I hate cotton shirts. Okay, maybe hate is too strong of a word. I really don’t like them though. It’s one thing if I’m throwing on a light button down shirt for church or to go out for the evening. The jobsite is a completely different situation though. People sweat on jobsites. People like me sweat a lot. So, whenever I can, I go for a dry fit shirt and shorts instead of cotton shirts and jeans. That’s where the Carhartt Force line comes into play. This might be the best clothing line for people that just don’t like cotton or for anyone during the summer months. We were impressed with the excellent 6-inch Carhartt Force Work Boots and so it only made sense to take a more in-depth look at the entire clothing line.
What’s So Bad About Cotton?
Before I answer that, here’s a little background. I’m a former Ironman triathlete with a sweat rate that’s near double what my skinny, short, not-even-close-to-190-pound running and cycling friends have. That’s why I don’t like cotton. It’s all about the sweat. 100% cotton feels great in the right environment. As soon as sweat enters the picture, it gets ugly fast.
Moisture of any kind gets soaked in a held by the cotton, leaving you wet and smelling increasingly worse as the day goes on. It also gets heavy and begins to chaff if there’s too much friction around your underarms. Dry fit shirts, like Sport Tek, are made from 100% polyester. This material breathes much better while at the same time wicking sweat away from you body where it will evaporate and dry much faster.
Polyester has its downside as well. The big one? It doesn’t hold up nearly as well as cotton. Simply rub briefly against any textured surface, and it will start pulling threads. It’s not that you can rip it apart easily, but it gets damaged early and often on the jobsite.
Get to Know the Carhartt Force Line
Carhartt Force products are either moisture wicking, stain resistant, or both. Some even have built in odor protection. The Carhartt Force line includes underwear, base layers, shirts, shorts, pants, outwear, and even boots. I was able to get my hands on a couple of cotton blend short sleeve shirts and a pair of Tappen Cargo Pants from the Carhartt Force Line.
Carhartt Force Fit
Carhartt Force shirts fit a little larger than your typical sizing would be in a t-shirt. It’s not a big enough difference that I feel like I should have gone a size down. They’re just roomier than the shirts I typically wear. This ends up being a good thing. The length and shoulder sizing are excellent and the additional room allows for freedom of movement. While I’ve worked on several projects using this gear, where I really noticed and appreciated that ability to move was during some tree trimming that required me to climb a tree and operate a chainsaw.
There is a trend that has been around in women’s clothing for a long time that has made its way into men’s. We call it “generous sizing”. The idea is that if you sell a size 4 dress to a lady who normally wears a size 6, she’s going to shop in your store more often. We’re seeing this is men’s waist sizes as well. I was a 32 inch waist in high school. Guess what? I’m still a 32. Not really. I actually have a 34 inch waist now. Companies have made me feel better about myself by making me think that I’m still fitting well into size 32 pants that are actually 34″.
Carhartt has taken all that mess away. I gave them my true 34″ waist measurement, and they sent along 34″ waist pants. Amazingly, they were a perfect fit. Where other 34’s would have required a belt to stay up and I’d have been fighting with them to stay on my waist without one, the Carhartt Force Tappen Cargo Pants sat where they were designed to. Belt optional, no sagging.
Carhartt has an excellent and trustworthy sizing chart on their website. They also include a pant finder. This allows you to tell them about your favorite pair of jeans from sizing to manufacturer and style. The system then recommends Carhartt pants and sizes to match what you already like.
Carhartt Force Style
You can’t talk about clothing without mentioning the style. Carhartt Force Cotton Short Sleeve T-shirts feature a chest pocket on the left side and come in a variety of colors. They look great with jeans, pants, or shorts. While they have been designed to be comfortable and functional around the jobsite, I wear them just about anywhere that casual dress is appropriate. Since Carhartt has a reputation for quality and hard work, the Carhartt logo is an instant upgrade to your man card whenever you wear it around.
I’ve heard some people lament that the cargo style went out in the 90’s. Yeah, maybe in some circles. The reason that the cargo style is so popular is because of its function. In the circles that I run around, no one is making fun of these. It’s the opposite, actually. They see the Carhartt logo and want to know if they’re as comfortable and durable as the commercials claim. They are (just in case you were wondering).
Carhartt Force Tappen Cargo’s have the traditional front and back pockets. The back pockets secure with Velcro and there’s an extra large coin pocket on the front right. For the cargo pockets on the legs, you definitely get better than average versatility. On the right leg, you have a large, deep pocket of the traditional cargo style. On the outside of that, you have a separate zippered pocket. On the left leg, you have another traditional deep pocket secured by a Velcro closure. On the outside of this one, there are a pair of medium sized open pockets. There is plenty of storage without looking obnoxious.
Carhartt Force Performance
Carhartt Force Clothing fits well for what it is designed to do and looks good enough to wear out in casual settings. Where the framing hammer meets the nail is in performance. As I indicated earlier, one of the major tasks I’ve tackled in the Carhartt Force gear was some major OPE work. For 2-1/2 hours, I worked on some major tree trimming that required climbing with a chainsaw. I had a 17 pound battery pack strapped to my back, a Husqvarna 36V chainsaw hung on my belt loop, and safety gear to climb with.
During that time, I thought about a lot of things. What struck me when I was cleaning up is that I didn’t once think about my clothing. Spring in Central Florida doesn’t have snow thaws. It sees temps well into the 80’s with high humidity. Yeah, I had plenty of sweat rolling. I was in pants to protect my legs rather than the shorts I would have preferred. So how was I so comfortable?
The Carhartt Force Cotton Short Sleeve Shirt is a little deceiving. It’s actually a cotton/polyester blend that has the durability of cotton with the moisture wicking of polyester. The combination kept me dry and comfortable despite being well outside my comfort zone.
The Carhartt Force Tappen Cargo Pants are 100% cotton. They protected from the mess I was climbing around without sacrificing comfort. You’ll notice the square stitching in the design that helps with the durability. The fit and thickness of the design makes for a very breathable pant. Even though they are cotton, the breathability helped keep the sweat to a minimum around my legs. This meant that my pants didn’t get soaked with sweat or start to chaff.
Conclusions and Final Thoughts
I think I can finally retire my old dry fit race shirts for good. I spent a summer after college working for a power company in some really unpleasant conditions. I thought workwear that can handle tough jobsite conditions had to hold in an uncomfortable amount of heat and sweat by default. Certainly Carhartt Force workwear would have made that experience much more bearable. It seems that I may have to rethink my preconceived notions of what workwear can be.
Carhartt has designed real jobsite tough workwear that I can be comfortable wearing in demanding situations. Carhartt Force workwear is a fantastic blend of fit, style, and performance. I can highly recommend the Force line of workwear from Carhartt to anyone that needs clothing that is both comfortable and durable.
The Carhartt Force Cotton Short Sleeve Shirts retail for $24.99. Carhartt Force Tappen Cargo Pants retail for $49.99. This is an excellent value when you compare it to what you would normally pay for a good pair of jeans or shirts. Comfort and durability are outstanding at this price point.