Little Known History of Carhartt Jackets
While you are on a construction site wearing a Carhartt hoodie or jacket and looking down at the Carhartt logo, you wonder what Carhartt's history was? You may think Carhartt is a brand for 20-30 years of age. Nope, you are almost 100 years off that guess. In 1889 Carhartt was founded by Hamilton Carhartt in Detroit, Michigan. Carhartt's started with two embroidery machines and six employees and was similar to Northwest Custom's beginning, but 100 years earlier. Old man Carhartt had a saying, "Honest value for an honest dollar." that resonated with many laborers in the Detroit area.
The 1890s were booming for Carhartt, with the Trans Northern Railroad laying track only 2 miles from Carhartt's original manufacturing site. The site was perfect for Carhartt to sell jackets to the railway workers. Plus, being so close to the rail tracks, he could ship his jackets to the West Coast. Carhartt's expansion grew to 8 facilities around the country and continued growing until the Great Depression hit.
The railroad opens up the West for Carhartt
Carhartt in the Great Depression
The Great Depression did thousands of businesses to close down and send their workers packing. Carhartt wasn't immune to this either; however, they pivoted and refocused on new customers and products. Carhartt closed down its jacket manufacturing facilities and started to make canvas tents from the same fabric as their jackets. The tents were for the workers of Roosevelt's "New Deal" program, the WPA (Works Progress Administration). President Roosevelt executed the WPA in May of 1935 to lift the bludgeoned economy out of the Depression. The Carhartt and the "New Deal" put thousands of workers back into Carhartt's factories, weaving canvas and sewing together tents for the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp). The CCC would cut trails in the newly formed National Park System. The CCC workers would again wear the Carhartt jacket and camp in the tents manufactured by Carhartt. It was a boom for Carhartt and its employees, who remained employed before leaving to fight in World War 2 in the early 1940s.
World War II and Carhartt
The boom of the Great Depression and Roosevelt's New Deal had Carhartt riding on cloud nine financially before World War II started and drafting many male employees. Luckily, Carhartt could retain many female seamstresses and hire additional "Sally the Seamstresses" to work while the men were fighting off Adolph Hitler. World War II was even a better deal for Carhartt than the Great Depression by sewing military uniforms, such as cold weather jackets for European battles in winter. The soldiers liked the Carhartt jacket for its warmth and durability during the battles. One soldier even claimed that the jacket was so durable that a German round bounced off the jacket, saving his life. When World Two was over, Hamilton Carhartt was in his mid-90s and resigned from the day-to-day operations by turning the reigns of Carhartt over to his eldest son, Vinny.
Carhartt Custom Embroidery
Custom embroidery on the Carhartt jacket craze started in 1977 when constructing the Trans Atlantic Pipeline in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Nearly every pipeline worker demanded Carhartt embroidered jackets for employee identification and, more notably, staying warm in the sub-zero temperatures of Alaska. Northwest Custom Apparels founder, Jim Mickelson, started his company also in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Jim initially worked for the Atlantic Richfield company as a project manager based out of Tacoma and worked two weeks per month in Prudhoe Bay. Jim would sell embroidered trucker caps to coworkers and other oil companies up north. Like Carhartt, the pipeline workers wanted a warm sturdy baseball cap to keep their heads warm in the arctic.
Carhartt in the 2020s and beyond
Carhartt is known for its industrial embroidered work jackets that construction workers find a necessity to wear on the job sites. The popular colors of Carhartt jackets are the muted earth tone brown canvas jacket. The jackets are stiff, durable, and long-lasting but difficult to hoop and embroider. Embroidery companies must use special heavy-duty locking frames that are extremely expensive and only trained operators can use. Northwest Custom Apparel's staff is trained in using the Carhartt embroidery frames and is able to frame the stiffest jacket or bag.
Erik Mickelson is a 2nd generation embroider and has been in the industry since 1997. Northwest Custom Apparel is a supplier of Embroidered Carhartt Jackets, t-shirts and caps.
Carhartt embroidery is a necessity for my HVAC employees during service calls to identify our company and address any safety concerns.
Erik Mickelson ,the Operations Manager since 1996 is a 2nd generation embroider. Erik started fulltime in his family's company after is graduation from Washington State University in 1996.