We make the gear. You make history.
The year 1889 was a time of steel, steam, and locomotives. It was also when Hamilton Carhartt & Company was founded by its namesake (known affectionately as “Ham”) and began producing overalls with two sewing machines and a half-horsepower electric motor in a small Detroit loft. Early failures led Hamilton to focus heavily on market research, and after talking directly with railroad workers, he designed a product that truly fit their needs. Under the motto “Honest value for an honest dollar,” the Carhartt bib overall was created and rapidly evolved into the standard for quality workwear.
By 1910, Carhartt had grown to include mills in South Carolina and Georgia, as well as sewing facilities in Atlanta, Detroit, Dallas, and San Francisco. We expanded internationally to Walkerville (Ontario), Toronto, Vancouver, and Liverpool. A Paris facility and a New York office and warehouse later followed.
MERCHANDISE THAT IS HONESTLY MADE TO GIVE SERVICE WILL CREATE A LASTING FRIENDSHIP.
Founder, President 1889 - 1937
Founder, President 1889 - 1937
In times of international conflict, Carhartt committed to “backing the attack.” We offered seven Carhartt facilities to the government for the purpose of creating uniforms for the U.S. military in World War I. During World War II, Carhartt produced coveralls for soldiers and support personnel, jungle suits for Marines in the Pacific, and workwear for women entering the factories on the home front.
In addition to bib overalls, many garments in today’s product line have historic roots. The Carhartt Archive holds ads for the legendary Carhartt Chore Coat dating back to 1917. The coat remains largely unchanged to this day.
BUILT TO LAST: A HISTORY OF ICONIC CARHARTT
In 1929, the stock market collapse was as brutal to Carhartt as it was to the rest of the country. We came close to shutting our doors for good. Keeping the business alive was a testament to the tenacity, passion, and ingenuity displayed by Hamilton and his sons during that time. Despite the challenges posed by the Great Depression, Carhartt continued its wholehearted support for worker’s rights.
Upon Hamilton’s death in 1937, his son Wylie became president of the company. Wylie played a crucial role in the “Back to the Land” program, which led to the opening of new operations in rural Kentucky. Four sewing and cutting facilities are still operating in Kentucky and Tennessee to this day, and the original Irvine, Kentucky factory – completed in 1932 – now houses the operations center for Carhartt’s supply chain. Wylie was also instrumental in creating Carhartt’s first outdoor wear products: The Super Dux and Super Fab hunting lines of the early 1930s.
Wylie’s daughter, Gretchen Carhartt, married Robert Valade, who assumed leadership of the company in 1958. In 1972, Robert Valade, Vice President of Sales Gust Feles, and Executive Vice President of Manufacturing Don Rasinen formed a nucleus that changed the face of Carhartt forever. They purchased new production facilities and were able to do a significant private-label business for several stores including Sears, J.C. Penney, and Montgomery Ward. This provided Carhartt with the necessary revenue to continue to expand its production. In 1975, a heavy-duty hooded jacket, dubbed the Active Jac, was introduced, and the style remains the top-selling jacket for Carhartt today.
During the 1970s, massive orders for the construction of the Alaska Pipeline helped grow the brand, and Carhartt undeniably showed that our products could survive and thrive in the most rugged conditions on Earth.
The Carhartt brand became popular with consumers outside blue-collar trades during the 1980s and 1990s. More people began to learn about the brand as big names in the hip-hop music industry started to wear Carhartt. Interest expanded across the pond in Europe, leading to the creation of the Carhartt Work In Progress label in 1989, which targets consumers in Europe and Asia who value refined details and design that remains true to Carhartt’s brand DNA.
Images left to right; Train car in heart button, c.1910, Super Dux outdoor wear catalog, 1930, and Carhartt’s Irvine, Kentucky factory, c.1954.
In 1998, Mark Valade, Hamilton’s great-grandson, became the president of Carhartt. Under Mark’s leadership, we established operations in Europe and a global E-commerce business. We launched dozens of Carhartt-owned retail stores, a full women’s line of products, and an extremely successful line of flame-resistant garments. We introduced new technologies as well, such as Quick Duck®, Storm Defender®, Rain Defender®, Carhartt Force®, and Carhartt Force Extremes®.
In 2013, Linda Hubbard assumed the role of president, becoming the first non-family member to hold that position. Mark Valade still serves as chairman and chief executive officer, while his mother, Gretchen C. Valade, remains chairman emeritus.
With entrepreneurial vision and determination, Hamilton and the next three generations of the Carhartt family established a brand that has stood the test of time.
Carhartt has global operations in the U.S., Mexico, and Europe. We employ more than 2,700 American workers, 970 of whom are UFCW union members. Carhartt’s Made in the USA line is inspired by American workers and features some of our most iconic garments. We produce these products in four facilities located in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Carhartt also owns and operates manufacturing and finishing facilities in Mexico, and our European headquarters is located in Amsterdam. In all, we employ more than 5,300 hardworking associates worldwide.
Carhartt. Outworking them all since 1889.