From the railroads to the street scene, streetwear brand, Carhartt has been around for over a 120 years and is still one of the number one brands in today’s street scene. Carhartt has made a credible name for themselves with sought-after products and a strong brand identity that stands for durability, style, and quality. Today the Carhartt’s still run the business, offering heavy duty garments that promise the same standard of quality as over a century ago
In 1889, Hamilton Carhartt and 5 employees had to make due with a dusty old attic in the heart of Detroit. This and 4 sewing machines laid the foundation for one of the greatest American Dream success stories. Carhartt started out producing cotton duck overalls, which was a heavy woven canvas fabric, aimed at Detroit’s blue collar workers. At the time, Detroit was the industrial hub of America, and there was a very high demand for the utilitarian, heavy duty work wear.
The ‘Union Made’ label stitched into each pair of Carhartt duck overalls was a symbol that made the products so appealing to the blue collar workforce. They represented Carhartt’s quality and reputation among its customers and certified that each Carhartt garment was American through every stage of the process from the materials, to the workers producing it. Buying a Carhartt overall meant supporting an unionised workforce that was treated fairly, a testament that built the reputation of the brand from the off-set.
In 1994, Edwin Faeh started his project ‘Work in Progress’ and became the first distributor of Carhartt in Europe. This sublabel would grow out to be the brand as we know it today. Carhartt WIP would produce colors and styles that were exclusive to the European market. With the distinct American style of Carhartt, the WIP designs appealed more to the European sensibility. It soon became clear that the label was mainly being distributed to skate shops and independent stores. Carhartt had evolved from an All American brand into a true staple of street wear.
As the nineties urban youth subcultures took off the ground, Carhartt WIP became a household name within the communities. Carhartt WIP quickly figured out how investing in art and music cultural movements could promote their clothing to a specific following. By combining their endorsement of the scene and Hamilton’s original pursuit for high quality and durable clothing, Carhartt WIP became mostly huge in the skater community, since the clothing was of such high-quality they could survive the constant falling and tearing. This led to multiple collaboration collections with other big skater brands like Vans and Stussy, which cemented their relationship and reputation with and within the scene.
Today Carhartt WIP is a world-renowned brand that stays true to their skate and streetwear roots with sweatshirts, t-shirts and utility jackets that all still feature the simple utilitarian design, developed by Hamilton Carhartt. With so many brands popping up on a monthly basis and disappearing as soon as they came, it’s brand such as this, who stay true to their aesthetic, that will continue to be successful. Hopefully for another 120 years!