Fashion vs. functionality

TuffStuff introduced the Elite range to provide a more fashionable option for tradesmen

A typical workman is often in their work clothing for around 12 hours a day and with some working seven days a week it is easy to understand the demand on garments is very high. But can heavy duty workwear ever be fashionable, as well as functional?

Industrial workers, builders, carpenters and tradesmen are some of the toughest trades to kit out, thanks to them subjecting their clothing and its components to more rigour and strain than any other working environment.
With many of these workers under the age of 35, fashion often plays a key element in product selection, says Kevin Selwood, sales director at Castle Clothing.

“We are noticing this age range is widening with more and more workers in the latter stages of their careers being more conscious of the way they look,” he adds. “A few years ago, wearing a hoodie to work would have been questioned, or even frowned upon. Whereas today’s opinions have changed markedly, to the point where we now offer 10 different hooded garments as opposed to only a few five years ago.”

“Small businesses and self-employed workmen are investing more into fashionable workwear in order to look different from their competitors,” adds John Williams, field sales executive at PenCarrie.

Given this, workmen wanting to look more fashionable in their working roles is heavily influencing the way in which workwear is developed.

Fashionable dimensions

Teri-Louise Deegan, marketing executive at Prestige Leisure, explains there is always room for style, adding that there are many creative ways to add stylish and fashionable dimensions to garments – even in industrial workwear.

Workwear brands now offer jackets with flashes of retail inspiration. Pictured here is the R314X Elevator Jacket from Work-Guard

“While a fluorescent motorway coat or safety vest won’t be breaking into mainstream fashion anytime soon, through using clever techniques and adding certain features, workwear can be given style,” she adds.

Teri-Louise highlights features such as quilted fabric effects, which can instantly add premium executive feels to an industrial jacket. “It changes the whole perception and exudes that the wearer has a sense of style,” she says.
Brands such as Work-Guard, Dickies, Tactical Threads and Yoko all offer products with flashes of retail inspiration. Take for example the Loudon Jacket from Dickies. This jacket features a polyester padded body with contrast fabric sleeves and a shaped hem. This is a nod to the sleek, stylish padded jackets that are dominating male outerwear retail sectors. The Elevator Jacket from Work-Guard features a padded body too, while also incorporating another major trend in the grey marl sleeves, giving the jacket an athletic feel.

While Tactical Threads from Regatta Professional was developed specifically to take builders from the yard to the bar. It is workwear built with style and its popularity is growing in the market. “Workmen are wanting everyday workwear items to be fashionable, fitted and feel nice,” adds John.
The word fitted is key here as Sara Sanders-Smith, director at Result Clothing, explains: “Buyers are asking for slim fitting styles in the latest fabrics across a variety of styles but in uniform colours to maintain a smart appearance.”
Kevin adds: “Within the last few years the other change we have noticed is wearers preferring much more fitted styles. Again, this is a step change in the industry and while we have our old faithful like the 711 Pro Work Trouser, we have added newer more modern fitting styles like the Elite range, the popular Snape and Hopton jackets, TuffStuff Basewear and the X-Motion Trouser.”
“Slim fit has been the war cry in the corporate clothing market for a while now, and this has transitioned into the outdoor workwear market. Men want to feel comfortable in their working clothes, but want to retain a stylish and composed look,” adds Teri-Louise.

While it is most definitely possible for heavy duty workwear to look fashionable, it has got to remain fully functional. Remember that high-visibility clothing must conform to the European Standard BS EN 417 and it is probably advisable that garments must be comfortable and durable enough for a tradesman to wear all day without putting holes through the elbows and knees.

Workwear advice

Experts from within the printwear market provide you with some top advice for sourcing, decorating and upselling workwear.

“My advice would be to never compromise on safety for fashion – never choose a product not suited to the environment just because of how it looks. Take time to scour products and highlight to fashion-forward customers the features which give that fashionable edge to industrial styles. The devil is really in the detail in this respect, and it is these deft applications of style that can really exemplify how a piece of industrial clothing can be contemporary.” – Teri-Louise Deegan, marketing executive, Prestige Leisure

When decorating premium workwear brands such as Helly Hansen it is important to understand the fabric’s properties

“The most important thing to consider when branding workwear items from premium brands is to read up on the features of the garment and understand the properties of the fabric used. For outdoor working, the most important property of a workwear garment will be its waterproofness. So embroidery for waterproof garments is generally a no no due to the piercing of the fabric compromising its ability to keep water out. As a general rule, we recommend vinyl print waterproof garments when branding with a customer’s logo as this maintains the integrity of the waterproof membrane. However, there is always the possibility that the heat created by the vinyl transfer process will melt the fabric on some garments. And sometimes the DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating means it just won’t stick. In these cases, as in the case where a customer demands embroidery from an aesthetic point of view, the best option might be to embroider and then apply a waterproof back taping on the inside of the garment to seal the area of branding.” – Phil Tiney, corporate account manager at The Outdoors Company

“I advise you to upsell to customers who want to look fashionable in their outdoor workwear role. Russell’s Hardwearing Poly/Cotton Piqué Polo Shirt (599M) is a slightly higher price point than other workwear polos, however the detailing on the collar and cuffs and the drop hem makes it a more fashionable style. Embroidery for garment decoration is the best for workwear – it looks more professional and presents a smarter business look.” – John Williams, field sales executive, PenCarrie

“Keep the look uncomplicated so the logo is still the most prominent feature, and build the look from head-to-foot in a co-ordinated manner.” – Sara Sanders-Smith, director, Result Clothing

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