Behind Carhartt’s Booming Year—From Workwear to Golden Globes Fashion

DURING FEBRUARY’S virtual Golden Globes, some actors including Christian Slater and Colin Farrell observed the suit-and-tie decorum of a more conventional award telecast. Others took this atypical Globes as an opportunity to shrug off formality. Among this casual crew was nominee Jeff Daniels, who appeared onscreen in a flannel shirt by Carhartt, the 132-year-old workwear label from his home state of Michigan. “Thanks to the #Golden Globes for allowing me to fulfill a life long [sic] dream of going to an Awards Show wearing Carhartt,” the affable actor tweeted after the show. Later in the night’s proceedings, Carhartt would appear again—fellow nominee Glenn Close also wore one of the label’s flannels while Zooming in from her home in Bozeman, Mont.

Linda Hubbard, Carhartt’s COO and president, was not watching the Globes live, but a flurry of texts tipped her off to Carhartt’s unexpected moment in the Hollywood spotlight. “It was certainly nice to see the brand there and not normally where you would expect to see Carhartt worn,” she said. To her, Carhartt’s primetime cameos were an indication of the brand’s surprisingly strong year, one of many. Privately owned, Carhartt does not disclose direct sales figures, but Ms. Hubbard described 2020 as a “growth year.”

Carhartt, she said, proved well-positioned to weather the retail downturn that plagued so many clothing labels through 2020. For starters, the label’s core customers remain blue-collar workers like electricians and linemen, the exact sorts of Americans whose jobs were deemed essential at the pandemic’s start. The label is heavily stocked at equipment stores like the nationwide chain Tractor Supply Co. , which cater to such workers and largely remained open when other stores were temporarily closed nationwide.

According to Ms. Hubbard, Carhartt’s e-commerce business never slowed through 2020 and even picked up when the first round of stimulus checks hit some customers’ bank accounts. “Certainly the stimulus payments, I think, helped people have some extra money to spend and maybe treat themselves to a Carhartt T-shirt or something like that,” she said.

Also boosting Carhartt’s business was the label’s growing cultural clout. In recent years, Carhartt’s fan base has grown well beyond its Tractor Supply core. Though Mr. Daniels might have the distinction of being the first actor to don Carhartt at an awards show, the paparazzi have captured many other stars—from Kanye West to Rihanna to retired actor Daniel Day-Lewis—in Carhartt in recent years. Though Ms. Hubbard doesn’t directly link these pop cultural moments to boosts in sales, she noted that they help “create brand awareness” in new market segments.

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