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Tradesmen Work Wear: Functionality vs Looks

We’ve all heard the saying “Dress for success”. Numerous studies have indicated that tailored suits and similar formal wear can make office workers feel good about themselves and increase their productivity. But what about the average tradesman?


Whether you’re a carpenter, plumber, landscaper or electrician, the way you dress has a huge impact on you. For one, your clothes help you stay safe on the job. As a manual worker, your job involves more injury risks than the typical office worker. So, your clothes need to be designed with protection in mind. Additionally, many blue-collar workers are also contractors, which means they come face to face with clients and need to look presentable. Although the clients will be more concerned with the way you do your work, your appearance can additionally help win their trust and result in repeat business.

blue-collar workwear

So, what to wear to work when you’re in manual labour? Here are some great tips for dressing in a way that’s comfortable, safe and presentable.

Functionality Above All Else

A tradie’s clothing should work as hard as the worker himself. His shirt should cover his forearms against cuts and sparks, his headwear should shield him against injury or sun-exposure, his boots should protect his toes and keep him steady on the ground and his gloves should offer grip and protect his valuable hands. With that being said, never skimp on clothing that is meant to protect you. Opt for quality work wear made of heavy-duty materials which has added reinforcement at all the right spots. This doesn’t mean you need to purchase the most expensive work clothes out there – it just means you need to understand how to pick items that are durable and properly meet your needs.

The Difference Between a Project Manager and a Construction Manager workwear

For instance, when it comes to work shoes, it’s best to invest in a versatile pair made of classic full-grain leather. If you’re a carpenter, construction worker or have a similar profession, steel toe work boots are a must-have feature of your shoes. Thick, non-slip soles are very important for people working on wet, oily or slippery ground. The lack of laces means that you can easily take on and off your shoe and not have to worry about tripping on your laces.

As for the fabric of your clothes, look for something that’s durable and appropriate for the conditions you’ll be working in. For instance, denim and khaki cotton pants are a great choice for warm weather. On the other hand, on colder days, a good pair of wool flannel trousers will help keep you warm.

classic work cotton shirt work wear

You too can wear a classic cotton shirt just like office workers do. However, the type of shirt suitable for manual jobs is different. Tradies will benefit the most from work shirts made of thicker yarn and with a denser weave than dress shirts. The addition of functional pockets on each breast makes a shirt practical for storing some small tools and other items that you need at all times.

And when it comes to things like hats and gloves which are considered accessories in everyday fashion, for work wear – they are a must-have. Depending on your job, you will need to wear either a helmet for protection against impact or sparks or a baseball hat for shade against the sun. As for your gloves, make sure they are puncture-resistant and have padding on all the right places to prevent chafing and blisters. A good pair of gloves is found to lower the risk of hand injuries.

Hand Protection PPE equipment

Additionally, many blue-collar workers also wear a cotton handkerchief with them which can be used for temporarily tie down a pipe, apply pressure on a bleeding hand or hundreds of other things.

But Don’t Overlook Looks Either

While it’s essential for your workwear to be protective and practical, it should also look good on you. But don’t confuse this with following the latest fashion trends. Quite simply, your clothes need to fit you properly and be clean at the start of the day when you’re most likely to meet with clients. When you look polished and sharp, it signals to clients that you pay attention to details which makes them more likely to trust you and value your advice.

Woman typing at laptop keyboard

However, there are some tips that can help you look cleaner even later in the day when you’ve already got your hands dirty with work. Opt for clothes in darker colours as these can make any dirt and stains less visible. Additionally, darker colours are also more formal and can give you a more streamlined look.

When it comes to fit, your pants should fit snugly and stay up without a belt. If they’re too loose or the crotch hangs too low, they will restrict the way you walk and be a nuisance when you’re trying to get the job done. In addition, not only will a well-fitting and tucked shirt look good on you, it can also help you stay safe. If your clothes are baggy and not tucked in, they can easily get caught in something and lead to injury. And this can be very dangerous if you’re working around heavy machinery that can suck you in.