A history of work trousers
Denim flared trousers have been worn by merchant seamen and dockworkers since the late 18th century. Although denim trousers had been worn as workwear for many years before this, it was on May 20th 1873 that the blue jean as we know it was born.
One day a tailor named Jacob Davis was asked by a labourers wife to create some trousers for her husband that would not fall apart. Jacob then went on to design a pair of denim trousers that featured metal rivets at points of strain such as the corners of the pockets and the bottom of the button fly. This design instantly took off and Jacob decided to take out a patent on the idea almost instantly, but he needed a business partner in order to kick-start the process.
He decided to write to Levi Strauss, the man from whom Jacob had purchased the materials to make the trousers and being a keen businessman Levi saw the potential of the product and agreed to the proposal and the two men received a patent on May 20th 1873. Shortly after, colossal success came from the pair's new riveted jeans, although then they were known as “waist overalls” or “overalls” until 1960 when people started to adopt the name "jeans".
What are Modern Work Trousers made from?
Work trousers today extend to more materials than just denim though. We use fabrics such as polyester and cotton to make our clothes not only durable but breathable too, which was hard to achieve when using denim due to its thick and heavy nature.
Breathability is necessary especially during physical work as it is likely that you could get hot and sweaty and this hot air needs somewhere to escape to.
Trousers that are designed for work are often made from durable materials in order to prevent them from breaking while under heavy use. The idea is that the will not break or fray when the wearer is either working on their knees or if they snag on anything. This also helps to protect the wearer so that any dangers on the worksite do not rub or cut the skin. Many offer additional knee reinforcement for more extended wear as well. Work trousers with knee pad pockets are available so that manual work that requires the user to be on their knees will not cause pain or damage to the wearer.
Mechanics, Plumbers, Electricians, Tilers, Floor Fitters, Upholsterers and many more professionals are prone to osteoarthritis, which is a condition that affects the joints in the body. When working on your knees you should treat knee pads similarly to how you would use a hard hat to protect your head and steel toe caps to protect your feet.
It’s a very common misconception to think waterproof and water resistant are the same thing, and one that can lead to some pretty disastrous mistakes – especially when buying gear for industrial use.
To help you out, our team at Yarmo Group have put together an easy-to-follow explanation on the differences between waterproof and water resistant, so you can make the right choice every time.
Anything that’s labelled water resistant, water repellant, or hydrophobic can be put into one category, and they’re all very similar in their function.
Essentially, these products will be created from synthetic fabrics that are dense with closely woven fibres, such as nylon and polyester. By having much smaller gaps in the fabric than, for example, silk – which has fibres that are woven far more loosely – water is less able to pass through, making it resistant.
It can also be made from fabrics that have been treated with a water repellant or resistant coating. Recently, there has been a lot of research into new methods of creating water resistant coatings that use short-chain polymers rather than those that are long-chain, which has led to better resistance and a reduction in cost.
The reason why water resistant fabric isn’t waterproof, however, is because of the seams of the product. These are the areas where there are plenty of gaps and water will find its way through.
Unlike water resistant clothing and gear, waterproof products will never allow any water in.
Of course, waterproof products do incorporate seams, but they’re treated to make the whole garment waterproof. These seams are described as ‘fully-taped’, and it’s when a waterproof tape or cover is applied to the material with glue or heat bonding, welding it firmly to the item. It can be a pretty expensive procedure, but if you want your clothing to be fully waterproof, this is what you’ll need.
Waterproof clothing can also incorporate a membrane lining. This lining is made up of lots of miniscule holes which helps to improve breathability whilst not allowing any water particles to enter. It can help regulate temperature and keep you comfortable whilst still fulfilling its function.
Waterproof Industrial Clothing
At Yarmo Group, we stock a variety of high-quality industrial clothing that’s completely waterproof, so you can get on with the jobs you need to do without any problems. From high-visibility jackets to complete overalls, all of our products are designed with your needs in mind. We only stock the best brands such as Helly Hansen and Dickies, so you can be sure they’ll last for years to come.
High-vis clothing has become a staple of many industries where safety and visibility is paramount. Whether it’s a warehouse where heavy-duty machinery is involved or conducting construction work out on the roads, high visibility clothing ensures that all of those around you are able to keep you in their sights so any potential accidents are avoided. Not all high-vis clothing is the same however, as there are different kinds and colours of high-vis clothing that are suitable for different situations and environments. Understanding which colours are most suitable for your workplace or environment is crucial as it can maximize your visibility and conspicuity.
How many colours are there?
All high-vis clothing must comply with the regulations set out in EN471, the European standards for high-viz clothing. Within EN471 there are three classes – Class 1 is minimal protection for private roads, Class 2 is intermediate level for class A and B roads and Class 3 is the highest level of visibility for motorways, dual-carriageways and airports. As long as the colour that you pick is in accordance with these regulations, it will be acceptable to wear in the workplace. However, you will need to ensure that you have the correct class of high-vis clothing according to the nature of your work.
Choosing for the seasons
If you aren’t restricted to choosing a particular colour for your work organisation, you may find that certain colours are suitable to certain times of the day and year. For example, during the winter period visibility can be a lot more diminished compared to other times of year, while the presence of snow makes colours like pink and orange stand out more compared to yellow. Alternatively, during the spring when many different colours are seen in wildlife, a colour such as pink which does not often appear naturally in nature may be most suitable to increase your conspicuity.
Creating the correct blends
It is not just all about putting on high-vis clothing as it is necessary to create the correct overall uniform which will maximize your visibility. This means that the colour of the clothing you wear together with your high-vis wear is also very important. It is important to create a conspicuous contrast between colours so that your high-vis clothing stands out sufficiently. Colours like black can help establish a strong contrast, while you want to avoid wearing colours that are likely to occur within your environment such as green or grey.
What colours represent
Although there is not a standardised code for what each colour means, intuitively most people read similar things when they see certain colours. For example, orange is common as a warning or caution colour, while yellow high-vis wear is the most common colour you will see that is worn by everyone from first response medics to construction workers. It can help to establish a system signifying what each colour actually means at your organisation, helping your employees to understand each other’s roles and duties.
Looking After Your Safety Footwear
In this article I will be explaining the best ways to care for your work boots, ensuring that they last for as long as possible. This article will cover:
- Breaking in your boots
- Cleaning different types of leather
- Cleaning synthetic boots
- Extending the life of soles
- Dealing with scratches
First and foremost, choose the right boots. As a rule, go for good quality and make sure that you get all of the right features for your working environment. If you would like to know more about how to choose the best work footwear please see our previous article Choosing Your Work Boots
1. Breaking in Your Boots
Allow time for breaking in your new boots. I know it’s tempting to buy a new pair of boots and start wearing them for full days right away, but if you want to reduce the stress on both your feet and the boots, then break them in slowly.
Wear your new work boots for an hour or two every day for the first couple of weeks before you go for a full day. Your feet will usually be grateful of this approach but more importantly your boots will thank you for it too! Breaking in your boots too quickly can actually damage them. Whilst use of a shoe conditioner can help to avoid this type of damage, if you are spending a lot of money on a new pair of boots is it really worth the risk of rushing to break them in?
2. Cleaning Leather Boots
There are several different grades/types of leather, but the big difference in cleaning your boots falls between leather and suede or nubuck.
❏ The first step when cleaning leather is to wipe away dirt with a leather cleaner.
❏ When you are satisfied that the boots are clean, the next step is to use an oil to condition and waterproof your boots. The traditional oil for this is mink oil, but if you prefer an animal friendly version you can also use flaxseed or coconut oil. This should be rubbed on with a soft cloth ensuring you get right into the seams and creases, allowed to dry and then the excess should be wiped away with a clean cloth. This is a really important step (not just for waterproofing) as leather is much like human skin and exposure to weather, chemicals or dirt can cause it to dry and crack.
❏ Buffing the leather with the cloth you used in the last step should be done in a large circular motion.
❏ It is also worth finishing with a waterproofing agent if you are expecting to be in very wet conditions.
Cleaning Suede and Nubuck
❏ Suede and nubuck need to be cleaned in a different way. Begin by brushing off dirt with plastic or rubber brush (preferably sooner rather than later when the dirt is set in).
❏ Apply a spray cleaner for suede and nubuck (with nubuck you can also purchase a special conditioner).
❏ Apply a waterproofing spray (particularly important to keep suede in good condition).
3. Cleaning Synthetic Boots
It is highly recommended that you buy a protector spray for synthetic boots which should be applied when new and after cleaning, this will help to protect them from the elements. Regular cleaning is also important to ensure that dust and dirt are not sinking into the fibres of synthetic materials. Clean the outer of the boot with lukewarm water and either a cloth or a soft brush. Allow to dry naturally and then apply a waterproofing spray (make sure that you get the appropriate spray for the materials your boots are made of).
4. Extending the Life of Soles
Regularly changing insoles can really help to extend the life of your soles. Waterproof liners can also be purchased to further protect your boots if you work in continuously wet conditions. Cleaning the inside of your boots periodically with a damp cloth and a small amount of mild shampoo, then wiping with a clean damp cloth and allowing to dry naturally will prevent bacteria build up and deterioration from the inside.
5. Dealing with Scratches
If your boots obtain scratches these can be treated with conditioner and polish for leather.
In the case of suede clean using a pencil eraser and buff lightly with a toothbrush.
I hope this has been helpful and I will leave you with one final top tip, never leave your boots in the sun or near a heater to dry and this can over dry and cause small cracks, weakening the leather.
In this article I will be discussing how to find the best work boot for your personal circumstances, by explaining some of the varied technical features of boots and the different choices available.
The topics I will cover are;
- 1.Why it is important to find the right boot for your circumstances
- 2.Things to consider in your work environment
- 3.Varieties of safety toe
- 4.Varieties of safety midsole (underfoot protection)
- 5.Boot construction type
- 6.Sole type
I will then go on to compare some of the different boots that I tried on and elaborate on how there features affected comfort and functionality as well as pointing out some of the extra features that are less common.
1. Why it is important to find the right boot for your circumstances
Choosing the right work safety boots for your circumstances is a complicated process these days with so many more options available. It is an important decision as the wrong boots can cause both injury and regular discomfort and working a long day can be made that much more bearable with comfortable footwear.
2. Things to consider in your work environment
What are the risks in your workplace? Are there extreme temperatures or possibilities of exposure to dangerous substances? Do you work with heavy objects or machinery? Are there sharp objects on your work site? Do you have to climb ladders or walk on slippery surfaces? All of these things must be considered to both ensure your safety and comfort and to be sure that you have a boot or shoe that can stand up to the obstacles of your environment. Once you have answered these questions you will have a fairly comprehensive list of exactly which features you need in a boot. Below is a little bit of information that explains the different features that are available.
3. Varieties of safety toe
In the safety toe there are 3 main categories;
The relatively modern composite toe made from kevlar or carbon fibre combinations. These are a lighter alternative to steel that can be more comfortable to wear and do not conduct heat or electricity. They can have a big advantage for people who work outdoors in extreme conditions where the heat or cold would be more intense with a Steel toe cap.
- Aluminium is your second alternative to the traditional steel toe cap. It aluminum is also lighter than steel and does not conduct heat but it is still a metal and will set off metal detectors and may have problems with large magnets.
- Steel is the traditional option when it comes to the safety toe, it is the strongest of the three options (although the difference between steel and aluminium is minimal and all three materials have passed industry standards). Steel is still proven to be the strongest when a direct drop of extreme weight occurs, this is not something that most environments would have a large risk factor for and in most cases, composite toes would be strong enough.
As you can see each material has its pros and cons so you need to think about which safety toe category one is right for you.
4. Varieties of safety midsole (underfoot protection)
Another feature that is well worth looking out for if you work on a construction site or anywhere else that nails and sharp objects may be sticking up from the ground, is underfoot protection commonly referred to as a “steel midsole” or “composite midsole”. I won’t go through the pros and cons of each as they are much the same as the safety toe above.
5. Boot construction type
When choosing your work boots or shoes the way they were made and what they are made from is obviously an important factor, affecting durability, comfort, flexibility, stability and of course protection.
There are two basic types of construction to consider;
- The traditional option is welted, where the upper and the sole are stitched together with an adjoining piece of leather between them making the soles easy to remove and replace.
- The slightly more contemporary option is cemented. In this instance the upper is cemented directly to the sole. The downside is that when worn down these cannot be removed and replaced. However, they are a lighter option than welted soles, which could mean improved comfort and reduced fatigue for the wearer.
6. Sole type
With sole type there are also two main options;
- Rubber, which tends to be slightly cheaper but can vary a lot in its consistency from brand to brand.
- Polyurethane (often listed as PU), which is more durable, often tends to be lighter and it has better grip than rubber.
The boots that I tried
To demonstrate the sheer variety of work boots and shoes on the market I spent an afternoon trying them on and reading about them. I must admit, I was in absolute heaven in room full of boots to try on but it wasn’t just indulgence, it also enabled me to find out about some of the other features that are worth considering when picking out your next pair of work boots.
The boots pictured (above left) are the Graton Safety Boot by Dickies. They are extremely similar to the Dickies Donegal Safety Boot (above right) both in style and features. Both sets of work boots have safety toes and midsole protection, the difference being that the Donegal is more traditional in both style and construction. With safety elements made from the traditional steel, and a look that is regarded as the classic work boot. The Donegal is made with a time tested formula featuring the polyurethane we mentioned earlier as well as slip resistance and a removable sole. This boot has become the classic style for good reason.
The Graton safety boots, although similar, have some key differences. They feature the composite safety toe and midsole, making them a lot lighter and really comfortable to wear. The sole on these is not removable, but is made more in the style of a trainer or hiking boot both enhancing comfort to the wearer and giving the boots a more contemporary style.
A third boot that fits into this category, with all the same features as the boots above, is the Pelton Safety Boot by Caterpillar.
Caterpillar has a great reputation for quality and endurance, and the work boots do have the extra feature of oil resistance which could be important to a variety of professions. These boots come in the pull on style, rather than being laced, so if you have a high instep you really should make sure to try them on to be sure of how comfortable they will be for you. That said I found them to be quite a comfortable boot, albeit a little more tricky to get on and off.
If you are in the market for safety footwear, but are not keen on the traditional style work boots, then there are plenty of other options on the market now. One of these options is the hiking boot. You can find these with the safety toe and midsole so that you keep the protection in a more trainer-like boot offering great comfort and a popular style.
Some of these hiking boots, such as the Medway by Dickies (below left), have added elements like heel guards and scuff caps whilst others like the Grafters safety hiking boot (below right) have resistance to oils, acids, and alkalis.
Safety trainers come in a variety of styles, the Click Footwear Sneakers (Below left) come with steel toe and midsole protection, oil and slip resistance in a skater style shoe that is very on trend and really comfy to wear. The Lusum Safety Trainer from Portwest (below right) also comes with all of those safety features in a bright mainstream fashion style. One key difference between the two, aside from style, is that the Lusum trainers are also heat resistant.
Heat resistance could be a really important feature for safety footwear: if you work around really high temperatures this is definitely a feature that you would want to be looking for.
Riggers and wellies
The final type of boot I looked at were riggers and wellies. I will resist the urge to go too far in depth about these, as the safety features are much the same as those I have already discussed above. One of the big differences with these is that they protect against extreme weather, are fully waterproof and provide insulation against the cold.
Below are the Rockfall Texas Rigger (left) and the Rockfall wellington. The reason I have chosen to feature these is because the construction and quality of them is just so impressive and they are up to the task. They have all of the important safety elements we have discussed (the rigger has heat resistance, but the wellie does not) as well as amazingly deep grip on the soles and I have never seen such durable boots/wellies before.
Comfort is one of the most important elements in work footwear because we spend so long in our work boots and the wrong pair can really impact your day. If you are buying online make sure that you choose a retailer with a good returns policy so that you can send them back if they are not right.
So, after all this boot and shoe research which ones am I going to buy? I will be getting myself a pair of the Gratons from Dickies, because they were so light and comfortable, and they provide me with the perfect level of protection for my work environment. It is worth mentioning that I did not actually intend to buy new boots before working on this article - but they were so nice that I have decided I “need” them!
Happy boot shopping - I hope this was some help!