CULT BRAND: CARHARTT
By Ross Wilson, 18 May 2017
Founded way back in 1889 by Hamilton Carhartt, the Detroit clothier’s first foray into fashion was producing heavy-duty canvas overalls, before manufacturing worker uniforms for the US military. Rapidly expanding but sticking with traditional workwear, it wasn’t until 1966 that Carhartt introduced a line of casual jackets, jeans and shirts, all made from Hamilton’s signature duck canvas.
Fast-forward 25 years and Carhartt’s classic heavyweight carpenter pants and jackets (usually worn XXL) became cult staples in hip-hop communities on both the East and West coasts of America. Paired with some wheat Timberlands or box-fresh white Nike Air Force 1s, the utilitarian gear was all over the 90s rap scene with MCs such as Tupac, Nas, Dr Dre and the Wu-Tang Clan favouring the brand’s rugged look to complement their outsider aesthetic.
The popularity of Carhartt on the streets of America caught the attention of German denim merchant Edwin Faeh, who launched the brand’s Work In Progress arm in 1994 to target a European audience. Whereas the stateside brand was all about function, its WIP offshoot focused on style, with new fits, colours and shapes, making for a more wearable lifestyle label than the one only available in US hardware stores.
Since then, WIP lines such as the Sid pants (slim chinos), the Watch hat (a classic roll-up beanie) and the Chore coat (a rigid four-pocket work jacket) have become streetwear classics in their own right and an essential addition to any man’s wardrobe.
Over the past 26 years, Carhartt WIP has evolved to include a skateboard team, an online radio show, a record label, magazines, art exhibitions, standalone stores, an offshoot women’s line and numerous collaborations with some of menswear’s finest, such as A.P.C., Neighborhood, Patta and BAPE. From the factories in Detroit to the streets of Shoreditch, Carhartt is still the workwear brand to outwork them all.