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A Few of Our Friends: A History of Consumer Feedback

By Dave J. Moore, Brand Archivist and Historian

As the historian for Carhartt, I have the privilege of telling stories of our nearly 130 years providing hardworking product to hardworking people. And that’s where it all starts and ends for us – our customers. As founder Hamilton Carhartt said, “We have never believed in the manufacture of makeshifts for profits alone.” He purpose-built his first overalls to his consumers’ needs, which is a tradition that continues to this day. We’ve always kept our ears wide open to our consumers’ opinions, all the way back to the earliest years of the company.

Around 1922, Carhartt published a booklet titled A Few of My Friends. Hamilton dedicated it to “the thousands of men who, by their continued support and unwavering loyalty to Carhartt Overalls and to me, have helped me to build up my wonderful business.” It contained over 80 testimonials from Carhartt consumers, some of whom had been wearing our overalls since the company’s earliest years. A handful even referenced dates earlier than our official founding in 1889, when Hamilton was experimenting with overalls as a side line to his other wholesale goods.

enlarge image A Few of My Friends, circa 1922
A Few of My Friends, circa 1922

Let’s take a look at a few of these testimonials:

enlarge image W.W. Miller, Dallas, Texas
W.W. Miller, Dallas, Texas

“When Mr. Miller was twenty-one years old he bought his first pair of Carhartt Overalls of A.I. Gans & Co., at Longview, Texas, and he has never worn any other than Carhartt's ever since. Mr. Miller's photograph was taken when the first Liberty Bond sale was made in Dallas, and each of the buttons he is wearing represents a fifty-dollar Liberty Bond. Mr. Miller has bought many more Liberty Bonds than he has Carhartt Overalls, for he says that Carhartt’s ‘always wear better than any other brand,’ and it takes a long time to wear a pair out.”

enlarge image Taylor Stephenson, Boone, Iowa
Taylor Stephenson, Boone, Iowa

“Thirty-three years’ continuous loyalty to one brand of overalls certainly speaks volumes for the quality of Carhartt's. In explaining the reasons for his preference, Mr. Stephenson says: ‘I like Carhartt's better than any other kind because they wash easier, shrink less and wear longer than any other brand I know of. Moreover, there is little or no difference in the quality. The pair you get today is just as good as the last pair you had.’”

These are some of the earliest examples of consumer feedback in the Carhartt Archive, but they definitely aren’t the only ones. People’s love for their Carhartt’s has taken many forms. In 1995, we received a letter from Joyce Bostwick of Findlay, Ohio. It included a poem titled “My Old Carhartt’s” – here’s an excerpt:

“Hello outdoors, it is now time for me to work and play,
With Carhartt’s, I am ready for whatever comes my way.”

In addition to written testimonials, we’re often lucky enough to have consumers send us the garments that go along with them. One of my favorite pieces was sent to us by John Sain of Bolivar, Tennessee.

enlarge image Patched overalls (originally brown duck), purchased 1976
Patched overalls (originally brown duck), purchased 1976

“I purchased these lined bib overalls in 1976. I’m a farmer, and my daily chores – driving a tractor, and planting and harvesting various crops – proved rather demanding on them, causing occasional rips and tears, but my wife always repaired the overalls as needed. Many years and many repairs later, she passed away. After a time, I developed a friendship with a neighbor who carried on the tradition of repairing the overalls before she too passed on. Now, twenty years later, the bibs have outlived both my wife and my neighbor so I thought it time to return the overalls to their Carhartt family.”

Truly, when it comes to Carhartt and our consumers, it’s a family affair. We patch them up for each other and we pass them down through generations. These types of stories are told throughout our world headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. Here’s just one example of what we see every day when we pass through the halls…

enlarge image Joiner family coat, purchased 1978
Joiner family coat, purchased 1978

This Duck Traditional Coat was purchased in 1978 by Roger Joiner from West Newfield, Maine. He wore this jacket on his family’s farm, at local nurseries, and on construction sites. In 2002, Roger started letting his sons Dan and Mike wear it for chore work like taking care of their animals, shoveling snow, and working on their trucks. Much like Jon, when they finally felt the coat had seen its last day of active duty, they decided to send it “home” to Carhartt.

And what better way to sum up an article about testimonials than to turn to those who sell our products in some of the world’s harshest conditions? We’ve got materials in the archive that date our presence in Alaska all the way back to circa 1915, during the construction of the Alaskan Railroad. More recently, in 1992, we received an extensive letter from Stephanie J. Hill of the Prudhoe Bay General Store, talking about the popularity of Carhartt products:

enlarge image Prudhoe Bay General Store/Brooks Range Supply, present day
Prudhoe Bay General Store/Brooks Range Supply, present day

“The oilfield workers here on the North Slope began requesting Carhartt’s from the very first day the store opened over 15 years ago… We and our customers soon realized that there is just no comparison to Carhartt Quality when it comes to Arctic Gear. They are the top of the line, here at the Top of the World – And for several years they are the only brand of Cotton Duck work clothes the Prudhoe Bay General Store sells!”

Here at Carhartt, we’ll never stop putting immense value on what we hear back from our consumers. Just ask Andi Donovan, Senior Vice President of Industrial Strategy and Customer Engagement: “One of our key values at Carhartt is to ‘Act Like Hamilton – Be Inspired by Hardworking People.’ As a result, we put the consumer at the center of everything we do. We invest a great deal of time and resources to understand our consumers’ unmet needs on a deep level. We have a very engaged community of consumers we call our Carhartt Crew, 5,000 members strong. This group of consumers give us valuable input we directly utilize to design Carhartt products and experiences that solves for their most important needs on the job.”

Products referenced in the article

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