The History Of Carhartt

Founding & Inception

In the year 1889, Hamilton Carhartt & Co was established by the man who gave his name to the firm. Originally, Hamilton began work with nothing but two sewing machines in an attic in Detroit. The beginning was rough for Carhartt as the overalls weren’t up to scratch. He then decided to talk to local railway workers where he would figure out the needs and wants of the working man. The first overall bib was created, which kept developing over time to the item that we know today.

Twenty years later, in 1910 Carhartt had 6 factories and mills across the US, with extra factories and warehouses in Ontario, Toronto, Vancouver and Liverpool. The firm then opened Paris factories and New York offices. This rapid growth of the company led to them supplying the USA with military uniforms in WW1 and WW2 when the wars broke out.

When the Wall-Street Crash hit in the US in 1929, Carhartt was crippled. The firm almost folded, companies didn’t need workwear anymore because America wasn’t working, people didn’t have money so they weren’t building houses or railways and they weren’t fixing cars or machinery, meaning Carhartt had nobody to sell to.


In 1937, founder Hamilton passed away before he could see the recovery of his company. His son Wylie took over and created a new range of cotton mills and sewing factories in Kentucky, which are still operating to this day. After a successful run at the top, winning contracts with many industrial firms, Wylie Carhartt assigned his son-in-law Robert Valade as the CEO of Carhartt in 1959. Valade drove the firm into the modern era when he began purchasing factories with modern equipment and offices with experienced designers. It was 1975 when Carhartt released the hooded “Active-Jac”, which is still their best selling item ever. In the same year, the Alaska pipeline began construction by workers wearing Carhartt, this showed the world that Carhartt clothes were crafted to resist some of the harshest conditions known to humanity.


The 80s was when Carhartt began to blow up as a streetwear brand. Youth in Detroit and The Bronx first picked up the trend for the hard wearing overalls and jackets, but the famous yellow ‘C’ logo soon spread to the West Coast in the 90s. Wu-Tang Clan, Tupac and Dr Dre all wore Carhartt jackets and shirts on countless occasions. They are one of the few clothing brands that never went out of fashion in the hip-hop world, from the artists previously mentioned in the 90s to artists like Eminem, Jay Z and Kanye West sporting the company in the 2000s. Today, the brand is most popular with rappers Action Bronson and A$AP Rocky.

Valade couldn't help but notice the demand for Carhartt from the streetwear community in the 80s and started Carhartt ‘Work In Progress’ in 1989. Focusing on a European and Asian market, WIP is a range that focuses on robust aesthetic designs made for casual wear rather than heavy duty labour. The silhouettes were much slimmer than the baggy styles preferred in the States but they still had the reliable build quality. This line became particularly popular in the skateboarding community during the 90s, as it still is today. This is due in part to their rich ties with hip-hop but it was also their rugged durability that makes them tear resistant to skaters slamming on rough concrete. Over the years Carhartt has done plenty to help their ties with the skateboarding community, they actually subsidised the construction of the DIY skatepark a member of the Brag Vintage team grew up skating. They have also sponsored or released plenty of skate videos such as ‘Dirt Ollies’, a documentary on skateboarding in Mongolia.

Today, Carhartt is a brand that can be worn with almost any casual outfit, with ties to almost every subculture. Skaters, BMXers, hip-hop heads, graffiti artists, regular artists, and hipsters all love it. The big 'C' represents an appreciation for quality and a dedication to hard work.

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