This Fall we’ll bring you a whole bunch of workwear pieces. For us it’s the simplicity, longevity and style that all comes to one in workwear. One of the biggest names and maybe the most sought after is the one and only Carhartt. It’s roots are in the traditional work wear but since its birth it has been worn by the punks, rappers, skaters and all misfits alike. Carhartt is known for it’s classic styles and high quality. Since we'll be having a rail full of these garments we’ve decided to take a small time-leap and take a look at the brands rich history.
It all begun in 1889 in Detroit, where a bloke called Hamilton ‘Ham’ Carhartt created overalls for railroad workers. Ham wanted to make clothes for the workingman. His motto was ‘Honest value for an honest dollar’, and his overalls soon become a staple railroad workers uniform. It didn’t take long before Ham had mills across the US in Atlanta, Dallas and San Francisco…
As we all know, the World War I broke out in 1914, and our mate Ham was committed to the cause. He offered seven of Carhartt's facilities to the government for the uniform manufacturing for the US troops. Unfotunately the war got its sequel and during the WWII Carhartt manufactured coveralls for the military as well as for the women working at the factories on the home front.
Small setback between the wars was the Great Depression in 1929, which ended up collapsing the stock market and leaving the country in turmoil. Even a workwear giant like Carhartt took a hit. They almost had to shut down, but our mate Ham fought and sustained the business he had built.
Life went on and unfortunately pass Ham. Hamilton passed away in 1937, and left his company to his son Wylie. Later on in 1959 Gretchen, Wylie’s daughter and her husband Rovert Valade took the company over. Together they started to change the face of Carhartt. They invested in new facilities which meant that they were able to hit the stores like Sears and J.C. Penney. This gave them the much-needed revenue to continue the production expansion after the war.
During the 70’s and 80’s Carhartt’s image was refurbished as the rappers begun reppin’ the brand thanks to its quality and streetcred. All of this came from the fact that drug dealers found Carhartt’s jackets suitable for their needs. The company decided to capitalize on this and expanded its idea of the workingman.
‘They needed to keep warm and they needed to carry a lot of stuff,’ Steven J. Rapiel, the New York City salesman for Carhartt told the New York Times in 1992. ‘Then the kids saw these guys on the street, and it became the hip thing to wear.’
As these circumstances were later recorded in Hip Hop it also created the first bond between Carhartt and underground culture or any culture for that matter. By the 1990, the golden era of hip hop, Tommy Boy Records gave out 800 of the classic Detroit jackets, embroidered with their logo, to the tastemakers.
Poets and musicians like Tupac, Dr. Dre and DJ Premier wore Carhartt which boosted their brand even more. Thanks to the whole hip hop movement and its popularity, Carhartt got noticed and sought after also on this side of the bond, in Europe. This led Carhartt to create ‘Work In Progress’ label in 1989 for international distribution.
Jay One from the Bad Boy Crew, 1998.
Carhartt WIP ad from the same year.
All’s well that ends well. In 2021 Carhartt continues its journey as an workwear icon, known for its durability and style.
A batch of vintage Carhartt will be available at the store on next Thursday, don’t sleep on it.