Stylish safety

James Whitaker explores the evolution of workwear and what influences the clothing that tradesmen rely on today

As a company first established in 1922, we’ve witnessed the progression of workwear over the past 95 years. Not only has new technology greatly advanced the market, there’s also been a real shift in what tradesmen demand from their clothing and footwear.

As tradesmen rely on workwear to support them in all kinds of environments, functionality, durability and affordability are naturally top priorities. However, today’s construction workers also demand workwear that helps them to cultivate a professional – and even fashionable – image.

What’s more, tighter regulations have meant an increased focus on health and safety, which naturally has a significant influence on workwear designs.

A close eye on safety
The health and safety regulations that govern construction work have naturally filtered through to workwear. For instance, PPE must provide adequate protection against any associated risk for which it is intended to protect. What this means is that workwear manufacturers must review essential health and safety requirements that have been laid down by the EU Parliament. UK and EU politics aside, these requirements outline, among others, design principles and ergonomic stipulations.

As an example, the requirements for hi-visibility clothing, detailed in the standard EN ISO 20471 dictate a number of factors that must be taken into account when designing workwear – such as ensuring the wearer is visible from any angle.

As with all industries, workwear production has also come under increased regulation from environmental laws in recent decades and companies are increasingly aware that both retailers and end users prefer to buy products that are produced sustainably – just as consumers are increasingly demanding the same from high street retailers.

For manufacturers, it’s not just about using sustainable materials and looking for ways to reduce process steps and energy consumption, it also means working with suppliers who are able to demonstrate that their own manufacturing facilities comply with national and local environmental laws.

The influence of technology
Technology has had a major influence on construction work and workwear is no exception. The latest materials include fabrics that are more flexible and durable than ever before, with additional benefits such as UV protection, giving tradesmen an extra layer of defence from the sun when working outdoors. Specific examples include Coolcore®, which regulates moisture and Cordura®, which offers extra defence against wear and tear on elbow panels and knees, helping clothing last longer.

As well as such practical benefits for workwear designs, new technology can be a great asset during the product testing phase. To give one example, there are machines that can accurately test the tensile and compressive strength of materials (including fabrics, zips and buttons) to make sure they can withstand the daily demands likely to be placed on them.

Not only have these technological developments been a great help in ensuring that clothing fully meets all regulations, it also means that tradesmen can be assured that their workwear is fully fit for purpose.

A modern look
Modern workwear has undoubtedly been shaped by a shift in demand among tradesmen for clothing that looks both fashionable and professional. Today’s construction teams care more about what their clients think and teams of tradesmen are increasingly keen to wear items that are easy to coordinate in terms of colour and style, giving them the option of wearing the same ‘uniform’.

Similarly, construction workers want outfits that can see them from site, to meeting a potential client, to the pub – or that simply don’t look out of place when walking down the high street.

As such, workwear manufacturers have had to up their game and now focus more on designing clothing and footwear that meets this demand, without compromising on the comfort and functionality that tradesmen expect. In this respect, it’s important to keep an eye on high street trends and elements that filter down to workwear designs.

In order to stay competitive, manufacturers are increasingly focused on creating workwear that gives tradesmen the flexibility and choice to wear outfits that reflect the image they want to create while on the job. Plus, with workwear producers harnessing the latest technology available throughout the design process, the quality of what’s on offer is better than ever.

There’s no need for tradesmen to compromise when it comes to workwear – functional, practical designs that make their jobs as easy and as safe as possible, while cultivating a professional style, is something they should demand whenever shopping for new clothing and footwear.

James Whitaker is Marketing Director at Dickies Workwear. First launched in the US in 1922, Dickies workwear has built a global reputation for quality and performance, marrying innovation, comfort and protection. The company offers an extensive range of workwear including coveralls, trousers, shirts, jackets, fleeces and bodywarmers. Plus a wide selection of high performance products, including foul weather protection, high visibility garments and flame retardant items.