My earliest memories of Eddie Bauer was seeing the Eddie Bauer logo on some cars. Eddie Bauer had an affiliation with Ford, and my neighbor had one of the Eddie Bauer Ford Explorers. There is an Eddie Bauer at the Burlington Mall near where I grew up so then I started to associate the brand with clothing, but more clothes my mom and aunt liked. At that time it was all about American Eagle haha.
I have a couple pieces from Eddie Bauer; a flannel shirt (blogged here), a fleece vest, a cable knit cardigan, a waffle knit henley. I loved one of their quilted vests that I blogged about here. The clothing is definitely on the preppy side I guess? Reminds me of Land’s End a little. Imagine my surprise when I started following Eddie Bauer on Instagram….to realize that they are an outdoors/mountaineering/winter sports brand? Thinking back, the display window at the Eddie Bauer at Downtown Crossings in Boston does show a man mountain climbing…..but I still didn’t necessarily associate them with outdoor pursuits and outdoorsmen.
I am one of those outdoorsmen. I ski, cross country ski, and hike NH’s 4000 footers in the winter with snowshoes, mountaineering boots, and crampons. I camp and hike, my fiance is a flyfisherman. The brands that I think of when I consider gear are REI, Eastern Mountain Sports, LLBean, The North Face, Columbia, La Sportiva, Black Diamond, Arcteryx, and Mountain Hardwear….Eddie Bauer doesn’t come into my brain at all. Enter Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent. If you do some poking around on the Eddie Bauer website, you will find ‘First Ascent’, their line for snow and mountains and ‘Travex’, their line for hiking and camping…and they have fishing/hunting gear as well. Do a little research on Eddie Bauer and the history of the company and you will find that Eddie Bauer, the man who started this company in Seattle in 1920, started it as an outdoor outfitter company.
Eddie Bauer held the first patent in 1940 on the down jacket! They were hired by the US Army and got to have their logo on outdoor clothing for the US Army. Eddie Bauer organized and sponsored numerous awesome expeditions!! First American ascent of Everest by Jim Whittaker, first ascent of Gasherbrum I, first ascent Dhaulagari, first ascent of Great Trango Tower, and others…..history making expeditions where everyone was wearing parkas and gear from Eddie Bauer.
Here is a gorgeous vintage Eddie Bauer sweater that I scooped up in my travels:
Eddie Bauer retired in 1968, and sold the company to Spiegel, Inc. Spiegel, Inc. declared bankruptcy in 2003, Eddie Bauer became Eddie Bauer Holdings which then declared banruptcy itself in 2009. Then there were rumors that Jos. A. Bank would buy Eddie Bauer in 2014, but now Men’s Wearhouse is buying Jos. A. Bank and will not buy Eddie Bauer…..craziness.
So where does this leave Eddie Bauer. Eddie Bauer’s social media advertises it as an outdoor outfitter company, showing sponsored skiers and climbers….but if you go to the Eddie Bauer website, it looks like a lifestyle clothing company and you have to hunt a little to find this outdoorsy stuff. I have never seen any bloggers wearing Eddie Bauer really, no sponsorships or collaborations. That’s fine by me, but typically big companies marketing toward the high school/college kids have some reach into the people with popular blogs/instagram accounts.
Eddie Bauer has awesome history, and somehow they have held on throughout the years, but they don’t seem strong enough as a lifestyle clothing company to compete with J Crew, Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren, etc. nor do they seem strong enough to compete with the outdoor gear companies like Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shop, and REI. As we enter 2016, I wonder where this company will go. Anyone out there from the west coast? Is Eddie Bauer the LLBean of the northwest? If you were running the marketing dept, where would you take this company? For me, I would think about a direction: go hard with the outdoor gear or go hard with the lifestyle/clothing….how do Orvis and LLBean do it? Is is their reputation for customer service and their marketing that keep them going with the clothing AND gear? Orvis has Land Rover and Barbour….LLBean has the iconic sweaters and boots….what does Eddie Bauer have?
Musings here free of charge, chime in, I would love to hear what others think about this brand.