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The Hartt of the City


Fiona Kiefer

December 9, 2023

The name adorned on my dog’s collar, the back pocket of my favorite pair of jeans, my childhood beanie, and a decade defined by blue collar needs. The Carhartt identity belongs to me, and so many others from Detroit and beyond. Being from Detroit, I am particularly partial to the Carhartt story and all that it encapsulates. I have been clad in Carhartt for all my life, perpetually finding something new to love about the brand. What’s most striking are the different articles of clothing that mark different periods in my life; my father’s outerwear attire, who’s memory I preserve in hand-me-down clothing, the white beanie that protects my ears in the snow, my favorite pair of cargo jeans, which marks the curation of my own sense of style, my large tote bag, a recognition of my travel to college, and my purple jacket that my mother gifted me, a ode to the color of my childhood bedroom, and being held in the embrace of a brand which I grew up with and into.

The threads of the brand, which are woven through my upbringing, have led me to reflect on its place in my life and in the realm of fashion. For me, the brand is an element of childhood, of working and playing hard, of finding my identity, and of finding warmth and goodness in the little things. The company is so much more than clothing, it is profound in its history and the myriad of stories it encapsulates, such as my own. 

Carhartt was started in 1889 by Hamilton Carhartt, a man noted for his devotion to independent thinking and breaking the status quo. He first tackled his pursuits by meeting the needs of railroad workers with denim and duck fabrics, followed by farmers with overalls. He continued to add buyers while maintaining the clientele of those he already provided for, creating a theoretical quilt from various textiles of fabric and people. In many ways, this collaboration represents the power in the Carhartt name, sense of community, and history sewn together in a shared love for the brand.

The brand symbolizes a transition in fashion towards embracing workwear that highlights the blue collar. It is through companies like Carhartt that fashion lovers have come to romanticize utility and have devoted branches of style to construction, history, and grit. This transition is marked by Carhartt creating their “Work In Progress” sub brand. In 1994, Carhartt felt galvanized to evolve and in turn modify their iconic styles to serve a wider audience and meet the demands of its growing popularity. Carhartt WIP was thus born, and remains a reliable and innovative brand for those “-seeking refined design and style that remains true to the origins of the brand” (Carhartt). This decision paved the way for other workwear brands breaking into street style, and its adoption by designers like Helmut Lang’s overalls in the 1990s or Junya Watanbe in the early 2000s, Carhartt WIP injected high fashion with workwear, utility and function.  Not many brands can claim such a significant appeal in the hearts of so many different kinds of people. Fashion lovers, thrifters, cold weather enthusiasts, construction workers, hip-hop artists, college students, influencers, skateboarders, pets, kids who play, and all sorts of individuals in between. Whether you’re buying it from the flagship store, inheriting it from your grandfather, or bidding on it on Ebay, Carhartt means something to people, and its significance has proven its prevalence even when society’s heart beats for innovation. When I shrug on my purple Carhartt jacket, I feel I am paying homage to stories and moments woven through me.


Carhartt | Our Brand | Carhartt

Fashion and the Evolving Vision of of Workwear | Grailed

Carhartt logo and their history | LogoMyWay 

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