Rompers, plastic shoes, parachute pants, fanny packs… Trends come and go. One day your tiny sunglasses are the height of fashion; the next, you’re wondering why everyone’s wearing wraparounds. It’s okay - as they say, fashion is cyclical, and somewhere down the line even shorts over sweatpants are bound to come back into favor.
But some things never go out of style. Flannel shirts are having a good run, with no sign of letting up. Knit hats, blue jeans, hooded sweatshirts - they’re everywhere, but we don’t tend to think of them as fashion items. Why is that?
Many of our tried-and-true clothes have their origins in workplace apparel. And while some kinds of workwear are “having a moment,” so to speak, the fact remains that workwear stands outside of fashion. Quality workwear doesn’t chase fashion trends, so it doesn’t go out of style. It should look good, don’t get me wrong. But it’s made to be durable and long-lasting, not to be worn for a season and then discarded. It’s made to be comfortable enough to work in, which means it's comfortable enough for pretty much everything else. Above all, workwear is functional. Thought goes into it, and many of its features provide solutions to workplace needs that have come up over the course of their history.
A Brief History of Athletic Work Pants
Take blue jeans. If ever there was a perennial clothing favorite, the prize must go to blue jeans in all their cuts and styles. These things have been popular so long we don’t even think about them. It’s like saying water is a popular drink. James Dean got it. Bruce Springsteen flaunted them. Heck, blue jeans won the Cold War (okay not really). If there’s one enduring symbol of American culture, they’re it.
Blue jeans were invented during the Gold Rush, by a Nevada tailor named Jacob Davis. Gold and silver miners were complaining that normal pants were getting torn up too easily out in the fields. To address their needs, Davis began making pants and overalls out of duck cloth, a type of strong cotton canvas. He then used small metal rivets to reinforce the canvas at strategic stress points (look at your jeans right now; they’ve still got them). Partnering with store-owner in San Francisco by the name of Levi Strauss, Davis started churning out these new riveted pants, and miners headed for them thar hills snapped them up as fast as he could produce them. For the sake of comfort, he then switched to the softer-but-still-tough denim canvas, and viola! The blue jean was born.
The Best Work Pants For Men and Women Who Get Dirty
Similarly, in 1997, tailors making work clothing for arborists and loggers were trying to solve the dilemma of tree-climbers’ unique needs. Climbing clothing needed to be flexible, and not inhibit movement or bunch up while reaching and twisting high above the forest floor. But it also needed to be strong enough to survive punishment by rough bark and poking branches. They examined specialized clothing made for rock climbers - who need a great deal of freedom of movement on cliff faces - and the tough but inflexible canvas pants arborists were already using.
The result was the Arborwear Tree Climber’s Pants. These tough 12.5oz. canvas pants were specially-treated to feel broken-in by years of use, right off the shelf, ensuring they wouldn’t resist reaching or feel like you’re wearing a sail cloth. Reinforced for durability and freedom of movement with thoughtful touches like their patented special gusset at the crotch, double knees, and semi-tapered cuffs that didn’t get hung up or caught on branches, Arborwear work pants had solved the dilemma tree-climbers faced, and quality industrial stitching ensured each pair would last through tough use.
The pants were a huge hit, and Arborwear responded by expanding their line, designing the slimmer-fitting Cedar Flex Pants, adding a bit of heft without sacrificing range of motion by blending 13oz. cotton with 4% Spandex to give it just a little stretch. The pockets were expanded a bit, and they added a utility ledge to the front pockets for hanging a knife or tape measure.
For warmer-weather work, Arborwear introduced the Willow Flex Shorts, the toughest, most comfortable athletic work shorts you’ll ever wear, incorporating the innovations of their pants - stretch-blended canvas, rugged gussets, and even a layer of fabric protector to repel both water and oil - for work and activity that doesn’t require full-leg coverage.
Arborwear Hoodies Take Work Hoodies to the Next Level
Ah, the hoodie. If there’s a more comfy and consistent article of clothing, I haven’t seen it. Hooded sweatshirts made their journey to ubiquity from workwear in the 1930s, as designers sought to make a more versatile cold-weather layer for arborists, loggers, old-storage warehouse workers, and athletes to supplement their long underwear. These folks needed something that could cut the wind but - unlike long underwear - act as either an underlayer or an easy-on, easy-off mid- and outer layer.
In 1934, clothing makers began adding fully-integrated hoods to their cotton sweatshirts, and schools began providing them to athletes to warm up while they weren’t out on the field. Eventually, high school athletes started giving their team hoodies to their girlfriends, as high school sweethearts are wont to do, and the trend took off.
These days, hoodies are everywhere, but there is still a place for durable, work-ready hoodies that mean business. Arborwear’s Double-Thick Pullover Sweatshirt applies the same focus on workwear as their pants - and the same attention to detail. The hood is big enough to fit over a hard hat, and features button snaps to adjust how snug you want it to fit. The handwarmer pouch has vertical, recessed openings so dirt and grime don’t find their way in. And the gusseted armpits allow for that important uninhibited freedom of movement. Best of all, it’s a real cold-weather layer. Like all hoodies, you can wear it beneath a heavy coat. But with two full layers of 13oz. pre-shrunk cotton fleece, this thing can handle serious cold all on its own. In addition to an array of casual colors to match your uniform or needs, it’s also available in a High-Vis polyester version with Teflon fabric protector to repel water and oil-based liquid. ANSI-rated Class 3, it’s perfect for work safety in daytime and nighttime in all sorts of weather conditions.
Flannel Vs. Chamois Shirts
Flannel was used in workwear as early as the 16th century, and became a common material in outerwear due to its thick durability and softness (its use in Scottish kilts is probably the source of the widespread confusion between flannel - the material - and plaid - the design pattern). Chamois is very similar to flannel, but traditionally cotton-based rather than wool-based, and it has several advantages over flannels. Originally designed in the 1700s as a plant-based fabric to mimic the qualities of softened leather, chamois is tough. It’s smoother and less fuzzy than flannel, while actually being softer, more absorbent and better at wicking away moisture.
So while flannel may be the popular kid at school, gaining more mainstream purchase, chamois is far superior as workwear. It’s tougher, softer, and more comfortable under duress, and for that reason it’s long been a staple of work uniforms. The Arborwear Timber Chamois Shirt is a classic example of the fabric’s potential - it’s a tough long-sleeved button-up perfect for layering but without a bunch of extra material getting in the way. It’s got two roomy chest pockets for stowing, each with a button-close flap and an integrated pen holder for quick retrieval. The long sleeves are tough and provide full arm protection, but because of the chamois fabric, it’s also breathable and cuts down on sweat, pulling it away from your body to radiate out.
Arborwear Sweatshirts, Pants, and More For Everyday Comfort
Workwear is popular because it...works. It’s got the comfort and utility of purpose-built clothing like hunting and fishing gear, but it’s more suited to everyday use on and off the job. It’s durable and long-lasting, something we here at Outdoor Equipped value highly. Arborwear has a whole range of workwear designed to stand up to tough conditions in the forests, so no matter your lifestyle, they’ll last you through years of use. They’re the clear choice for high-quality clothing that stands the test of time.