Quite a number of significant events took place in 1889. The Parisian landmark, the Effiel Tower, was inaugurated in 1889; the original Coca-Cola company, then known as the Pemberton Medicine Company, was founded in 1889; Wall Street Journal was established in 1889; Vincent Van Gogh painted the iconic Starry Night in 1889, and across the world, Nintendo was founded in 1889 to produce playing cards. Amongst those significant events, in the small Midwestern town of Dearborn, Michigan, Hamilton Carhartt founded the quintessential heritage American workwear company, Carhartt.
Originally, Carhartt was produced workwear clothes such as durable jackets, pants, workshirts and dungarees for the railroad workers. These items are known for their resilience and were riveted at vital stress points to keep up with the strenuous work load of the railroad workers. Later, Carhartt incorporated new technology into its production, and soon, a lot of their items became tear and flame resistant, and are pretty much indestructible despite the trying conditions its wearers worked in. Soon, Carhartt moved off the railroads and into construction sites, farms, and interestingly, in an age of rebellion where teenagers and subculture began to relate to the middle American working values and revolted from ground-up against the patrician and money-driven capitalist culture, Carhartt’s workwear became a sartorial symbol and ideal of the streets.
In celebrating Carhartt’s heritage, Carhartt revisited its archives and revived key items with authentic reissues or modern updates to keep them relevant for the contemporary consumer. In the Carhartt Heritage Line, materials and colors are kept classic to retain the authentic vintage vibe, and graphics such as the label’s first logo (a train car superimposed on a heart) are reprised. The collection of sweatshirts, t-shirts, work pants and denim might have retained the original colorway and fabric, but they have been cut slimmer to fit the modern man, who are not necessarily wearing these to work on piecing the railroad together.
Some interesting techniques Carhartt resuscitated from their archives are printing methods and a special yarn. On the material story, an archival material known as the slub yarn (a yarn produced using traditional methods which gives rise to soft, thick nubs and deliberate vintage irregularities in the final products) has been brought back for the vintage sweatshirts. And in terms of graphics, a new printing process combined with vintage textile ink fuses ink into fabrics and eliminates the modern rubbery shine of printed items today.
It doesn’t take actual experience in the fields or out on the railroad tracks to appreciate the heritage of a company which was involved in building the country, and celebrate the good old American values of physical labor and tradition of hard work.