Carhartt's history and how it became a streetwear staple

Carhartt's history and how it became a streetwear staple

What is the history of Carhartt?

Carhartt was founded in 1889 by Hamilton Carhartt & Company who began producing their overalls with two sewing machines and a half-horsepower electric motor in a small Detroit loft. Early stage failures led to Hamilton conducting market research with railroad workers which led to designing products that truly fit to their needs. Under the motto “Honest value for an honest dollar”, the Carhartt Bib Overall was born and quickly become the standard for quality workwear. 

The Label History

Today, Carhartt is one of the most successful and well-known privately owned brands as the descendants of the founder still own it. Although the roots of the brand have remained, the logos have evolved over time. The debut emblem for the brand between the 1920’s-1940’s included a railway carriage with a red heart background. The inscriptions from top to bottom were “Union Made” and “Pants overalls and gloves”. The logo was modernised slightly between the 1940’s-1970’s. The logo recognised today has been around since the 1970’s, still nodding to their roots, the lettering emphasises working mechanisms and building materials. The lettering alongside the staple colours of black and yellow allows the logo to be instantly recognisable. 

How did the brand become a part of the hip-hop scene?

As the brand evolved, so did the people who wore it. During the 80’s and 90's Carhartt quickly became a brand associated with the Hip-Hop scene with rappers such as Nas, Naughty by Nature, Tupac and Eazy-E regularly sporting the brand. Later, Carhartt launched their ‘Work In Progress’ line which was more focused on streetwear aesthetic but still held the same premium quality.

Rosie Perez and Tupac Shakur at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, March 1993 (Taken by Ron Galella).

Youths in Detroit, photographed by Gemma Booth, 2000

 What are Carharrt's key pieces?

Speaking on key pieces, Carhartt’s original staples included the bib overalls and thick canvas jackets which are still very present in their brand today. Looking more into the Cahartt WIP archive, the watch hat has become a fashion phenomenon, selling over 4 million a year. Alongside this, the Carhartt WIP hooded active jacket and workwear pocket tee have become some of their most staple, timeless pieces. 

Who wears Carhartt?

The icons that have brought the Carhartt brand forward are the likes of Kanye West and Drake who are regularly seen in the brand. Not forgetting the iconic Weathered Duck Detroit Jacket worn by Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar in 2014 which became a huge talking point of the movie.

Vintage Carhartt JacketsMatthew McConaughey wearing the Weathered Duck Detroit Jacket in Intersellar (2014)

Left to Right: 
Photo 1: Kanye West outside hotel Bel-Air, Nov 2018

Photo 2: Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, Santa Monica, May 2019
Photo 3: Kanye West in LA, March 2019

More recently, Bella Hadid has been seen in Carhartt and offers an on trend, streetwear edge to the brand. Although the brand has been pushed forward by influencers and celebrities, the brand still holds true to its workwear roots and holds staple pieces everyone needs in their wardrobes. 

Bella Hadid in New York City, September 2019 (taken by Tal Rubin).

Kaia Barber wearing the Detroit Canvas Jacket in Manhattan, Nov 2019

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Thompson, H (Nov 2021) - The Hut
Jordan, C (Jan 2018) - Anotherman
Skid, N (Nov 2020) - CBNC
Ferrier, M (Nov, 2014) - The Guardian 
Carhartt (Unknown) - Carhartt