Carhartt: Subcultures, Riots and Legacy
Carhartt is a family-run business that started out supplying heavy-duty workwear for labourers over 130 years ago. Over time, this has turned into an empire that supplies clothing for the masses.
Born in 1889 in Dearborn, Michigan to Hamilton Carhartt. Hamilton's vision was to create sturdy clothing specifically with the wearer’s needs in mind. With core staples like overalls, jackets, dungarees and coats, these durable garments became especially popular with construction workers, miners, farmers and huntsmen. The success of the company grew throughout the years, expanding from its homeland territory, worldwide.
As the brand name grew, German natives, Edwin and Salomee Faen expressed they wanted to represent the company in Europe. This came after a trip to America in 1989. After a few years of selling the original workwear, they were granted the licence to begin designing and creating their own apparel under the name Carhartt WIP (Work In Progress).
Fast forward to today, the brand’s collaborations have become infamous, having teamed up with some of the biggest names in the business. These include APC, Bathing Ape, Vetements and Comme des Garçons, solidifying the clothing brands identity as a core streetwear staple.
In Popular Culture
The brand's popularity rose throughout the 90s, especially in Paris after the release of the cult classic film La Haine in which a simple branded beanie was worn. The film was praised for its profound realism and depiction of the French youth. The film's realism continued through the clothing, reflecting this reality by emulating the style in which many of the French youth wore at the time.
The brand has also become intertwined with skate culture due to the brand's attention to durability and detail. This was because skaters needed clothing that would take the fall. It wasn't too long until the brand was on the backs of everyone. Picked up by rappers in the NYC hip-hop scene, the workwear was spotted on the likes of Tupac and DJ Premier, continuing its rise in popularity.
“I’ve always said the Carhartt didn’t choose the culture, the culture chose us,” says Michel Lebugle, one of the editors of The Carhartt WIP Archives. Often described as a for the people brand, the company couldn't have shown this more than during the 2011 London riots. Youths descended onto the store located in Hackney, looting it clean. During this moment a red Mazda that was parked outside the store, exploded, with the now infamous shot captured by Petra Valenti. The iconic image became a crucial image in memorialising what happened that summer. The brand deemed the image far too important to ignore and released Petra Valenti’s snap on a T-shirt for their 2013 collection.
What continues to make this company one of the top brands today can be dated back to one of their original quotes. ‘Honest value, for an honest dollar’ and a for the people mindset. What continues to be a family-run business, the brand continues to deliver high-quality garments. These garments are still loved to this day and it looks like the brand is not slowing down anytime soon! Head over to rokit.co.uk or in-store to shop the vintage Carhartt collection.