Welcome to whatsgood. This is the fourth installment of a 5-part weekly series of articles. We’re going to deep-dive into the origins of some of the most influential streetwear brands worldwide.
Think of Fight Club. Think of Edward Norton and Tyler Durdon (Brad Pitt). One person, two personalities.
“[…] disorder in which two or more personalities with distinct memories and behavioural patterns apparently exist in one individual.”
That’s the definition of multiple-personality disorder. It’s not something to be taken lightly, but there’s really no better comparison to be made. Europe knows a fashion conscious and trendy streetwear Carhartt worn by skaters and BMX’ers. USA on the other hand knows only a workwear Carhartt that’s tough, plain and regularly seen on construction sites. Moreover, the prices are also very different — Carhartt workwear jeans range between $30–50, whereas the trendy European jeans range between €70–100. Complete rip-off, right!? Actually, not (explanation below).
So where does this craziness come from?
Hamilton Carhartt founded Carhartt in 1889. He failed. After getting back to the drawing-board, he spoke to railroad workers to see what they really needed. It worked. The brand became famous for it’s durable performance as well as edgy designs that made place for workers to carry their tools in, because tool belts were expensive.
Hamilton Carhartt grew to love cars. Result? He set up the Carhartt Automobile Corporation. Result? It failed. It failed hard. He needed to breathe new cash into the business, and WW1 gave him this opportunity. Carhartt offered his extensive network of factories to the millitary and manufactured their clothes. On came WW2 and Carhartt started to also produce denim for both the men and women serving.
The Great Depression almost destroyed the business. What saved Carhartt every single time? By focusing on strong materials, comfort, listening to his customers and never charging more than necessary. As put by Hamilton himself;
“Honest value for an honest dollar”
So, why the split personality?
Anti-fashion. Carhartt as a brand was the “workman’s clothes”. Not as aesthetically pleasing as other fashion houses, Carhartt gave outdoor workers comfort. It gave them inexpensive, yet durable. It gave them dependable and practical. So during the second-half of the 1900s, anti-establishment (i.e. anti-fashion) movements started wearing it as a big “F*CK YOU” to the world, fashion and advertising. Think of the punk, grunge and Hip Hop scenes. In fact, the brand still remains a household name in Hip Hop. These movements gave Carhartt a new perspective. A new shine. So they set up Carhartt WIP (Work In Progess). The goal? Make Carhartt fashionable in Asia and Europe.