Carhartt’s New Ad Chronicles the 127-Year Evolution of the Working Man

The brand targets its blue-collar audience

Headshot of Christine Birkner

Over the past few years, Carhartt, the workwear brand typically associated with heavy duty construction work and rugged outdoor pursuits, found itself being adopted by urban hipsters, as the so-called "maker movement" made its thick leather boots and heavily-lined jackets popular with city-dwelling millennials looking for style inspiration. The brand thus introduced a fashion-focused line called Work in Progress and opened a store in New York's SoHo in 2011.

Carhartt's latest ad, though, is a salute to the blue-collar working men who popularized the brand in the first place: truckers, lumberjacks, rodeo cowboys and hunters.

The spot chronicles Carhartt's 127-year history from 1889 to today, and includes historical replicas of its denim overalls, jackets and World War I service trousers, showing their role in working men's lives. It also includes a shot of San Francisco Giants pitcher and hunting and farming enthusiast Madison Bumgarner bowhunting on his North Carolina ranch. Bumgarner, a Carhartt fan, has been working with the brand for the past two years.

Carhartt's marketing team combed the company's archives and took inspiration from photos of founder Hamilton Carhartt traveling his sales route on horse and buggy to craft the spots, which were directed and produced by actor Jason Momoa—himself an outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing in rural Iowa.

"We really wanted to tell Hamilton's story, and tell the story of our innovation now," said Brian Bennett, creative director for Carhartt. "We treat workers like athletes. We've always been innovating and we've always been inspired by the worker and what they do."

Bennett considers young hipsters a small subset of Carhartt's customer base, but its main target audience is still made up of rural, blue-collar workers.

"Most of who we talk to, that guy is not in SoHo. I'm more concerned with getting the guy in Alaska to wear our stuff," he said. "But if a hipster's wearing it, and he's got a hard working attitude, I'm all for it."

@ChristineBirkne Christine Birkner is a Chicago-based freelance writer who covers marketing and advertising.