How Carhartt began
Detroit in the early 1890’s; a rough and ready breeding ground for some of America’s most infamous hard-working laborers. At a time of huge change, Detroit was one of the leading cities that would help to shape a modern America. With Ellis Island opening as the main access point for immigrants arriving stateside, the American dream of becoming something from nothing was coming under threat from the masses of overseas workers arriving through New York – but Detroit continued to be the proving ground for some of developing America’s most entrepreneurial minds. One man in particular embodied this notion of the evolution of the average American. In 1898, a young Hamilton Carhartt set about creating change in his own life – not knowing at the time that the success of his products would create a family legacy that would stand for well over 100 years.
The Carhartt workwear revolution
Hamilton Carhartt’s self-titled brand was a result of impeccable timing. Crafting overalls that were made from canvas and denim, the Carhartt brand supplied the workers who were advancing America’s hold on modern living with garments that were outlasting any of the competition. From railroad workers to military uniforms, the durability of Carhartt clothing was kept on a pedestal, as the brand strove to deliver “Honest value for an honest dollar” to everyone who chose to wear Carhartt products.
The Carhartt brand battled through world wars, recessions, and the unstoppable shift of production travelling abroad, but always remained a true institution of American tradition in quality, honesty and hard work.
Carhartt drops on the continent
In 1994, Carhartt began to travel over the Atlantic and land on mainland Europe, with the help of distribution from Carhartt WIP (Work in Progress) – a new extension of the classic label that would help give Carhartt’s sought after quality Carhartt workwear an avant-garde street-level feel that would suit any casual wardrobe. By bringing over a selection of products that perfectly embodied the illustrious reputation of Carhartt over the far side of the pond, Carhartt WIP quickly developed a European fan base, involving people who held an affinity with iconic American work wear and heritage, to anyone involved with the urban sportswear culture that was sweeping Europe at the time. The success of the first few Carhartt products to hit Europe was palpable. Handfuls of their products had arrived prior to Carhartt WIP even touching European soil, and as a result, the continent had pockets of Carhartt fanatics waiting in the wings to snap up anything the brand could offer. However, it wasn’t just the diehard Carhartt fans that found themselves yearning for a piece of the brand sought-after workwear. The label soon became a buzzword amongst creatives and artists from some of the continent’s cultural capitals, who adored Carhartt for its straightforward approach; along with its and feel of originality that let them express their own sense of imaginative authenticity.
Developing the European Carhartt lookbook
The success of its launch was supported in 1997, when Carhartt WIP released the first range that was made entirely for the European market. With everything being run through the brands headquarters in Michigan before it hit the production lines, Carhartt WIP reimagined the classic Carhartt look and purpose, with an intimate collection that took timeless workwear cuts and gave them a new lease of life, adjusting the fit to match a modern lifestyle, without altering anything that made the garments the icons they are today. Again, the success was huge. A modern cut blended with historic styling pinned Carhartt as a go-to brand for an instant hit of on trend style- whilst stateside, the brand remained as faithful as ever to the great American workers who wore Carhartt when plying their craft. Never faltering, never changing, Carhartt had successfully outfitted both the old guard fans, and the new stylish kids that were emerging from the modern culture that surrounded city life.
How the Carhartt WIP lookbook grew
This culture is something that Carhartt WIP has firmly backed, involving themselves in everything from the European skate and BMX scene, to emerging musicians and artists. Using the honest approach that the label has always held true since its very first pair of overalls left the sewing machine, Carhartt WIP has given straightforward engagement to issues that surround anything that represents urban recreation. With Carhartt WIP developing their own appeal away from their classic Carhartt workwear roots, they have still managed to keep the brand’s philosophy of good quality, honest clothing, despite not creating them for the same rigours that they would have once experienced. From the core range of Carhartt Jackets to the essential Carhartt trousers and easy-to-wear Carhartt t-shirts, superb craftsmanship remains consistent. With modern cuts, sleek finishes and iconic looks, Carhartt WIP has single-handedly delivered one of the world’s most industrious labels from the railroads of 1889 to the 21st-century streets.
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