From cowboys to celebrities, the everlasting appeal of Carhartt jackets


The first time I used Carhartt was six years ago. I was making a trip in early December to the "frozen Tundra" of Lambeau Field to watch the Green Bay Packers play and didn't have a heavy enough coat to deal with hostile elements.

My mother searched her closet and pulled out a green, faded, and blanket-covered Carhartt work jacket, which belonged to my late father, an electrician (and soccer officer). He had two splashes of white paint on the back and a chest pocket still full of what I called his blue pocket square: a handful of plastic ties that peeked from the top.

It was also huge in my 5 foot frame. But I was in trouble, and it was Green Bay, not cocktails at Donatella Versace's house.

On game day, sitting in the seats of the icy bleachers during that high pilgrimage of sacred pigskin, I felt both the physical warmth and the unexpected emotional warmth of my father's jacket. I got attached and kept using it when I returned to the Big Apple, despite looking like a little girl in disguise.

And boy, it got weird. The guys who seemed to worship at the altar of the Supreme stopped me in the street to congratulate my coat. Some even offered, in vain, to buy it because it had the characteristics of hard work. That was when I really began to understand that the attractiveness of the Carhartt coat goes beyond being a utilitarian workhorse.

Kirsten Fleming with her nephew.
Kirsten Fleming with her nephew.Kirsten Fleming

A few months later, a stylist friend surprised me with a new jacket at the brand "Carhartt Brown" of the brand that was left of a session. Fits So I passed my father's to my teenage nephew, who was excited to inherit it. And so, officially and accidentally I became a Carhartt girl.

But lately, the basic American workwear classic had subtly revealed itself as more than just a nostalgic tie for my father or a fetish among street wear enthusiasts. It has become the most unifying and universal garment, especially in these strangest and politically divisive times.

It is a piece that crosses socioeconomic, geographical and political lines and the demography of age. Celebrities like Kanye West and Cindy Crawford's model teenage daughter, Kaia Gerber, are often photographed in the same jackets as the dusty construction worker in the subway. The same style used by wealthy Manhattan residents, hyperactives and great children in Europe is the uniform for farmers and ranchers in rural America. And today, you can't walk a block in the city without seeing its logo on a coat, a jumpsuit or a hat: even babies in Brooklyn are shaking the brand's caps.

“Carhartt is the only brand that can transcend from the farmer's back to the boy who walks on Broadway; in a way that I don't even think Nike can, "Jeff Carvalho, co-founder of Highsnobiety, a site dedicated to fashion and urban fashion, tells The Post.

Although the clothing, which is made of rigid cotton canvas, comes in mostly muddy earth tones, it is red and blue.

"It's something I can use in my city north of the state [in Sullivan County], which is very red. I can relate to the person on the other side or to the farmer there. We all look the same. It is quite affordable and designed to last. "

Kaia Gerber
Kaia GerberGC images

Founded in 1889 in Detroit by Hamilton Carhartt, the company began manufacturing monkeys. His famous rigid duck canvas fabric became military work clothes during the first and second world wars and would become synonymous with the working class. In the 80s, it emerged on the hip hop scene, and in the late 90s, the brand launched its sharpest Work in Progress (WIP) edge outside Europe, which served the demanding crowd of fashionistas in a way that did not alienate to his blue-collar devotees, but they made the logo more visible in the style circles.

"It was crazy to see fashion boys in Carhartt who were normally afraid of getting dirty," says Mordechai Rubinstein, a costume consultant at "Uncut Gems" and street fashion photographer who has been covering the convergence of work clothes and clothes. man since 2008.

This idea crystallized in November when I met the 76-year-old Texan Tom Perini. The charming second-generation rancher, who turned his family home outside Abilene, Texas, into the world-famous Perini Ranch Steakhouse, was in New York to promote a cookbook. We met for breakfast, and wore my Carhartt on a turtleneck and jeans. He looked at me and said in disbelief: "Are you wearing a Carhartt? And if so, why did I buy a new blazer for my visit here? Why didn't I wear my Carhartt?"

For him, the coat was shorthand for sturdy jeans, so he was surprised to see a city jacket in one. I explained his popularity and influence in street clothes and joked that he was, unknowingly, a fashion icon.

“Wearing a worn out Carhartt is a badge of honor. It's a wonderful garment and I don't use that word very often, "says Perini." It's tough and durable, and I think the people who use it know what they are doing. "

It is even good enough for the presidents of both parties. In 2015, Barack Obama used one during a trip to Alaska. And Perini, who has cooked for former President George W. Bush at the White House and at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, said 43 is also a fan. But Perini gave Bush a little advice when he saw him wearing a new, crispy Carhartt jacket during the end of his tenure as governor of Texas: wash it.

“I casually suggested that he wash it. I think I smiled at him, but when you tell someone to wash his coat, it doesn't sound so good. I explained later that it will make it much softer. "

Carvalho agrees. Last spring, he was at a garage sale near his home in Sullivan County and stumbled upon the mother cargo: 20 pieces of Carhartt jackets and overalls worn by a rancher who brought cattle from northern New York State to Ontario, Canada, for four decades.

The clothes had the "vintage look that all fashion brands are trying to replicate now," he says. The rancher would only sell him the complete collection, which Carvalho bought. He kept some items, but had no trouble selling some jackets and overalls for $ 60 to $ 120 each. After all, connect "Carhartt vintage" on Instagram and thousands of "perfectly distressed" items appear for sale.

"Carhartt is part of the fabric of what the United States built," adds Carvalho. "It's something that anyone can use and understand for what it is."

Unlike many current brands, Carhartt has not entered politics or social movements. Their durable products speak for them. And although I don't think a simple jacket can cure us, it is worth noting that when people log in to social networks to fight, many of us wear the same uniform.

How to take care of your Carhartt

Perini, who still owns a 25-year-old white jacket faded with age, says that the best Carhartt is one that is very worn. You want to avoid a rigid look, "Tin Man," he says. "If a Carhartt is old and tattered, you know they have had it for a long time and it is for good reason."

The way he softens the initially rigid garment is simple: "I don't take it to the river and hit it with stones," he says with a smile.

Rather, wash the new jacket in the machine without detergent at least three times before machine drying. After decomposing and softening it, you will wash it with detergent only twice a year.