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Sweating the Details: Carhartt Beats the Heat

By Dave J. Moore, Brand Archivist and Historian

It’s summertime and it’s darn hot outside. Today, more than ever, our hardworking consumers are turning to us to help them weather the sweltering summer days. Although the Carhartt technologies that help wick sweat, regulate temperature, and fight odor are relatively new developments, we’ve been studying the heat for decades. The most technical garments we offer today are the product of years of adaptation and innovation.

Of course, we’ve always been known for our durable, heavy-duty brown duck fabric. But when we made our first foray into clothing for outdoors enthusiasts, we developed some new strategies to take the weight down. A great example (and a great name) was our Knockabout cloth. Made as an alternative to our heavyweight Super Dux hunting fabric, it was “nearly as waterproof and snagproof as SUPER DUX, yet weighs only one-fourth as much – a fabric that will appeal to every sportsman.”

enlarge image Knockabout Coat, 1931
Knockabout Coat, 1931

This idea of heavy- and lightweight counterparts was prevalent in our 1930s outdoor clothing line. Constructed of a lighter weight moleskin, the Camper’s Shirt provided an alternative to the Hunter’s Shirt, and was “ideal for summer wear for any sport.”

enlarge image Moleskin Shirts, 1931
Moleskin Shirts, 1931

Different fabrics were also the key to dealing with warmer environments and varying job requirements in our standard garment line. I pulled our 1952 catalog out of the archive as a representative example, describing materials of different weights. Let’s break it down – of course, you had our brown duck, weighing in the heaviest at 11 ounces. Next came our denim options, coming in a bit lighter at nine ounces. Finally, there was our white sail cloth, grey covert cloth, and fisher cloth, just a hair under the denim at eight ounces.

enlarge image Allovers [Coveralls], 1952
Allovers [Coveralls], 1952

Lighter fabrics and garments that were cut for warm weather wear certainly played into our marketing around that time as well.

enlarge image Carhartt advertisement, circa 1939
Carhartt advertisement, circa 1939

When the 1960s rolled around, we upped our game on warm weather options. We also got pretty creative with branding. Enter Master Gab: “Smart, medium weight gabardine construction for spring and summer work wear... Tailored to keep their rugged good looks, on the job, on the golf links, or just relaxing.” It was right at home among its companions in ’64, including Master Sheen, Master Twill, Master Cord, Master Craft, and of course the iconic Carhartt Master Cloth, pioneered by founder Hamilton himself.

enlarge image Master Gab pants, 1964
Master Gab pants, 1964

While Master Gab created an option for both on- and off-the-job wear, we also introduced some products that were solely casual. Our Surfers were geared toward a younger consumer. As the ad says, “young adults” were “on the march for CARHARTT’S.”

enlarge image Surfers, 1964
Surfers, 1964

By the early 1990s, we had cemented lightweight casual wear as a staple in the product line. Check out my previous article on Carhartt casual wear if you’d like to know more.

In 1988, we introduced one of our first products with advanced fabric technology. The Wick Dry Boot Sock was engineered to wick moisture away from feet naturally to keep them warm and dry. In 1995, it was joined by the Coolmax sock, which was also designed to push moisture away from the foot, but created specifically for warm weather wear. Constructed of 50% Coolmax polyester, 30% stretch nylon, and 20% cotton, it represented a huge step forward in comfort and movement. We continued to develop this product throughout the late ‘90s and ‘00s.

enlarge image CoolMax socks, Spring 2006
CoolMax socks, Spring 2006

The next logical step was to bring this Coolmax-type of technology into our main garment line. Enter Work-Dry: according to Carhartt VP of Product Development Deb Ferraro, “When developed, we of course had consumer need in mind. We were looking to introduce a lighter weight tee than the K87 that would be appropriate for hot weather.” The Work-Dry fabric, a special six ounce, 60% cotton, 40% polyester blend, was a huge step forward in combining legendary Carhartt durability with a new level of comfort for hot conditions.

enlarge image Work-Dry T-Shirt, Spring 2005
Work-Dry T-Shirt, Spring 2005

But here at Carhartt, we’re never satisfied. Product development is a non-stop process, based first and foremost on feedback from our hardworking consumers. We’re always looking to take our products to the next level, and in the case of gearing up for hot weather, that next level was Force®. The first Force® products were introduced in Spring 2013. The Delmont T-shirt was designed not only to be durable, keeping up the legacy of our classic K87, but also incorporated FastDry® (our most advanced moisture wicking technology to date) and Stain Breaker®. These were two extremely important attributes our consumer was looking for in their ideal T-shirt.

enlarge image Carhartt Force introduction, Spring 2013
Carhartt Force introduction, Spring 2013

We kicked Force® up another notch in Spring 2016 when we introduced Force Extremes®, which added 37.5® technology. This made Force Extremes® our fastest drying products yet. With both Force® and Force Extremes®, we focused on merging the performance aspects of athletic wear with classic Carhartt workwear durability. The end result? A hierarchy of product offerings that allow our consumers to get exactly what they need to do their job, especially when the thermometer starts to climb.

Products referenced in the article

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