Field testing defined at Carhartt

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All photos Alan McGuckin

Hamilton Carhartt set out to clothe the workingman after starting his company in 1889. The first attempt was a bust, but the lessons learned are still at the core of how the iconic brand brings gear to market for work and play.

Hamilton Carhartt & Co. began 128 years ago with two sewing machines and five employees. America was in the midst of the Industrial Revolution. Factories prospered and so did railroads used to transport the goods. Trade workers dominated the workforce. They needed a tough garment to wear day in, day out, and that could stand up to smoke, sparks and locomotion.

The idea for a universal work bib overall was the brainchild of Carhartt. Yet his unfamiliarity of the needs of workers was the problem. Designing from the ground up would prove the better idea. Failure indeed led to success.

Carhartt visited job sites and watched workers in action. He returned with their feedback. The bib was redesigned with comfort, functionality and ruggedness in all the right places.

That core process remains in place after over a century with the now iconic brand. Find out what the user needs and then design, field test and refine until the product is fit for market.

Editor's note: See some of Carhartt's brand history.

What fishermen and hunters recognize as “field testing” has a very focused meaning at Carhartt. It doesn’t send prototype gear out to professionals to endorse and provide solicited feedback.

Instead, Carhartt relies on a select group of hardcore users to gain feedback on what they need in a garment. That happens even before making a prototype. They are unpaid. All are passionate about the brand. Scrutinizing the design, functionality and durability of every thread is expected from the top down.