Carhartt is a U.S. based apparel company founded in 1889 in Detroit, Michigan. It was originally created to make durable work wear for manual laborers. Their initial slogan was “honest value for a honest dollar”. Carhartt is most well-known for their use of heavy-duty thread, reinforcing rivets (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rivet) at stress points, and a variety of durable, high technology materials resistant to flame, abrasion, and water. Carhartt historically is made for and marketed to the working man, the farmer, the miner, the construction worker, or the outdoorsman. However, more recently, pop-culture has taken ahold of Carhartt and now, famous rappers, actors, and young adults can be spotted wearing the Carhartt beanie (also known as the A18 Watch Hat) as well. The beanie comes in a variety of colors, and Carhartt describes the style as “timeless”. The beanie was born in 1987 and quickly became popular. Similar to other Carhartt products, this hat was designed “as a workwear essential” but “can now be found at construction sites and campgrounds, state fairs and football stadiums”. It is especially designed for colder temperatures, is soft to the touch, and stretchy to ensure a stay-put fit. These beanies are so popular that Carhartt claims, “The amount of A18’s we sell per year would be equivalent to giving two hats per person to the entire state of Maine. That’s a lot of hats.” That is a lot of hats that will eventually land up in a landfill too, which sparked my interest in researching the A18 Watch Hat.
The beanie is made out of 100% acrylic rib knit. Like many synthetic fabrics and fibers, acrylic yarn is made from plastic which means it does not breakdown easily. “The production of acrylonitrile (the main compound used in acrylic yarns) uses significant amounts of petroleum, majorly contributing to climate change and global warming.” Acrylic yarn is also harmful during its lifetime, since washing the material releases micro-plastics into the water each time it is washed. In addition, acrylic yarn can release carcinogens that can be absorbed through the skin while wearing it, posing a potential health risk as well. The one environmentally positive feature to this beanie is it’s ability to last. The hat will not need to be discarded as quickly as most knit hats; Carhatt claims that it is “sewn with extra-strong thread for durability.“ In my opinion, this is a great dal for $16.99.
I was unable to find any information on how Carhartt specifically makes their A18 Watch Beanies. However, most beanies are created by joining triangular panels of material at the crown and seaming them together around the sides. Beanies are meant to be cap-less and fit fairly tight so they often are made with an elastic material. When purchased in stores, the beanies do not contain any additional packaging besides the tags, although I am not sure how Carhartt specifically packages the beanies for delivery. Due to the simplicity of the hat and it’s durability, I assume that there is not a ton of additional packaging needed during the distribution phase.
Carhartt’s website advertises that: “We are keenly aware of the environmental and human rights challenges presented by global sourcing and we have taken a number of important steps to help ensure that our principles are upheld throughout the global network of factories supporting our business”. However, they do not give any specific examples of steps that combat these challenges besides that they created a conduct based on the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Carhartt prides itself on being “USA Made” and apparently “No brand makes more rugged workwear in the U.S. than Carhartt". This means that all of their products are manufactured in the United States. However, Carhartt's supply chain factories are located globally including but not limited to Mexico, Columbia, India, and Bangladesh. According to the website, “Carhartt-owned factories and its partners around the world must be certified to uphold the standards for fair labor practices, safe working conditions, and environmental responsibility.” However, there is no further information given about the types of certifications and standards outside of meeting the local laws and regulations.
Despite the lack of complete transparency about sustainability and workers rights on Carhartt’s website, they do provide detailed descriptions of how they help the Detroit community. Carhartt has partnered with various Detroit- based organizations. Carhartt describes the amount of money or shirts donated and their partnership strategies. They also admit: “We don't have all the answers. We've also never claimed to be perfect. But we do know that if we want to be better, we need to do a lot more for the different communities we serve and hardworking people everywhere. More listening. More understanding. More working with the right people, partners, and organizations that can help us put more words into action. Because we can be better. And even then, we can do more.”