I made my kids wear Carhartts and I'm not sorry

By Amy C. Cosper

Carhartt is about as American as it gets. The iconic, fifth-generation family business employs more than 5,000 people worldwide. Its global footprint reaches into every corner of the world. It has managed to stay relevant over its 125 years through grit and determination — and a DNA strand that runs deep. Its history reads like a Bruce Springsteen album sounds: steel, grit and a vibe so American you can taste the Coors Light.

The company makes gear and apparel for tough people who do challenging things like making steel, capturing cows, fighting fires and working on railways. It even has a line called “flame-resistant bibs.” Not the stuff of Anna Wintour’s portfolio. However, the timeless toughness of Carhartt products makes the brand a pop culture favorite.

I didn’t know Carhartt’s history until recently. But when my kids were little and thus malleable in the ways of chores and fashion, I put them in Carhartt overalls. Not to be mean or anything. It was an issue of practicality. We live on a ranch, and that means working outside, getting dirty and fighting the elements. Sadly, fashion-forward is not an option. The children? Well, they were not pleased.

As a point of clarification, it’s not just the kids sporting the farm look around these parts. My husband wears a pair of Carhartt bibs that protect him from lopping his legs off with a chainsaw. This seems like an important feature. And let me tell you, when he’s in his overalls carrying a chainsaw, he looks like a madman. But I am happy to report that to date, both his legs are intact, so I guess the overalls are working.

Over time, my kids stopped being malleable and stopped being cute. They staged an uprising against Carhartt bibs — preferring, instead, low-slung, hole-riddled jeans. It happens. But then one day a few years after the Carhartt trauma of their childhood, my snowboarding brood announced collectively they would wear only Carhartt beanies on their heads to “ride snow.” The iconic brand, it seems, is now not only acceptable, but cool and preferred — at least among the snowboarding set. The circle of life is now complete.

We all know that family businesses are the very fabric of our economy and our culture. And sometimes these brands touch and improve our lives in unexpected ways. This is my hat tip to that grit.

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