How Carhartt's Cooler Younger Brother, Carhartt WIP, was Born


Everyone knows Carhartt for the durable workwear they’ve manufactured for over a hundred years, but not everyone knows about their other line, Carhartt WIP. Their main line made a name for themselves as pioneers of workwear in the United States, after being founded in 1889 by Hamilton Carhartt. WIP however is largely responsible for the workwear style you sometimes see in streetwear.

In 1989, exactly 100 years after the establishment of Carhartt, the WIP line was created, though it wasn’t started by Carhartt themselves. The workwear trailblazers would be visited by Edwin and Salomée Faeh, two German designers, which would see a deal to have them represent Carhartt in Europe. Initially, they would sell Carhartt’s regular products, and it wasn’t until 1994 they would be granted a licence to create their own line from their owners. And thus, Carhartt Work In Progress was born.


 Old Carhartt workwear advertisement

Sticking with the workwear style, WIP would take a small step back from extreme durability and functionality, and a big step towards being a fashion forward line. The German designers would base designs off of original Carhartt products, refining their characteristics to cater to a different type of audience.

As Work In Progress kicked off, it would quickly start being worn by those in the hip-hop and skate scenes respectively. The adoption of WIP by these groups who ultimately paved the way for streetwear as a style allowed the brand to grow into what it is today. Influencing tons of streetwear brands that have come since, with their classic products such as the Michigan coat or their aviation cargo pants.


Michigan chore coat in black from Carhartt WIP's F/W21: Icons shoot

From cementing themselves as somewhat pioneers in the streetwear scene as well, their status would land Carhartt WIP tons of collaborative partnerships along the way. With luxury brands such as Comme des Garçons, Vetements, and Junya Watanabe to streetwear and skate brands like Vans, Patta, and Polar Skate Co.


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