Workwear from Way Back | H.W. Carter & Sons

I first heard a few month’s back that Greg Chapman (who most recently launched the Perfecto Brand for Schott NYC), Nate Warkentin and Chris Grodzki (from Stanley & Sons) were all working together on a new collection of workwear called H.W. Carter & Sons. The thing was, it wasn’t necessarily all new. The mark and rights to H.W. Carter & Sons was acquired and Greg, Nate and Chris got together to put a collection together and relaunch the company, one of America’s oldest work clothing makers. Along the way Greg came to me for some marketing help and we (by we I mean Paul + Williams) started working with the brand (full disclosure and all that good stuff). The interesting thing is, H.W. Carter’s & Sons is an old company. Originally founded back in 1859 by Henry W. Carter in Lebanon, New Hampshire it soon after became widely regarded (especially in New England) for its overalls and workwear. Henry Carter himself became widely known as a showman and extravagant fellow, often marketing his company wildly throughout the Northeast.

This initial capsule collection, which just launching online and in stores (Unionmade, Context, Smith & Butler, Portland Dry Goods) spring summer season, is made up of some work wear staples like chore coats, utility shirts, aprons, work trousers and bandanas are all made in America based on historical H.W. Carter & Son pieces. As someone that loves American workwear (even if it has been supplanted on the Tumblrs by Neapolitan tailoring), this launch is an exciting undertaking by three talented guys. I’m proud to have helped it all come together and also to see people’s response to the new fall 2012 collection (which is a much bigger collection and more representative of what Greg, Nate & Chris can do) which is being shown this week for the first time at Capsule. What H.W. Carter & Sons has done is classic workwear, something that I really love and something I always said I will continue to support. [H.W. Carter & Sons]

Comments on “Workwear from Way Back | H.W. Carter & Sons

    Nikki Williams on January 16, 2012 1:11 PM:

    Love the little pockets and that striped material.

    Richard Williams on January 16, 2012 1:49 PM:

    A $25 bandana? I love quality and American made but, please – that’s quite ridiculous.

    Max on January 16, 2012 2:41 PM:

    Congrats to Mr. Chapman & Co.

    horney goat on January 16, 2012 3:24 PM:

    chapman is a pleb and everyone in london will tell you that, funny how you yanks have taken him onboard- says alot

    Greg on January 16, 2012 3:57 PM:

    This whole ‘reincarnated brand’ thing is getting a bit boring now, just another try hard marketing effort to fool hipsters into thinking they are buying ‘heritage’ goods.

    125 bucks for a bib!!!?

    “Street value 125 bucks, F***ing Rad value ZERO! “

    mat buckets on January 16, 2012 4:00 PM:

    that’s great man, nice to be involved

    A. Frankel on January 16, 2012 4:24 PM:

    The Stanley & Son’s influence shows through pretty heavily. The apron’s the same cut with the exception of standardized pocket locations and a notch at the neck.

    Ray Hull on January 16, 2012 4:29 PM:

    Speaking of purchasing trademarks, how about that “union made” phrase? Is that considered just brand words or a legal description that has to be met?

    Yudum Phuckk on January 16, 2012 5:02 PM:

    You gotta be kidding me – I can buy a similar made in America Apron for about 20 bucks.

    Mike on January 16, 2012 5:11 PM:

    Kinda boring. And the price is insane, dickies make a sweet apron with brass grommets for $15

    J. Bailey on January 16, 2012 6:32 PM:

    So wait, all they sell is aprons and bandannas? I’m all for American Made, but $150 (after shipping) for something I’d wear for the soul reason to let THAT get ruined instead of my nice clothes is insane! I can’t believe nobody spoke out against the idea to launch a brand with just different sized bibs. This is hilarious.

    Bob Corrigan on January 16, 2012 9:01 PM:

    That pocket is just big enough for a Smythson notebook, as discussed previously on A Continuous Lean. They should go quite nicely together.

    dintx on January 16, 2012 11:52 PM:

    yes – this seems goofy. i just bought a made in usa roundhouse apron last week for less than $15 bucks at the army navy store – i would expect to get at least 5 to10 years out of it. and i can find made in the usa bandanas at the thrift for less than a buck – some vintage. and you say they’ll make chore coats soon… well, pointer brand – profiled here – is a “real” heritage brand still trying to make it on chore coats and overalls and they are less than $100 and last forever. i’d rather support the real deal that this stuff…

    Peter on January 17, 2012 10:10 AM:

    I dunno, that chore coat looks particularly well cut. There’s got to be a middle ground between the $69.99 Pointer/Carhartt fat guy cut and $400 for Post O’alls and Mister Freedom, right?

    As for branding — I might have suggested expanding the Schott Made in USA collection to include these items.

    Stefan on January 17, 2012 10:45 AM:

    This stuff looks great, and I presume it is extremely well made. However, I have to agree with Mike et al. that there is a fine line between a well made product and overhyped heritage wear verging on preciosity. I understand that this is a client and part of the reason they want to work with Paul + Williams is surely to be (deservedly) rewarded for their hard work and excellent products.

    Fine craftsmanship and fine design are often worth the investment. Are these products worth $100 more than a roundhouse or Dickies, etc. option? Maybe. But at a certain point this is either workwear or a frivolous affectation–though I suppose some might find it fun to play at being a flaneur in a denim apron?

    jdg on January 17, 2012 10:47 AM:

    there is something exceptionally perverse about a $150 work apron.

    allen273 on January 17, 2012 10:51 AM:

    Anyone who buys this stuff should get the Ned-Beatty-in-Deliverance treatment

    Chris on January 17, 2012 11:05 AM:

    I am sure someone is going to think I am “special”, but the two buttons holes toward the top of the chore coat? Explain? Thanks!

    Brian on January 17, 2012 11:17 AM:

    Judging by the price, this is workwear for people who don’t actually do any kind of physical labor. I bet it will pair nicely with those axes people buy just to hang on the wall.

    Really? on January 17, 2012 12:42 PM:

    because the world needs another brand that sells 150 dollar faux workwear luxury aprons. what’s the difference between carter’s and stanly & sons?
    with so many well established quality heritage brands around, you would think they would put more thought in to the initial collection. maybe a little less marketing and a little more design. if you’re coming to the market with a single recycled idea, good luck. these dudes are total amateurs.

    jfox/10e on January 17, 2012 1:09 PM:
    Henrik on January 17, 2012 1:46 PM:

    HAHA! @Brian – 110% agree with your statement.

    jj on January 17, 2012 2:09 PM:

    Speaking of work wear, here’s a cool place that makes furniture. The owner has a couple of blogs. While reading his pages I thought you might enjoy his stuff too.

    jiheison on January 17, 2012 4:02 PM:

    Screw “value”.

    It would be easy to knock these out for $20 a piece. Then what? Nobody is going to make a living selling $20 aprons. Maybe with as a sideline to a larger manufacturing operation (Pointer, RoundHouse, etc.), but only so many companies can work that way.

    If you don’t need an apron (or maybe if you really need one so much that you wear them out) $150 is probably not your price-point.

    Otherwise, consider it an investment in a world where you can buy something other than what Walmart can squeeze the largest margin out of. Or, better yet, an investment in a world where people can make a living doing something other than pushing other peoples money around.

    $150 isn’t what it takes to make these aprons. Its what it takes to make it worth someone’s while to make these aprons, just like $400 is what it takes to make it worth some hipster artisan’s time to sew >$40 (guessing) worth of denim into a pair of jeans.

    I’d rather be a fool decked out in precious artisinal workwear than stand on either side of the register at the mall.

    great zamboni on January 17, 2012 4:42 PM:

    The end of the empire is definitely nigh, get out the fiddles.

    Billie on January 17, 2012 5:01 PM:

    Whoa. A lot of negative comments! And I agree with the sentiment of most of ’em. That being said if I was ever to wear a work apron these ones look pretty nice. But I do a lot of “real” work and I know a lot of guys who also do “real” work for a living and none of them wear aprons! That would just be too funny. Like showing up on the job in a pair of Redwings and a $350 Billy Kirk shirt. But that’s not really the point of stuff like this. It’s about playing dress-up. Ridiculously expensive dress-up.

    Andrea on January 17, 2012 11:18 PM:

    You know, this is beginning to feel sort of like historical re-enactment. Next thing you know, somebody’s going to come up with the bright idea of setting up a saw mill and charge folks $125 an hour to risk getting a finger lopped off making shingles.

    Gary on January 18, 2012 2:33 PM:

    This is an interesting point and I think jiheison has the right idea. These items, like Best Made axes, are not the same as a $20 apron, or a $80 axe, even one that’s made in the USA by unionized employees.

    An item like this is more akin to an art project. It has a practical use, and it deserves to BE used, but its existence is absolutely counter to the direction of cheaper-faster-obsolescent in consumer goods. It is NOT industrially made.

    It’s not so much that this, or a Smythson notebook, or a Best Made axe are too expensive, it’s that what we think of as a ‘reasonably priced’ item is too CHEAP. What happens when this is a $20 item, or a $50 item? It means it’s worth that much. It becomes a disposable item that you throw away if it gets ripped and buy another. For $20. Or you keep it stuffed in a drawer somewhere.

    A hundred and fifty years ago when you bought your clothes from the guy down the street you probably paid the equivalent of a day or two’s wages in local currency at the time. But you knew he was the one that made it and he was living in the same kind of house you were. And you knew you only had to buy one. And if he sold two or three items a day, and it takes him a day to put two or three items together, he’s earning a reasonable wage.

    William Morris knew all this in the 1880s. We’re just recapitulating the Arts and Crafts movement here. I bet $125 isn’t that much of a profit margin considering the labor going into it. I feel perversely better over spending that much on an apron (if I needed one) than I would in spending $125 on a jacket that probably was put together for $15 somewhere by god knows who and every middleman from here to Beijing is taking a taste.

    Now, if I’m completely wrong, and this stuff is also stitched together in China out of low grade materials by near-slave labor and sold at an immense profit, like a $50 ralph lauren polo shirt, then fuck it.

    Gary on January 18, 2012 4:10 PM:

    And yes Dickies or whoever can make similar things for 1/5 the price, even in the US. That’s called economies of scale. If you want to support independent manufacturing early on then it means paying more. This is a DIFFERENT WAY of doing things than we have been. it means buying less stuff and considering carefully the items you do buy.

    I might like a little more transparency in what they’re actually doing. Where does that $125 go? We’re big boys. We can take it.

    Ctbenton on January 18, 2012 5:51 PM:

    All this fake vintage stuff is starting to get old. $475 for short brown work boots. $375 for dark blue denim jeans, and $150 apron. It costs a lot of money to look like you work hard for a living while you post on your blog from your iPhone.

    stefan on January 18, 2012 5:57 PM:

    I agree that independent manufacturing can be a very good thing, and it is great to see quality goods being made in the US by people with a keen eye for style/design. I also agree that it would be nice to know more about the production and manufacturing of these pricey goods.

    But I don’t agree that these denim aprons point towards a “DIFFERENT WAY”–certainly nothing like the socialist utopia William Morris and the arts & crafts movement envisioned. These are luxury goods. ACL is a well run/curated luxury goods blog promoting a vintage/heritage/rugged Americana aesthetic These are luxury denim aprons. And there is something decidedly strange about the existence of such a product.

    Gary on January 18, 2012 7:21 PM:

    It is interesting that these vintage workwear makers of the late 19th and early 20th century that we hold up now as the last bastion of quality, authenticity and heritage are EXACTLY the same people the the William Morrises and Rennie Mackintoshes of the world railed against, they hated those big denim mills and brickwork factories and what not that look so cool and vintage now. The quality, hand-made goods that the Arts & Crafts people liked were made with MEDIEVAL technology, hand looms, etc. by individual craftspeople and small guilds. They were even hipper!

    So maybe this doesn’t go back far ENOUGH! I demand 14th century style, not 19th ! I’m rocking a venison leather tunic this year!

    Brian on January 18, 2012 7:36 PM:

    Gary: your point about Best Made axes is pretty poor. If we’re looking for a “DIFFERENT WAY” of doing things, you’d damn well better hope your huge paradigm shift is something other than a couple dudes buying ax heads from one manufacturer, handles from another, painting a design on them, and then selling them for at least 3x the price they paid for the materials. The fact that they charge that doesn’t mean that other things are too cheap. It just means there are suckers out there. While there is much to commend paying more for products that support practices and manufacturing in the U.S. undertaken in responsible ways, there’s nothing honorable in paying way too much for the hucksterism of a cobbled together backstory that is supposed to make mundane goods special and justify a hugely inflated price.

    Le Brook on January 18, 2012 7:51 PM:

    Haters gon hate.

    Gary on January 18, 2012 7:54 PM:

    stefan – William Morris made expensive luxury goods for upper middle class clientele, and struggled for his entire career with the fact that the the production methods he favored were far too expensive for the masses to afford. It really bothered him and was a big part of his politics.

    Ramirez on January 18, 2012 8:28 PM:

    I got 20$ worth (3 yards) of selvedge denim from Shuttle Loom Denim, and made my own apron in a few hours, rivets, copper grommets, and heavy canvas.

    I work in it all the time. Just cause your a manual laborer, doesn’t mean you can’t look good.

    Michael on January 18, 2012 8:36 PM:

    Authenticity please.

    Andrea on January 18, 2012 10:02 PM:

    For those of you without direct experience in the needle trades, let me give you a point of reference. Last month I made a denim work apron from a vintage home sewing pattern. Total time spent from cutting out to giving it a final pressing: four hours, and that includes two hand worked button holes because I couldn’t find my grommet setter. Using industrial equipment, I rather doubt the Carter aprons take that much time.

    My guess is that some of our grousing is really just sour grapes – gosh, I wish *I’d* been clever enough to buy the rights to the Carter name and cash in.

    But there does seem to be a strange wind blowing in which we’re moving away from supporting old line American manufacturers to attempting to recreate a sepia-toned past that never existed.

    Simon on January 19, 2012 5:55 AM:

    Seriously people, relax.

    It’s only clothes, we are talking about. And these look good, are (very likely) properly made and done by some good people, so what’s not to like.

    Kudos on the nice job to the people behind it.


    Noble County Gold on January 19, 2012 6:10 AM:

    You have done it again, getting people riled up about the $ of an item. (Smythson Notebook) Keep them coming!

    (Oh, and I’ll be buying one, to wear while I do nothing but ‘think’ about manual labor, looking at my $450 ax hung on the wall, over my $1500 vintage turntable that I don’t use.)

    George S. on January 19, 2012 11:12 AM:


    The pretentiousness of making some aprons, calling it “heritage”, and then charging an ungodly amount for an apron because it is self-proclaimed “heritage” is what is not to like.

    If it was say an actual 100 year old apron…yeah…charge more because it actually is “authentic”..and actually is “heritage”

    Hook on January 19, 2012 1:05 PM:

    I suspect you can make a pretty good living marketing this stuff, but is there any money in manufacturing it?

    jiheison on January 19, 2012 1:16 PM:


    $150 doesn’t seem so outrageous for four hours of labor, plus materials. Sure, you could cut the time using industrial equipment, but then you have to buy, house, power and maintain that equipment.

    If someone was able to do this full time, that would add up to an above-average salary, but niche markets don’t necessarily support full time production.

    Making things takes time. The only ways to cut down on that time is by mechanizing, which takes money, or relying on higher levels of skill, which also takes money. Its only by economies of scale that costs are really driven down, and once that mindset takes over, cheap materials, cut corners and exploitative labor practices seem to follow.

    If someone thinks that denim aprons or axes are a silly affectation, so be it. I’d bet that there is at least one product that any person could think of that is worth what it costs to have a dedicated artisan make it — specialty foods, booze, musical instruments, furniture, bicycles, etc.

    Gary on January 19, 2012 3:35 PM:

    I can go to Ikea and get a dining room table for $100, or I can go to a designer and pay $1500 for one or I can buy an antique for $5000. All tables will hold something off the floor equally well. Is the antique worth 50 times the ikea table? Is this worth 5 times a Dickies apron?

    Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. That’s a question only you can answer for yourself. People fall all over themselves on this blog’s comments to dismiss whatever’s on it and sniff at everything posted that’s an actual product. Have you not been reading ACL all these years?

    henrik on January 19, 2012 4:04 PM:

    this thread has definitely kept me entertained during my lunch break.

    @ Ctbenton, LOFL!

    Billie on January 19, 2012 7:20 PM:

    43 comments about aprons. Hilarious.

    david himel on January 19, 2012 11:02 PM:

    wabi sabi…look it up. The Japanese revere the simple utilitarian aesthetic of organic materials assembled minimalistically reflecting and embodieing the soul of the object..from its birth to its decay and eventual death. If well made, with beautiful simplicity with all its flaws and repairs and decay then it is a thing worth having. So the question is…do these items embue the beauty of wellmadeness, simplicity, organic nature of the best simplist materials, do the characterize the beauty of an object the will create a longing in their passing…that is how the vintage craze started…that and a bunch of older immigrant jewish folks trying to outcompete each other on quality and function using well made materials…so in the end American is really a fiction or maybe just a lost signifier adrift in a see of branding

    david himel on January 19, 2012 11:02 PM:

    sorry for the bad spelling

    Greg D. on January 20, 2012 9:45 AM:

    Hey, anyone see the new Hill Side scarves?

    Gary on January 20, 2012 11:19 AM:

    Heh, this is $13 cheaper than the Stanley and Sons apron. And they’re out of stock! Someone’s buying ’em.–sons/product/brown-selvedge-duck-cloth-apron-w–leather-straps

    Bob Corrigan on January 21, 2012 1:55 PM:

    Vintage brands are premium brands are premium priced, and that’s OK. Just so long as the marketing doesn’t position those products for “everyman”, because “everyman” rolls his eyes at premium price points.

    The shame is that quality was something that everyone could afford when things were made by hand, not so anymore. Or is that wishful thinking on my part? Has 90% of everything *always* been crap?

    david himel on January 21, 2012 5:02 PM:

    @bob…hmmm two issues in your comments…one…premium price does not always mean premium quality…more often then not it is just premium branding. Quality and branding are often at odds…the number one rule in advertising is “advertise what you are not” because most already know what you are. Second…the old days…or the early days of North American Industrial Clothing…the drive was to develop better ways to produce better clothing faster and cheaper…not poorer quality. That approach is no longer relevant in the world of “BRANDING” and fast fashion. I dont know if that helps or not…and it is just my two cents
    Dave Himel
    Himel Bros. Leather

    charlie on January 22, 2012 12:11 PM:

    Agreeably…….$150.00 is a little steep. what we have is a replica of an historic piece of Americana some, it could be looked at as a work of art. I think Greg, Nate and Chris did a very good job. If you have the money and are willing to pay it. buy it. I have been involved in designing and manufacturing clothing in the USA my entire life. (I’m likely 20 years older than the average ACL viewer) Continuing to manufacture in the USA and surviving is certainly a challenge these days. Thanks to the likes of Michael Williams, Greg Chapman and things like the NBC series on Made in America, there is hope that in some small things could turn around. “Support made in America” “buy Local” are very real things. Is the $150 apron a banner for a movement…I doubt that, but consider this…… that every purchase we make has an effect on us all. There are few of us that have the extra cash to drop on a $150 apron. If Dickies or someone else makes one in USA. and you need one, buy that one.
    I do agree the Americana workwear thing is getting a little old. A veg tan leather apron from the 1850’s would be super cool. and cost AT LEAST $300.00 at retail.
    BTW I bought 3 vintage new old stock salvage denim aprons from a vintage store in White Hall New York, the owner’s name is Erica…she has amazing vintage!!! I paid $3.00 each….sorry, I bought all three that she had. :)

    Jason on January 24, 2012 7:33 PM:

    Interesting. I remember them from Capsule last summer, so I wonder, did they push back the launch? Why? Have Chapman, et al. been contracted since the inception of this resurrection? Also, by whom was it “acquired?” And, in the spirit of full disclosure, this stuff is made in So Cal, and only alludes to its former incarnation in name. And it’s kind of disingenuous to call it “one of America’s oldest work clothing makers,” when they have been out of business for so long. Perhaps “one of America’s earliest work clothing makers,” would be a bit more accurate. But still, I wonder if this mysterious owner has plans to bring back some of Carter’s better known offings, like the ski coats I remember from my youth. This seems eerily similar to what The Stronghold tried; I’m interested to see if they can do better. And that slanted buttonhole is to anchor the chain of a pocket watch. 53 comments and no answer till now? ;) Good luck, fellas!

    Sean on January 25, 2012 6:29 PM:

    I came across this article today. Pretty relevant to the cost discussion.

    bg on January 25, 2012 9:48 PM:

    Funny comments!!! I have to say that I would love that jacket and one of those vests. Just as a point of reference, I looked into getting a simple work shirt remade recently that is made in the US and retails for around 30 bucks. The sewer said it would cost me over $200 for the sample and she could never get under $75 per shirt (my cost). The whole made in the USA thing is expensive unless and hard to make viable on a small scale unless you can create a sweatshop in the USA like you see in the Filson store.

    More pics of vests please.

    Mike on January 26, 2012 8:28 AM:

    How is it possible to market the apron and bandana under the Carter’s name? The company is still around. Instead of producing workwear, they’ve gone the same route as Oshkosh and now push baby and kids clothes. They even use the train as their logo. If you go to their site, they talk about their heritage going back to 1865.

    Joshua on January 27, 2012 1:38 PM:

    These aprons are real nice and and are great quality if your one of the few who wear aprons its a great buy

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