The Story of the Throwshirt


A lot of things have come and gone since 1995. From chunky grey desktop computers to the humble VHS tape, creations once touted as the pinnacle of modernity are now relics of the past. The KAVU Throwshirt is a little different. First created nearly three decades ago, this masterpiece of hearty canvas and nifty details is one classic that’s managed to stay fresh—still just as useful as ever.

One of KAVU’s longest running designs, the Throwshirt is a highly functional overshirt that sits somewhere between a rugby shirt, a work shirt and a windbreaker. Thanks to its truly unique design, it’s become a real fan favourite—a mainstay of the KAVU range nearly 30 years later.

But before we get to the shirt itself, a bit of background might be helpful. In ‘95 KAVU was making the transition from being a small part-time operation which sold clever headwear, wallets and belts at trailheads and hiking spots to something more. What began as a side-project whilst founder Barry Barr was working as a commercial fisherman in the choppy waters of the Bering Sea had started to turn a fair few heads, and outdoor shops like REI were taking notice. 

This newfound interest inspired Barry to go further, creating more gear under the KAVU name, and after making the now-classic Chilliwack Shorts and the ultra-tough Baranof Vest, he set his sights on creating his first jacket. “I was trying to develop enough unique new designs to make a true proper offering to the market,” he says. “The Throwshirt was my first attempt at constructing a top, so I utilised the same burly 10oz canvas and webbing as the vest and the shorts.” 

Rather than make what he thought the customer, or the outdoor shops, wanted, Barr designed for himself, creating the kind of handy shirt he wanted to wear whilst out on his fishing boat—something simple and straightforward that’d keep him warm, whilst still fitting under a big waterproof fishing jacket when things got serious. Inspiration came in the shape of a classic piece of the Alaskan fisherman uniform known colloquially as the halibut jacket. 


Halfway between a CPO shirt and a hunting jacket, these reliable wool over-shirts have long been a mainstay in fishing towns in South Alaska—but thanks to Barry’s experience on deck he knew that their design still wasn’t perfect. “Wearing extra snaps and pockets poses a risk of being caught and pulled overboard, so the streamlined design of the Throwshirt was a safety feature for working on fishing boats.” 

A squirrely ember can wreak havoc on your favourite technical puffy, but it’s no match for a canvas Throwshirt.

Stripping things right back, the upper pockets were removed entirely, whilst the usual herringbone wool was swapped out for KAVU’s signature canvas. Although it was most definitely a masterpiece in minimalism, Barry did manage to hide a few covert details in there to make it even more wearable—like those underarm gussets for freedom of movement, and the velcro wrist closures to keep out both the breeze, and the bugs. That bias tape that runs around the hem, collar and cuffs was another clever feature—reducing fray and bringing the shape up to date.

It might have been designed with the fishing boat in mind, but, like the Strapcap, the Throwshirt wasn’t just for salty sea dogs, and worked well on dry land too—its hardy nature making it ideal for rock climbing and hiking. Its appeal extended beyond the arduous too—and thanks to that fabric it was the ideal garment for kicking back around the campfire, as Barry explains. “Throwshirts are certified bonfire buddies. A squirrely ember can wreak havoc on your favourite technical puffy, but it’s no match for a canvas Throwshirt.” 

As for the name, things couldn’t be simpler—the Throwshirt was designed to be a shirt you could throw on, the kind of no nonsense piece of kit that you could grab on your way out the door before heading off on your next adventure—just right for throwing over a hoodie or sweatshirt when you need a bit of extra warmth or protection. Whilst a lot of workwear can feel a bit restrictive—sacrificing movement for durability—the Throwshirt’s shape meant it could tick both boxes.

Whether you’re catching fish out on your boat or roasting marshmallows by the fire, throw on a Throwshirt and get to it.

With that hefty canvas, those crafty details and that signature KAVU flair, it’s hardly surprising that the Throwshirt was particularly popular—and not just in the States either, but in Japan too. Whilst the Throwshirt was missing from the range for a few years, it lived on in the streets of Tokyo and the camping spots around Mt Fuji, worn with pride as an archetype of American outdoor design.

Today, not much has changed... in fact, nothing has changed—and the Throwshirt is still made in the same American sew shop to the same pattern with the same materials. And if you do want something a little different, there’s also a fully-fleece Throwshirt for when Jack Frost comes knocking, as well as the Field Throwshirt—a block colour jersey cotton version with a touch more rugby flavour. Whether you’re catching fish out on your boat or roasting marshmallows by the fire, throw on a Throwshirt and get to it.

See the full KAVU Heritage Collection here.

Related Products