Carhartt Flex Shirts

By Robert Robillard on Weekend warrior

Carhartt Rugged Flex Mid-Weight Shirts for Winter

Winter’s here and many tradespeople, if they have the option, prefer to do interior work during these cold months.  Remodelers, in particular, may have more flexibility to schedule interior work according to the seasons, but inside it where we’d all prefer to be.  Now when we think of winter clothing, we think of heavy flannel shirts, insulated jackets, and the like.  These are all fine for exterior work when it’s cold outside, but heavy thick clothing is too much for inside work, especially if you’re moving around, and more so since most conditioned spaces are well heated in the winter.  Wear that heavy flannel shirt on a January remodeling job in Mrs. O’Malley’s kitchen, and you’ll soon be taking it off and working in your t-shirt.

So ironically, I want mid-weight shirts and clothes for many winter jobs, and I’ll layer if I have to be outside at times, or somewhere cold.

Flexibility and professional looks

Two trends that have been coming on strong in workwear the last several years are flex clothing and professional looks.  Flex is often achieved by the addition of elastane (Lycra and spandex are two brand names for elastane) to a traditional fabric like denim, canvas, polyester, or duck.  A little while ago I wrote about Carhartt’s Full Swing Cryder Work Pants which incorporate 2% spandex, and boy did I love those pants and the comfort they provided!  Carhartt’s brand name for their stretch technology is Rugged Flex®, and there a quite a number of Rugged Flex products now offered by them.  Honestly, once you try out a Rugged Flex pant or shirt, you’ll never go back to ordinary fabrics.  You get extra comfort and give up nothing — it’s a no-brainer.

A person should be judged by their work and not their clothes…except no one does that.  You judge a lawyer, a doctor, or any professional by their dress, at least initially.  Contractors are professionals.   If you’re working on a construction job where the actual clients are never on-site, you can get away with wearing anything you want.  But if you’re working with the public or with end-clients, you’ll inspire a lot more confidence if you look like you cared.  Carhartt has more-or-less taken the lead during the last years in making their workwear, which is famous for its ruggedness, also good-looking.

Carhartt Flex Shirts

Carhartt Rugged Flex Rigby Long Sleeve Shirt

Carhartt describes the Rugged Flex Rigby Long Sleeve Shirt (style #103554) as being made of “heavyweight cotton that feels soft yet durable, packing just enough stretch that you can reach overhead with ease.”  That’s all true.  To my hand, it feels like a lightweight canvas, and to me, it’s the perfect weight for a work shirt.  For many years I’ve had one of Carhartt’s heavier-weight canvas shirts (somewhere in the 7 to 8-ounce range I believe); it’s one of my favorite pieces of clothing, but I wear it more as an over-shirt than a regular shirt.   In my experience, if a shirt (or jacket for that matter) is too heavy and stiff it can be colder than one that may be lighter weight but softer.  That’s because the stiffness of the material can cause the garment to act as a set of bellows that moves warm air away from your body as you move.  The Rigby doesn’t do this.  The specs:

  • 6.5-ounce, 98% cotton / 2% spandex
  • Rugged Flex® stretch technology
  • Triple-stitched main seams
  • Button-down collar and front
  • Two-button adjustable cuffs with extended plackets
  • Droptail hem for additional coverage
  • Two chest pockets and left-chest pocket panel (double pocket)

This Rigby Rugged Flex shirt is cut in a “relaxed fit” rather than Carhartt’s “original fit”.  The relaxed fit is cut a little closer to the body than the original fit.  Of course, the shirt also moves a little easier due to the Rugged Flex technology, so you don’t give up any ease of movement with the slightly narrower (but still full) cut.

I really like this shirt.  It’s a perfect weight, it moves easily, it’s good looking, and it’s very comfortable.  It stays tucked-in well and moves with me.  It doesn’t bind or tug my shoulders or arms, even in extended or odd positions.  The double chest pocket on the left side (one on top of the other) is very convenient and a great feature for stowing glasses, receipts, lists, and so on.  If you don’t need the extra pocket, you just ignore it.

The Rugged Flex Rigby is my new favorite work shirt.

Carhartt Flex Shirts

Rugged Flex Bozeman Short Sleeve Shirt

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean that it’s not warm inside.  Sometimes a short sleeve shirt is really more comfortable than colder-weather clothes.  And if it’s warm inside where you’re working, chances are that’s because you’re working in an occupied home or business, and looking professional is a concern in those environments.  It’s particularly a concern if you’re working in a professional office building where a tradesperson in dirty rags doesn’t really contribute to the atmosphere that the people who work there want, especially if they have clients coming in.  You may be doing carpentry, or electrical work, or HVAC maintenance, or whatever, but it’s always better to look like a pro than a schlub.

Again, Carhartt takes the lead in functional, tough, professional-looking work clothing.  Case in point: the Rugged Flex Bozeman Short Sleeve Shirt (style #103552).  This is indeed a sharp number with its snap closures and semi-western styling.  Basic specs:

  •  3.8-ounce, 98% cotton / 2% spandex poplin
  • Rugged Flex® stretch technology
  • Garment-washed for a soft finish and reduced shrinkage
  • Triple-stitched main seams
  • Spread collar
  • Button-down front with antique brass ring pearl snaps

Carhartt Flex ShirtsThis isn’t a flimsy shirt (you wouldn’t expect that), but it’s light-weight and sturdy at the same time.  It looks sharp and functional.  It projects just the right image for a professional tradesperson.  It’s not going to rip easily but it’s also not going to trap a lot of heat.  It’s comfortable, as the Rugged Flex technology suggests.  I like the snap-flap pockets much more than button-flap pockets because they’re so much easier to operate.  This may seem like a small concern but we’ve all had thumb and finger ends get raw from cold, chemicals, or abrasion, and working buttons with them is a real pain (in both senses of the word).

This is a work shirt, not a dress shirt.  It’s not a simple blue work shirt, but something a little better looking and distinctive.  You and your crew will love it, I can all but a guarantee.

Carhartt Flex Shirts

Women’s Rugged Flex Hamilton Flannel Shirt

Carhartt’s Rugged Flex Hamilton Flannel Shirt for women (style #103226) is a down-the-middle weight work shirt, cut, obviously, for women.  The 5.5-ounce weight isn’t too heavy, nor is it flimsy.  Thus it’s ideal for interior work.  Basic specs:

  • 5.5-ounce, 97% cotton/3% spandex flannel
  • Built to move with Rugged Flex stretch technology
  • Button front
  • Carhartt-strong, triple-stitched main seams
  • Adjustable button closures on cuffs
  • Drop-tail hem for added coverage
  • Chest pocket and utility pocket with pen stall
  • Garment-washed for a soft finish and reduced shrinkage
  • Not only is this shirt cut for women, but it’s also cut for work with the drop-tail hem, a proper amount of length in the sleeves, and work-functional pockets.  It moves easily due to the Rugged Flex technology and looks sharp, too.  As much as many work garment manufacturers are now adding women’s clothing to their lineup, Carhartt takes the lead with the number of products it offers.  These provide the same technology as the men’s products, but cut to and designed specifically for women.  This shirt is a great example.

Carhartt Flex Shirts

Rugged Flex Work Belt

Rugged Flex clothes are all good, and so are somewhat stretchy waistbands on pants – they both let the clothes move with you and not bind.  Stretchy waistbands also prevent the pant’s waist from digging into your gut when you bend over, which can get real old real fast.  To make the most of flex clothing though, you need a stretchy belt.

Now, this can get tricky.  You don’t want a belt that’s too stretchy; the belt should be mostly fairly stiff leather to hold up whatever tools you hang from it or clip to it.  Carhartt’s Rugged Flex Belt (style # CH-22505) got it right.  There’s a 1.5-inch length of elastic at the buckle end of the belt that can stretch up to ½-inch.  The belt is normally ridged and supportive, but the gives just enough when you bend over.  Specs:

  • Top-grain leather
  • Built to move with Rugged Flex® stretch technology
  • Heavy-duty stretch web at the buckle stretches up to 1/2″
  • Width: 1 ½”

Carhartt Flex ShirtsThe proof is in the pudding, however: how does the belt actually perform?  My answer: perfectly.  I’m not sucking up to Carhartt here — it’s just that I can’t find any fault with it.  It holds up your pants just as well as any other belt, but bending down, over, etc. doesn’t cause it to dig into your stomach.  You no longer have to choose between keeping your belt a little loose and an uncomfortable feeling when you bend over.  Just tighten the Rugged Flex Belt to what’s comfortable for you when standing and it’ll be comfortable bent over too.

I’d been looking for just this kind of belt for some time and this one hits on all cylinders.

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About the author

Robert Robillard

Carpenter / Remodeler / Editor

Rob Robillard is “The Concord Carpenter” Rob is a builder, general contractor, carpenter, woodworker, and editor of Concord Carpenter and ToolBoxBuzz As a General Contractor and carpenter, Rob owns and operates Concord Carpenter LLC. A full-service remodeling and construction company. Rob is a recognized leader in home building best practices and a source for how-to information for building professionals. On this website, Rob covers all aspects of home construction, building science, home improvement, woodworking, remodeling, and some of the best product and tool reviews. Rob is in charge of our Tool and Product Review series - Concord Carpenter Videos where we post all of our tool reviews and video tutorials. Rob approaches remodeling and building construction with a pragmatic and problem-solving approach. He enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help and educate building professionals as well as DIYers on best practices in the construction and remodeling industry. He's a strong advocate for "raising the bar" in the construction trades and promoting the trades to youth. #BeAMentor #Green2Great Craftsmanship, quality, and pride guide his journey on this channel The Concord Carpenter's motto: "Well done is better than well said!" : Read more about Rob

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