Thursday, October 1, 2009
If you don’t live in Alaska or don’t spend most of your day working outside for a living, you may not be familiar with the Carhartt line of clothing. According to the company’s mission statement, their clothing is designed for the “active worker.” The company has been dressing farmers, steel workers, welders, and linemen for 120 years. Its line of outdoor and indoor wear is extensive and includes fetching items such as camouflage coveralls, khaki cargo shorts, red cotton union suits (complete with rear flap), fleece headbands, knit hats, toddler's washed duck dungarees, flame resistant hooded sweat jackets, Class 3 high visibility rain jackets, and steel toe work boots.
The functionality, ruggedness, and durability of Carhartt clothing is legendary. The company's website is chock-full of testimonials from people with "rugged jobs" who love their Carhartts. There are also many reports about the clothing in both the blogosphere and traditional news media that sound more like tall tales and urban myths. Carhartt outerwear has saved the lives of people in bear and walrus attacks. A YouTube video provides a firsthand account a man whose life and limbs were saved during a meat grinder accident, all thanks to the durability of his Carhartt jacket. A news report tells of a Dillingham bush pilot whose plane crashed, leaving him with as many broken bones in his body as you can think of. In the end, he didn't freeze to death during his long wait to be found in the Alaska wilds because he was dressed head to toe in Carhartts outerwear and underwear. A 2002 Outside magazine article documents many more tales of near-death experiences from Carhartt wearers in Talkeetna.
Like no other clothing line, Carhartt has a central place in the heart and culture of our state. Talkeetna hosts a Carhartt Ball in which formal wear is replaced by the grubbiest, grimiest, well-loved Carhartt items in your wardrobe. The Alaska State Fair holds multiple Carhartt events, including the Carhartt Fashion Show; the Crusty Carhartt Tales competition, in which you show the nasty beating your Carhartts have taken and tell the tale; and the Carhartt Relay Race, where eager competitors vie for valued Carhartt merchandise. Musical entertainment for many of these events is provided by Alaska's own Carhartt Brothers bluegrass band. You don't have to try very hard or go very far to be part of the Carhartt culture in Alaska, either. There are 32 retailers selling Carhartt clothing within 20 miles of my lovely little suburban town of Eagle River.
(Election day photo courtesy of the Anchorage Daily News and photographer Bill Roth. Thank you!)