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Carhartt – 135 Years in Detroit and Still Growing

Building on its Founders Legacy, Carhartt Designs Honest Value for an Honest Dollar


For this – our second in a series of Detroit iconic brands – we feature the working man’s brand de rigeur Carhartt.

Carhartt was established in Detroit in 1889 by Hamilton Carhartt and remains a privately held company today.

While Carhartt’s work ethics and ethos are so undeniably Detroit, their clothing transcends well beyond skilled tradespeople, becoming even what the “cool kids” wear.

DII was especially excited to sit down with their director of brand marketing, Katelyn Aubuchon to hear about it what makes it one of Detroit’s favorite brands.

DII: How do you think the fact that Carhartt’s roots are in Detroit shapes the brand?

Aubuchon: In the late 1800s when railroads were revolutionizing the transportation of goods and services, a traveling salesman, Hamilton Carhartt, spent time talking and listening to railroad engineers in Detroit and throughout the Midwest and soon discovered their need for high-quality workwear. Established in 1889 in a small loft in Detroit, Hamilton created a now-legendary bib overall and soon grew Carhartt to the new standard for quality workwear.

Under the motto “Honest value for an honest dollar,” Carhartt has been based in Detroit for 135 years and is defined by the values of its founder, who believed in quality – not just for the products, but also quality of life for workers everywhere. Throughout the 20th century, the Carhartt brand has continued to grow and build on its founder’s legacy – respecting the past, while walking bravely into the future.

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DII: Do you think people associate Carhartt with Detroit and vice versa?

Aubuchon: We’re proud to be founded in Detroit and call the city home after 135 years. Our mission has always been rooted in honesty, integrity and hard work – many of the same traits shared by the residents of Detroit. We’re committed to being active and engaged in the Detroit community, whether it’s through our community initiatives, our two company-owned retail locations to make our gear easily accessible for the hardworking people in Detroit or our company headquarters in Metro Detroit where all Carhartt product creation takes place. We hope those who wear Carhartt – whether here in Detroit or across the globe – do so with the understanding of what we stand for: the values of hard work and our commitment to everyday hard-working men and women.

DII: Carhartt exemplifies the “working man” – talk about how that plays out given the roots in Detroit.

Aubuchon: We believe those who wear the brand also embrace and have awareness of the hardworking values of Carhartt. That ethos is especially apparent here in Detroit, a resilient city where the people know what it means to put in an honest day’s work. By designing workwear that’s genuinely intended for use in the most trying conditions, and by never cutting corners in the process, Carhartt has become synonymous with quality, durability, and dependability – both here in Detroit and among a worldwide consumer base.

DII: How do you think Carhartt aligns with fashion in Detroit?

Aubuchon: Carhartt will always focus on the function of its workwear to ensure we’re making the most durable gear possible for all hardworking people. We’ve focused on what the worker needs and we haven’t wavered on our quality or durability to match trends. We’ve seen the younger generation resonate with our brand because of our authenticity and their desire to wear something that has history and a story. We’ll continue to embrace and address the ever-changing needs and skillsets of future generations, as we stay true to our values to make an authentic connection through work to help our consumers make their own histories.

DII: How do you think the fact that Carhartt is family-owned by native Detroiters makes the brand different?

Aubuchon: With more than 3,000 employees worldwide, Carhartt is still proud to be family-owned and managed by the descendants of the company’s founder, Hamilton Carhartt, to ensure his mission of building rugged products to serve and protect all hardworking people is carried through in every garment produced. A core value for all Carhartt employees is to “act like Hamilton Carhartt and be inspired by hardworking people.” Remaining family-owned has kept Hamilton’s values at the forefront of everything we do.

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DII: In what ways does Carhartt give back to the community?

Aubuchon: In Detroit, we have numerous community involvement programs, including two of which are located above our flagship store on Cass Ave. The “Carhartt Workshop” opened in 2020 as the first-of-its-kind collaborative community space and free tool rental workbench. A resource for Detroit and surrounding communities, more than 1,500 people from Southeast Detroit have utilized the rental inventory of over 1,000 tools to tackle their DIY projects. Additionally, we dedicated space and partnered with the Industrial Sewing and Innovation Center (ISAIC) in 2019, as they continue their mission to train hardworking people on the technologies of the garment manufacturing jobs of the future.

Carhartt’s “For The Love of Labor” grant program was designed to support nonprofit organizations that are dedicated to educating, training, and placing workers into meaningful skilled trade jobs that are critically needed. Since its launch on Labor Day 2022, the grant program has raised nearly $2 million to support workforce development, with a portion of the funding awarded to organizations here in Detroit. Carhartt also has a partnership with HBCU Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design in Detroit to sponsor their inaugural Masterclass program aimed at attracting Black youth to the footwear and apparel industries.

Carhartt has several additional community partnerships throughout Detroit, including with the Belle Isle Conservancy, American Forest, Thrive Outside, Buffalo Soldiers Historical Association, Downtown Boxing Gym and Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund to name a few, as we continue our commitment, building a more diverse and sustainable future for all hardworking people.Screen Shot 2024 03 25 at 8.28.50 AM

DII: If the brand could talk, what would it say about Detroit?

Aubuchon: Detroit has been our home for 135 years and we have a great connection and affinity to the city and its residents. Our deep roots have witnessed the rich history and culture of the city continue to grow. We’re proud to be part of the Detroit community and stand beside the hardworking men and women who call the Motor City home.


As always, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates on all things Detroit.

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