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Carhartt for Concealed Carry

If your objective when working or carrying off-duty is to remain below the radar, to show no indicators that you’re a cop or armed, then plain clothes is what you need.  I mean “plain” in the ordinary sense of the word.  The tactical “plain” clothes that have hit our industry like a storm over the last decade are not actually “plain” -- rather, they are “professional”.  They aren’t a uniform, but in wearing them, the fact that you are either on the job or armed is hardly hidden.  They make excellent choices for detectives and other investigators, but they certainly “make” you.

What most of us wear when we wear plain clothes – on or off the job -- is what our predecessors have worn for this purpose for decades: jeans and a work or casual jacket.  This classic haberdashery combination works well and “blends” today as well today as it did in the 60s.  So dressed, you become gray in the projects, on the street, or in symphony hall.

What has changed a bit, though, are the preferred jeans and costs, and no brand now is as familiar and works as well as Carhartt.  When I was a wee lad Carhartt had a reputation for making ferociously tough clothes, but also ones that were at a higher price point than less tough alternatives.  Now, decades later, by contrast, Carhartt costs no more than any other good brand and they make a much wider variety of pants, shirts, coats and vests than ever before.  You see them everywhere: tradesmen and women, students, artists, yuppies on casual Friday.  I was in the Emergency Room last year, and even the doc working on me was wearing green Carhartt carpenter jeans.  When I was on my county narcotics task force, Carhartt was practically the uniform.  While most jeans brands are more or less associated with certain demographics: rural or urban, white or minority, young or middle-aged, and so on, everyone is wearing Carhartt these days.

Carthartt’s reputation for tough, long-lasting clothes is still deservedly intact, and with all Carhartt offers today in terms of models and options, it’s a perfect choice for plain clothes carry.  They make everything from their traditional heavy canvas, double-kneed work jeans to khakis (their Canvas Khaki is an under-appreciated cross of the two, and is a great alternative to either).  Here I want to look at just three of the many pieces of outerwear that Carhartt makes, and show you how some size-hacking of their vests can solve a common cold-weather dilemma.

Eldin Jacket  You are probably already familiar with many of Carhartt’s jackets and coats – they’ve been making some of those models for a long time.  As well made and incredibly rugged as they are, the issue I’ve always had with many of them is that they are insulated – sometimes extremely well.  Now, that’s great if you’re going to be working in them in winter – which is after all what they were designed for.  But our purposes are different: we need a “blends everywhere” jacket to conceal our belt-worn gear, and to carry some other gear in its pockets.  And we need this capability year-round, not just in the very cold months.  To be sure, no jacket will be comfortable or not stand out in Georgia summer weather, but a light-weight, “3-season” jacket will suffice for most of the other months, and is the type of jacket that we’ll wear most often.  Also, some Carhartt jackets are not long enough to fully conceal a belt-worn handgun – again, that’s perfect for mobility in an active job, but we need something longer.

The Eldin jacket fits our bill.   It’s a Carhartt, available in traditional Carhartt colors, and made of medium-weight 7-ounce cotton canvas with a polyester mesh lining.  It’s a light-weight jacket, somewhere in appearance between a traditional rugged work jacket and a casual dress jacket.  It looks like a jacket that a construction supervisor would wear on a job site.  With its two lower front snap-closing pockets, outside breast zip pocket, and a hook & loop closing interior breast pocket, this is a “gray” jacket that’s perfect for many months of the year.  It’s long enough to drape over our belt-worn gear, too.  The Eldin has an open bottom (necessary for weapon carry – elastic bottoms hang up on the gun) that’s snap-adjustable, and hook & loop adjustable cuffs.  Being a Carhartt, with triple –stitched main seams and elbow patches – we also know that it will last a very long time.

Woodward Vest  Vests are probably the most under-rated and under -sed cold weather garments.  Many people don’t consider them warm enough for the real cold seasons, but outdoorsmen, hikers, and active outside workers have always know how to use their advantages.  They also solve a cold-weather problem for people like us (cops) with – let’s not fool ourselves – sedentary jobs.  Here’s when we wear a coat for in cold weather, most of the time: going between heated buildings (the PD, offices, residences, businesses, etc.), sitting in heated buildings for a short to moderate amount of time (eating a meal, interviewing a witness, running an errand, etc.), sitting in a car which is cold until it heats up.  What we don’t do – again, most of time – is spend a long time outside exposed to the elements. 

The problem with wearing a heavy winter cost throughout all of these activities is that it gets way too hot, yet we have to keep it on because we usually don’t want to expose all of our  gear – including our gun – to the public.  So we sweat in residences, in restaurants, and so on, just so we can be warm while going from them to the car.  A vest is a better solution.  It keep us warm enough for the brief periods that we’re actually outside, it conceals our belt-worn gear and provides extra pockets for more gear, and it doesn’t get uncomfortably hot when we have to spend time inside.  If you find yourself having to actually spend a lot of time outside – at a scene, on a surveillance, etc. -- you can keep a coat in the car to put on over your vest.  I used this system for years.  The only issue with a vest – particularly an insulated work vest - is that they run short.  That’s by design so that  they can provide mobility to active workers, but those vests often won’t cover our gear.  The simple solution is to get your work vest in a tall size (assuming you take a regular).

The Woodward Vest from Carhartt is one of their new items featuring the new Quick Duck exterior.  Quick Duck is a cotton blend that’s water-repellent and 30% lighter than traditional canvas duck.  It has a midweight polyester lining, a mock neck collar, and a slight drop tail (which adds an inch or so to the already “tall” size vest).  It has two large zipper-closing lower front pockets, and a zip-closing and a hook/loop-closing pockets on the inside.  It’s a Carhartt, so it’s tough, with triple-stitched main seams, etc.  The zipper-closing front pockets are extremely useful in  law enforcement (or for concealed carry), in that they secure the imThey also zip the right way – down to open, so you are pulling against resistance when you need to get to that gun.

The Woodward’s Quick Duck gives this garment a slightly dressier look than the usual Carhartt work vest.  Like the Eldin jacket, look-wise it falls right in the middle between a traditional rugged work vest and a casual dress garment, and will literally blend in anywhere.  I’m a quarter-inch shy of 6-feet even and the tall version of this vest conceals my full-size pistol in a outside-the-pants holster well.

Women’s Canyon Sandstone Jacket   Carhartt makes garments for the ladies, too, and the Canyon Sandstone Jacket is just one of the many outer garments they make for them.  There is something about this jacket – and indeed, most Carhartt women’s jackets – that I find very attractive.  The blend of feminine colors with the rugged appeal of the coat makes for a killer combination.  It also makes for superb urban or rural camouflage.  A female cop or CCW carrier looks like a local woman who owns a horse or has a garden, and she pretty much blends in anywhere, and with style.  This particular jacket is a classic, and is made with a traditional 12-ounce sandstone duck exterior and a Sherpa-pile lining.  Two Sherpa-lined front pockets, a zip breast pocket, and two hook/loop sealing interior pockets provide plenty of room for gear.  The Canyon has about a 2-inch rear tail, making it even better at concealing belt-worn tools.  My wife is 5’8”, and her Canyon falls far enough beneath her waist that she can effectively conceal a belt-worn pistol. 

My message here is that while we tend to think of Carhartt as a men’s work brand, in fact the company has been expanding their focus considerably recently.  They can offer women clothes that are just as practical for our line of work as they offer men, while also staying stylish.