Filson 257 Briefcase Model Then and Now

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New Filson 257 Briefcase next to an older one.

This Filson 257 in navy was as a gift from my mother for my Christmas 2018. She didn’t know I already had the same model (I’ve been told I’m a person hard to find gifts for!). I didn’t feel the need to tell her as I was quite astonished she managed to score a deal that I hadn’t seen! I really, really eventually wanted to have a navy Filson bag for myself – the only previous navy bag was a 261 zippered tote that I purchased as a gift to my former girlfriend. I myself am a stickler for the original Filson colors (tan and otter green!).

I gladly handed it over to my girlfriend to use as her work bag. She is a teacher at an elementary school, so nothing out of the normal is expected to happen to the bag. After several months primarily as her shotgun seat companion, I decided to re-examine the briefcase. I asked her opinion on the bag, and these were her comments:

  • Spacious
  • Heavy
  • Navy color is nice
  • Complimented by others
  • Outside pockets useful
  • Too large for [her] size

Differences

This newer 257 briefcase in Navy was manufactured September 2017 (according to the tag) compared to my tan briefcase in February 2002 – so a 15 year difference.

I can’t say for sure that these changes are applied for the 258 Padded Computer Briefcase. Although the 257 Computer Briefcase is discontinued, I thought I’d point on some things.

The most outstanding change is the bridle leather, a much darker brown (dark chocolate burgundy) versus the older leather that is well known to patina/fade to a chestnut brown. The underside of the leather is overall smoother, but does still show piling.

Taken in direct sunlight to identify the different bridle leathers.

The zippers now are “Filson” logo’d instead of “YKK”, but are still robust and smooth to slide. From my understanding they are just rebranded version of YKK zippers.

The shoulder pad is now made of two separate leather pieces (one thin and one thick) stitched together with a foam insert in between. The older model shoulder pad is one single piece of leather. I’ve had my experience with both types of shoulder pads, and I do prefer the single piece one.

The new pad starts off really stiff and doesn’t contour well to your shoulder initially in my experience. The pad often “slips”, leaving the thin strap digging into your shoulder. The two pieces of leather do eventually break in/soften up, but I don’t think the foam insert does as much. Although the dimensions of both new and old shoulder pads are the same, the necessary stitching to hold the two pieces together reduces the foam area coverage. So there’s essentially a few cm border around the whole pad that doesn’t have foam. One purpose of a shoulder pad is to spread the bag’s weight evenly over the pad area.

But at the end of the day, the new pad is by no means bad, and there are methods to quickly break in the pad. The first is to fill the briefcase up with heavy items such as textbooks, attach the strap, and leave the shoulder pad hanging on a doorknob for a few days to form a good curvature. Because the new pads bottom side tend to be smooth, the second method is to take some fine grit sandpaper and lightly sand the bottom of the pad. Avoid the stitching on the outside. A rougher texture allows the pad to “grip” your shoulder more easily.

Filson Shoulder Pad Sanded on the 258 Briefcase
Purposefully sanded shoulder pad for additional grip.

*The changes below have already been applied to the 258 Padded Computer Briefcase for many years already. I have a 258 model manufactured in 2002 which had these new modifications even though it was made in the same year as my 257. Just extra information for the enthusiasts or if you’re considering purchasing a vintage 257 from eBay!*

A short, green cotton webbing with a brass clip is permanently affixed to the inside of one outer pocket. The intended use is to attach and find your keys easily instead of loosely throwing it the whole pocket (which I do on my tan one). A welcome and practical addition if you ask me!

The material for the pockets on the inside are now a lighter weight canvas compared to the previous (likely?) identical twill used on the whole bag. The canvas material seems to be the same as the canvas used to bind the inner seams of the bag. The outer two dividers are still made of twill. In addition, the bottom of the three pockets have a closed bottom. I like both of these changes. The open bottom pockets prevented me from confidently placing smaller items inside.

 

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