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100 Years Tough: The History of the Carhartt Chore Coat

By Dave J. Moore, Brand Archivist and Historian

Aside from bib overalls, the Chore Coat (known historically as the “Engineer Sack Coat” or simply “The Coat”) has one of the longest legacies for garments in the Carhartt line. While Carhartt had “overall coats” since as far back as 1892, 1917 marked the first known print advertisement for a Carhartt coat with the key characteristics of today’s Chore Coat.

Ad in the Vancouver Daily World, 1917
Ad in the Vancouver Daily World, 1917

Although it’s mostly produced in duck today, The Coat has been produced in many different fabrics and with several linings over the years. It has always been a heavy-duty option - one of the Carhartt Archive's favorite price list entries is from 1928, in which the coat is described as having “Substantial Weight.”

In 1925, the Engineer Sack Coat appeared in the Carhartt catalog. This is the first catalog appearance that exists in our current archival collection. It was offered in denim (both solid and with a hairline stripe pattern), herringbone twill, and sail cloth drill. Several years later, in 1928, The Coat was first produced in brown duck.

Denim coat, 1925
Denim coat, 1925

Fast forward to the late 1930s, when there were several changes for The Coat. The now signature corduroy collar was added, as well as a blanket-lined option. The year 1954 marked the introduction of the bi-swing back, a major functional design change to allow for stretch across the shoulders - a feature that began to be included on a number of Carhartt garments. Around this same time, there was also a major change in pocket styling due to the rise of wristwatches, reducing the need for a pocket designed specifically to hold a pocket watch.

Early version of left breast pocket
Early version of left breast pocket
Updated version
Updated version

As the ‘60s rolled in, Carhartt upped the warmth with a quilt-lined version and began to add technology to The Coat, incorporating Super Dux water-repellent fabric that was first pioneered in our hunting line of the early 1930s.

Coat with Super Dux fabric, 1965
Coat with Super Dux fabric, 1965

Times changed, so The Coat changed and evolved with them. A softer, prewashed version appeared in 1992 when Sandstone Duck fabric was introduced.

Sandstone Duck coat (right), 1992
Sandstone Duck coat (right), 1992

The following year, The Coat briefly synced with ‘90s trends when acid-washed, bleach-washed, and stone-washed versions were produced. It has proven to be a garment so iconic that it retained the moniker of “The Coat” for 77 years. It wasn’t until 1994 that its name was officially changed to the Chore Coat.

Today, the Chore Coat is defined by innovation with heritage in mind. New technologies, like those in our Full Swing® Chore Coat, are the natural evolution of advancements like 1954’s bi-swing back. Whatever the future may bring for the Chore Coat, rest assured it’s not going anywhere without its history in tow.