What is "Mackinaw" - Definition & Explanation
Last Updated on: 21-Apr-2023 (7 months, 12 days ago)
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Mackinaw is a type of heavy and durable woolen fabric that is widely used in the textile industry. It is known for its excellent insulation properties, making it a popular choice for outerwear and cold-weather garments. In this article, we will explore the meaning, history, types, handling tips, and top international users or manufacturers of Mackinaw fabric.

Meaning and Definition

Mackinaw fabric gets its name from the Mackinac Island in Michigan, USA. It was initially developed in the late 18th century as a rugged and warm fabric suitable for the harsh winter conditions of the Great Lakes region. The fabric is traditionally made from 100% virgin wool, known for its insulating properties and durability.

History and Origin

The history of Mackinaw fabric can be traced back to the early fur trade era in North America when French-Canadian and Native American traders started using heavy woolen blankets for warmth during their expeditions. The fabric gained popularity among fur trappers, lumberjacks, and outdoor workers in the Great Lakes region due to its exceptional warmth and durability in extreme weather conditions.

During the 19th century, the Mackinaw fabric gained recognition beyond the local market and became a staple material for winter garments. It became synonymous with rugged outdoor clothing, including jackets, coats, pants, and shirts. The traditional red and black plaid pattern became iconic and is still associated with Mackinaw fabric today.

Types of Mackinaw Fabric

There are different types of Mackinaw fabric available, each with its own unique characteristics:

  1. Traditional Mackinaw: This type of Mackinaw fabric is made from 100% virgin wool and features a dense and heavy weave. It offers excellent insulation, durability, and wind resistance, making it ideal for extreme weather conditions.
  2. Modern Mackinaw Blends: In recent years, blends of wool with synthetic fibers such as nylon or polyester have been introduced to enhance durability, water resistance, and moisture-wicking properties of Mackinaw fabric. These blends provide improved performance while retaining the traditional look and feel of the fabric.

Tips in Handling Mackinaw Fabric

To ensure the longevity and quality of Mackinaw fabric garments, consider the following handling tips:

  • Dry Cleaning: Mackinaw fabric is best dry cleaned to preserve its shape, color, and texture. Follow the care instructions provided by the manufacturer.
  • Storage: Store Mackinaw garments in a cool, dry place to prevent moths and other pests from damaging the fabric. Consider using moth repellents or storing garments in protective garment bags.
  • Avoid Extreme Heat: Excessive heat can cause Mackinaw fabric to shrink or lose its shape. Avoid direct heat sources such as radiators or dryers when drying or storing garments.
  • Spot Cleaning: In case of small stains or spills, blot the area gently with a clean cloth or sponge. Avoid rubbing, as it may damage the fabric.

Top International Users and Manufacturers

Mackinaw fabric is still highly regarded and used by various international users and manufacturers. Here are some notable examples:

  • Filson: Filson, an American outdoor clothing brand, is known for its high-quality Mackinaw jackets, coats, and vests. They have been manufacturing Mackinaw garments since the early 20th century, maintaining the traditional ruggedness and functionality of the fabric.
  • Pendleton: Pendleton, a renowned American textile manufacturer, incorporates Mackinaw fabric in their woolen blankets, outerwear, and accessories. They have a long history of producing high-quality wool products.
  • Woolrich: Woolrich, an iconic American brand, utilizes Mackinaw fabric in their range of outerwear, including jackets and coats. They are known for their commitment to producing durable and classic woolen garments.


Mackinaw fabric, with its rich history and exceptional insulation properties, continues to be a sought-after material for cold-weather garments. The traditional and modern variations of Mackinaw fabric provide warmth, durability, and style, making it a favorite choice for outdoor enthusiasts and those who appreciate high-quality textiles. With top international users and manufacturers like Filson, Pendleton, and Woolrich, Mackinaw fabric retains its position as a symbol of ruggedness and functionality in the textile industry.

Historically, it was made from an ordinary grade of wool that often had shoddy re-used or remanufactured wool mixed in. A twill weave where the weave is concealed. Mackinaw is heavily fulled or felted and napped on both sides to conceal the weave. Much of the fabric is in a plaid or large check design or brightly colored, or with different colors on each side. Mackinaw is heavy and thick, very similar to melton. It is named after MacKinac Island, Michigan and is also called snow cloth. It was used by miners, lumbermen, hunters, trappers, fishermen, and cowboys in jackets, mackinaws and coats. It was also used for blankets, shirts, and some heavy sportswear, and windbreakers. Mackinaw is another fabric that has been replaced by more modern, lighter and warmer synthetics and blends.
Heavy woollen cloth used for shirts, jackets, and pants; first made by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1912. Often the term used for the jacket itself.

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