Carhartt... A History Of
Question: what do industrial workers and the urbanite youth have in common?
Answer: beast taste in coats.
The 1990s; when drug dealers didn't boss around in sports cars or the club's VIP booth. They donned practical garb (i.e. a coat with really, really thick lining and a ton of pockets) to keep themselves warm and their gear out of sight on the streets and ravers, rappers and regular joe's took note of what they were wearing. Soon enough the Weathered Duck Detroit made its way out of the deep blue sea of blue collar workers and into the forefront of mainstream, youth culture. Carhartt was the name, heavy duty was the game… and everyone knew it!! The brand has since cemented itself into American industrial and cultural history.
"Customers buy for their reasons not yours.' Said marketing guru Orvel Wilson (yeah, us neither! But apparently he's kind of a big deal in the motivational speaker game). Anyway that guy was pretty clued up and in seven words basically summed up the whole Carhartt marketing strategy back in the day (1889, to be precise) when founder Hamilton Carhartt and his five employees lugged four sewing machines into a stuffy Detroit attic in the humble beginnings of his now mighty empire.
Hammo found his niche pretty quickly; slap bang in the middle of America's industrial hub, he tapped into the blue collar clique with a requisite for heavy duty, quality made clothing that they could afford.
He played a blinder championing functionality over fashion and the fabled hero of American industrial threads was born; the Carhartt overall. Made of brown duck (that's canvas to you and me. Don't ask!!) or denim (we all know that one) copper rivets strengthened 'stress points' (or bits that would get really knackered really quickly when you're heffing about building railroads), everything was triple stitched for extra durability and each garm came with a 'Labour Union' label, just so you knew that your overalls were 100% legit and not produced in some under par sweatshop (totally on board with that)!!!
'Honest value for an honest Dollar' was the Carhartt slogan and it's got a nice ring to it, don't ya think?! (Ironically during the 2011 London riots the Carhartt factory shop in uber hip Hackney was looted which wasn't exactly 'honest' but there you go). Over in the motherland buying a Carhartt (and not ram raiding your local outlet) was like tucking into the prime cut underbelly of American manufacture. What you were buying was the promise that your hard earned dollar was supporting a unionised workforce, where everything about your overalls was home grown and produced on your doorstep.
The Weathered Duck Detroit is America's answer to the Barbour Beaufort. The stuff of legend; a staple of American fashion that since its inception 120 years ago never really went out of vogue. It's been spruced up a bit over the years; look no further than the Tommy Boy Records x Stussy collab in 1990 when Tommy dished out a load of Carhartt's embroidered with their Stussy designed insignia to the shape shifters and taste makers of the moment. The jackets got the hipster seal of approval (no surprises there) and made headway in House of Pain's 'Jump Around' music vid. Funnily enough, they don't crop up very often nowadays (well actually, ever) so unless your name's Danny Boy or DJ Lethal we're afraid you've lucked out on this one.
The stuff of great whacking rags to riches, American Dream folk lore right?! Well, yeah you're right but also, and more importantly, you're kinda WRONG! Despite all this the Carhartt family rank a measly #193 according to Forbes 2015 America's Richest Fam's list, with a net worth of $1.2 bill (wtf?! They're racking up billions and only made it to 193?!) Anyway they're doing all right for themselves and whilst we're on the subject we had a gander at the crème de la crème of the list and ranking at #2 are the Koch's and at #5 are the Cox's so I suppose if we've learnt anything here it's that there are A LOT of rich Koch/Cox in America. Wait for it… There you go!! But we digress.