-side pockets for storage. Present day, the role of a cruiser jacket has expanded to include several different types of trades and hobbies.
Cruiser jackets usually finish near or just below the waist, and often feature a button-front design with no zipper and no hood. Yes, there can be exceptions. Some cruiser jackets may have extra material over the shoulders, known as a “cape”, to provide extra weather protection around the shoulders and chest.
Who Wears a Cruiser Jacket?
Although cruiser jackets were originally made for Timber Cruisers as they navigated through heavy forest regions in search of merchantable timber, these jackets were quickly adopted by other trades working in similarly harsh conditions.
Miners, dam builders, loggers, prospectors, lumberjacks, farmers, and fisherman found cruiser jackets to provide the durability and pocket-space needed to function at a high level on the job. Modern day, cruiser jackets have also been adopted by outdoorsmen and hunters seeking durable, warm outerwear.
How Do Cruiser Jackets Fit?
Although the fit of a cruiser jacket can vary by brand and material, most cruiser jackets are designed to have a relaxed fit that doesn’t hug tight against the body. This provides space underneath for workers to add extra layers if needed, and also provides the needed space to move freely while working.
What Materials Are Cruiser Jackets Made Of?
The most common fabrics used originally for cruiser jackets were canvas and wool. In modern days, the types of fabrics used has increased to include things like denim and moleskin cotton. Some cruiser jackets may also feature a flannel lining for extra warmth.
Here is what you need to know about the most common types of outer-shell fabrics used in a cruiser jacket:
I should say canvas or other type of durable cotton cloth. For example, Filson uses a durable cotton fabric that they call “Tin Cloth”. Regardless, this canvas material is meant to be extremely abrasion resistant, which, as you know, is very important in harsh outdoor terrain.
Canvas has pros and cons. It is stiffer than wool, and not as comfortable. On its own, canvas isn’t waterproof. Because of this, many canvas cruiser jackets may use a wax or oil finish to increase both the abrasion resistance and the water resistance of the jacket.
Wool may not be as durable as canvas, but it has many other strengths that make it appealing (my favorite wool work jackets). It is naturally water-resistant, and if you have high-quality wool, it is very good at insulating even when it does get damp.
As you can imagine, material that was both water-resistant and insulating proved to be very beneficial for timber cruisers, and remains very important for outdoor trades today. Wool is also more comfortable than canvas, and often weighs less.
Denim has popped up in more recent years as an occasional fabric used in cruiser jackets. These denim cruisers tilt towards more of a casual jacket.
The problem with using denim in workwear is it sometimes gets stuck in no-man’s land. It is heavier than wool and cotton, but not as durable as canvas. It also doesn’t handle rain well. Because of this, it is sort of flanked on both sides by more useful material.
Regardless, denim is comfortable and very popular as casualwear. And because of that, denim cruisers have become more and more common as people turn to them as versatile casual jackets that could also be used as work jackets if needed.
Moleskin cotton, because it is a thicker, more durable type of cotton will occasionally be used for outdoor gear, including cruiser jackets. Also, other types of cotton may be used occasionally, and oil-finish is often applied to make the cotton more durable and weather resistant.
Flannel linings have also become popular in cruiser jackets as people seek additional warmth. But this can work both ways as some people prefer the breathability of wool so that heat and vapor can escape the body as they work.
In general, most cruiser jackets are made from heavyweight materials that offer protection from the wind and rain. When looking for a cruiser jacket, it’s essential to consider the climate where you live and work.
Pros and Cons of a Cruiser Jacket
- Protection from wind and rain
- Multiple front-side pockets for storage
- Durable and built for harsh terrain
- Relaxed fit for freedom of movement
- Available in many different materials to suit your climate
- Pockets add material, which adds weight
- Often do not come with attached hood
- Extra durability can reduce comfort
- Usually not machine washable
Chore Coat vs Cruiser Jacket
If you want even more options, chore and farm coats have a very similar design when compared to a cruiser jacket. Both types of jacket usually feature 2-4 front pouch pockets in addition to hand pockets.
Canvas is also a popular material for chore and farm coats, but wool is not as commonly found in chore coats as it is in cruiser jackets. Both of these types of jackets make sense for outdoor trades. To read more about chore coats, visit my article about the purpose of a chore coat.