Suddenly Obsessed

How Carhartt became an American fashion icon

How a $16 hat made Carhartt a billion-dollar brand
How a $16 hat made Carhartt a billion-dollar brand

Carhartt has been the unofficial uniform of many of America's hard-working laborers since 1889.

Carhartt got its start outfitting railroad workers with overalls, but as the company expanded its product line to include canvas pants and jackets, everyone from farmers to construction workers started wearing the rugged clothing. 

But Carhartt isn't just some dusty legacy brand. Since the hip-hop community adopted the workwear style in the late 1980s, Carhartt gear has become a fashion staple.  

In 1989, two Swiss designers, Edwin and Salomee Faeh, struck a licensing deal with Carhartt to create a tailored line of clothing called Work in Progress, featuring slimmer fits, a streetwear aesthetic and steeper price tags.

The fashion-forward line put the Carhartt brand in front of an entirely new customer base: streetwear enthusiasts. While workers were attracted to the functionality of Carhartt's clothing. Hypebeasts were drawn to the authenticity of the brand.

Today, between Carhartt and Work In Progress, it's almost impossible to walk around any major city from Brooklyn and Los Angles to Tokyo and London without seeing Carhartt's famous square logo on coats, t-shirts and jackets. But the Carhartt watch cap is by far original brand's most popular product Carhartt says it sells about 4 million of the knit hats a year. In 2019, Carhartt says it generated just over $1 billion in revenue.

A wide range of celebrities from Jamie Foxx and Kanye West to Rihanna, Bella Hadid and Drake all wear Carhartt gear.

How did Carhartt become so popular with America's workers? Watch the video above to learn how Carhartt became a cultural phenomenon. 

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