Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Who is Eddie Bauer: Meet the Wilderness Badass Behind the Brand Name

You know the name Eddie Bauer. You’ve seen the signature on Ford cars, mall storefronts, and fishing vests owned by old men. But did you know Eddie was a real person and a total badass?

“Eddie learned to fish before he was in school,” Eddie Bauer historian Colin Berg tells The Manual (Berg has been with the company 19 years). “He learned to hunt before he was out of grade school.”

Image used with permission by copyright holder

As a young’un, Eddie took great pride in having been born in a cabin at the end of the wagon road leading up to Mt. Constitution, which is the highest point of Orcas Island in Washington. So no, he didn’t grow up in a coddled mansion with a trust fund — quite the opposite. Coming of age at the turn of the 19th century, life for Eddie was rural and rough, Berg says.

After moving to Seattle with his parents, “Eddie dropped out when he was 14 — about 1914 — and went to work for the biggest sporting goods store in Seattle. To think people are impressed by Bill Gates dropping out of Harvard. Apprenticing with the best hunters and fishermen in the Pacific Northwest, Eddie honed his skills and went into business for himself in at 20 years old, opening Bauer Sports Shop.” (Twenty!)

Back to the Beginning

Eddie launched his store in February 1920. Around Labor Day he put up a sign that said, “Eddie Bayer’s gone hunting, back February 1.”

“He shut the door, and people thought he was crazy,” Berg says. “But to him it made sense. The whole reason he was in business was so he could go hunting and fishing.” The reason so many people eventually turned to Bauer gear was because he began to develop apparel concepts while out on his wilderness adventures. “Extended fishing and hunting trips were his laboratory,” Berg says.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Eddie hired expert outdoorsmen to work at Bauer Sports, testing and learning the gear, which transformed his shop into not only an apparel store, but a place to buy equipment and get guide service. “He’d go out with customers and show them where to hunt,” says Berg.

On one of these hunting trips, he fell in love with a wilderness babe.

Along Came a Woman (and a Whole Women’s Department)

It was 1927, and Eddie went to one of his favorite hunting sports in eastern Washington to find another group already there. He was pissed off, until he saw one of the hunters was a young woman, Christine Heltborg (Eddie called her Stine), who came along as the camp cook. Eddie got her digits, and on their first date, he took her on a cold, wet fishing trip in early spring (guys, this is risky). But she didn’t complain and they became what Eddie called “wilderness companions,” eventually marrying in 1927.

“He taught her how to shoot a shotgun, and she won eight consecutive women’s trap shooting championships, setting a gold standard for active outdoor women. Plus, every time she won, she was in the news wearing Eddie Bauer gear. She also created the women’s department for the store,” Berg adds. “Here was this attractive young woman who could talk the talk with all the men, but outshoot and outfish most of them, earning her stripes among the hardcore customer base. And she started bringing women in, because women needed high-quality gear as much as the men.”

The Evolution of the Brand

In the 1930s, Eddie and Stine created the first down jacket patent in the U.S. Fast forward to the ’50s and the Himalayan peaks were being summited by world-class climbers who turned to Bauer for down parkas and sleeping bags.

So how in the heck do people today get the sense that Eddie Bauer is a frumpy old man’s brand?

The company sold to General Mills in the ’70s and then to Spiegel Inc. in the ’80s, who were interested in making the hardcore apparel name into a lifestyle brand. Leadership moved away from the outdoors and partnered with Ford, but as more people came to learn Eddie’s name, the heritage got watered down. “The new generation came to know Eddie Bauer as casual sportswear,” Berg says.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

In 2007, a new CEO had the mind to stop all the madness and bring back the badassery of technical Eddie Bauer. This was the genesis of First Ascent, a new collection of gear and a return to serious technical outerwear that would be worn on professional guides around the world.

So next time you think of dissing Eddie, know he was (and the brand still is) cooler than you.

Especially these jackets that ace style and technical function:

EverTherm Down Jacket – $297
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Fall 2017 saw the visionary release of EB’s Evertherm Down Jacket— the most award-winning piece of apparel in the history of the brand. What’s so cool about goose down is that it doesn’t require being quilted. Instead, the down is bonded to two thin scrim layers of fabric so it’s a sheet of warmth. (It won an ISPO Red Dot award… nbd.)

Eddie Bauer | Buy Here

1936 Skyliner Model Down Jacket – $139
Image used with permission by copyright holder

As the name indicates, this super-trendy lifestyle jacket is a throwback to the first down jacket made by Eddie Bauer: The Skyliner. While most brands started using down for huge puffy parkas and serious winter coats, EB came out with this Goldilocks jacket fawned over by mountaineers. Today, it’s warm as ever but still fits in on the urban street.

Eddie Bauer | Buy Here

BC Alpine Lite – $262
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Spring in the Teton’s anyone? This piece of technical magic is a lightweight, three-layer waterproof jacket. Seth Waterfall, an Eddie Bauer Alpine Climbing Guide, tested the BC Alpine Lite while teaching an Avalanche Level 1 course at Crystal Mountain Ski Area. His thoughts: “My group ascended from the base area at Crystal in a heavy snowstorm. After the first 20 minutes of skinning uphill, everyone else was wet, either from sweat or from the snow melting and soaking through their jackets. The precip was beading on my jacket and the breathability allowed me to keep relatively cool while ascending.”

Eddie Bauer | Buy Here

Jahla Seppanen
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Born and raised off-the-grid in New Mexico, Jahla Seppanen is currently a sports, fitness, spirits, and culture writer in…
How often should you change your pickleball paddle?
The truth behind how long pickleball paddles last
A pickleball court in the U.S.

Since it was first invented in 1965, the durability and wear of pickleball paddles have improved greatly. What began as improvised ping-pong paddles have evolved into sleek sporting instruments made from composite materials. Nowadays, pickleball paddles are constructed to last, but this doesn't mean they will last forever. This begs the question: How often should you change your pickleball paddle? In this blog, we've answered this question and a few others you might have in mind if you're considering when to replace your pickleball paddle. 
How often should you change your pickleball paddle?

How long does a pickleball paddle typically last? This is a question many players ask whether they play at the beginner or professional level. In terms of how often you would need to change your pickleball paddle, you would need to consider a few factors. 

Read more
How much are golf lessons? It depends
How much are golf lessons to take you from beginner to professional?
Two people looking at each other while holding their golf clubs over their shoulders

Golf lessons aren't only for beginners. Maybe you need to train for a new course or a tournament, or you have been off your game for far too long, and you need to figure out what is going on with your swing — a few lessons will iron out all of that. But will it be in your budget? If you need to up your swing and lower your handicap, how much are golf lessons to get you there?
Should you take golf lessons?

Before you open your wallet, should you even take golf lessons? Knowing if you need them is step one. If you are starting out, you probably won't be that good unless you have a bit of beginner's luck.

Read more
Study reveals the dark side of visiting national parks
There's an environmental impact to visiting national parks
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park Ledain via Pixabay / Pixabay

Yellowstone National Park, renowned for its breathtaking scenery and geothermal wonders, attracts millions of visitors each year. However, this influx of tourists comes with a significant environmental cost. According to a recent study published by PLOS, tourism to Yellowstone generates nearly 2.3 billion pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions annually, which is a staggering figure that not many people take into account when visiting the sights.
The dark side of visiting national parks

Read more