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On a quest to find the perfect Aloha shirt? Look no further than Hawaii. When you need a sturdy pair of cowboy boots, Texas is your one-stop shop. And if raindrops keep falling on your head, Seattle Freeman raincoats have got you covered.
Accustomed to a consistent drizzle, Seattle residents embrace the rain as part of what keeps the trees evergreen, the water shimmering, and the coffee-shop book-reading a preferred activity. Seattle had a record-breaking ten inches of rainfall this October, but that doesn’t mean we were any more inclined to carry umbrellas. They’re cumbersome! Raincoats though, well, that’s another story.
The tale of the perfect Seattle raincoat begins not with The Cat in the Hat, but with Brittany and Scott Freeman. The Freemans met at a party in Bellingham while attending Western Washington University. They fell in love and married, and certainly didn’t foresee that one day they would be in the raincoat-making business. Scott was a carpenter, deft at engineering cabinets and woodcarving. Brittany worked full-time in the corporate arena, sewing as a hobby on the side.
It wasn’t until Scott ripped his jacket while doing outdoorsy things in the Pacific Northwest that the search for the platonic ideal of a raincoat began in earnest.
“We couldn’t find one that was quite right so we decided to make one,” said Brittany. They wanted something simple and practical. Nothing fancy. The couple tinkered with a few patterns, and after an elaborate trial-and-error process on their repurposed kitchen table, they designed the first Freeman raincoat. “Scott’s brother saw it and he liked it, so we made one for him, and then we started making them for friends, and it kind of went on like that until we decided to start a company,” said Brittany.
After selling strictly online for a few years, the Freemans quit their day jobs, liquidated their savings, and opened a brick-and-mortar store in Seattle’s historic Loveless building, a 1930s Tudor Revival originally designed to house artist studios. Upon entering the store, you’re transported to a cozy woodsman’s cabin, a magical place where racks of flannel shirts and down vests share a campfire with shelves of leather boots and sensible socks. Knit caps and Boy Scout patches drink whiskey with a rugged pair of blue jeans and leather goods in shades of hickory and saddle tan.
It’s primarily a menswear store, with made-for-men grooming products like Backpacker Cologne, Otter Wax lip balm in Cider Spice, and Railcar Pomade. But people mostly come in for the raincoats.
“We have so many different types of customers. I know some businesses strategize and target demographics, but we don’t do that,” said Brittany. To explain the universal appeal of the Freeman raincoat, Brittany surmises, “I think maybe because it’s so basic looking. It’s not a statement jacket. It doesn’t look like you’re going to go climb a mountain, but you could go for a hike. It’s outdoorsy, but you can also wear it to work.”
Everything in the store is made in the United States, and the Freeman raincoat is produced in Seattle. “For us, it makes sense for our small business to make stuff here, because, why not? It’s about a mile from our house, so we literally just bring the fabric over and work together.” Though the raincoats are significantly more expensive to produce locally, she likes that she can be present to oversee how the garment workers are treated in a way she couldn’t if the raincoats were sewn overseas. “We have strong feelings about people being paid fairly for their work,” said Brittany.
Home to the REI flagship store and other outerwear staples like Patagonia and The North Face, Seattle has no shortage of quality suppliers of heavy-duty rain-resistant garments. If you want to scale Mt. Rainier in the pouring rain or ford the Columbia River, the big brands have got you covered. But if you don’t want to look like you just went spelunking, a simple water-resistant Freeman with warm flannel lining might be just the raincoat for you.