Carhartt, a classic Detroit clothier, was established in 1889, when Hamilton Carhartt founded Hamilton Carhartt & Company. He initially set forth making bib overalls for railroad workers. By 1910, his operation expanded south to South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, and California, and abroad to France, Canada, and the UK. In two decades he'd established Carhartt as the go-to garment maker for industrial workers.
The company's focus shifted to soldiers, though, during WWI. Carhartt found success making uniforms and other textiles for US servicemen, but by the time the stock market crashed in 1929, the brand was nearly put out of business. The second WW2 gave them another jolt, but it didn't give the company the steady growth it needed to survive. And the brand's chore coat and B01 pants, launched in 1917 and 1939 respectively, were popular but not big enough to propel the brand forward on their own.
In 1954, Carhartt debuted its Detroit Jacket, the foundation for workwear style as we know it. But still, the brand struggled. However, in the '70s, orders placed for workers building the Alaskan Pipeline and private label work for big box stores like Sears and J.C. Penney, contributed to Carhartt's resurgence.
The Active Jac, Carhartt's top-selling product today — although the beanie is gaining fast — launched soon thereafter. Through the '80s, Carhartt became an attractive option for all types of blue collar workers. Then, as workwear slowly seeped into fashion circles, celebrities, musicians and other entertainers, even models, started wearing Carhartt, too. Rappers galore separated the company's garments from the context of work. Quality over durability became the emphasis, even if they're essentially one and the same.
Today, with Carhartt WIP, the popularity of vintage workwear, and the collective widening of our clothes, Carhartt's more popular than ever — for many of the reasons it was successful in the first place. Learn more about its pillar products below.
Available in an endless array of colors, Carhartt's Knit Cuffed Beanie — aka the A18 Watch Hat — represents the quintessential one-and-a-half-season accessory. When fall turns brisk, it goes from nice out to suddenly cold, and you put on a beanie. It's as simple as that. Some of you reading this might be wondering what else there is it to know. Carhartt makes a cool beanie, I get it. Maybe you muttered something like this to yourself: "Beanies are basically all the same, no?"
Carhartt's classic Detroit Jacket, which was first introduced in 1954 (in denim), is a staple on construction sites, in garages, on ranches and farms, and with fashionable folks, too. See: Kanye West, Jonah Hill, Ryan Gosling, Brooklyn Beckham, Daniel Day Lewis, and Matthew McConaughey wearing one, and countless brands — Fear of God, Ralph Lauren and numerous others — copycatting the style. The workwear staple bears resemblance to many other zip-front jackets, including Dickies Eisenhower Jacket and Ricky jackets by brands both old and new. But, the Detroit Jacket has its own history — and a devoted fan base unlike any other.
Because Carhartt fielded complaints about their uniforms from rail workers directly, the B01 Pants fulfilled their needs perfectly. Durable and protective, comfortable yet functional, the B01s became the quintessential work pant, stretching across several industries and a million jobs. Nowadays, though, with workwear trending unlike ever before, pedestrian folks are wearing work pants, too. And not for extreme jobs but rather the aesthetics.
The brand, the European sibling of the American icon, makes Detroit Jackets from durable, 12 oz Dearborn canvas; pairs of overalls and double-knee work pants constructed from thick-cut cotton, too. However, they also make graphic tees, patterned Chuck Taylors, and "C" logo ice cube trays. Think of Carhartt WIP like Carhartt's cool kid — the one tasked with keeping their parent current with today's trends.
No two brands quite dominate the work pant category like Carhartt and Dickies. Seen on everyone from construction workers and farmers to skateboarders and models, you probably know both's logos quite well. Not only are their products hard-wearing, but the two brands toe the line between work- and streetwear, casting a wide net of supporters on opposite ends of the style spectrum.
The pantheon of workwear is divvied up between brands like Levi’s, Dickies and Ben Davis, comprising centuries of heritage. Among them stands Carhartt, claiming 130 years of tough garments. The brand started in 1889 and has churned out its share of durable icons throughout the last century. While many know Carhartt for its chore coat, painters pants and hoodies, the Detroit Jacket is quietly popular and is firmly set as one of the brand’s classics.