The oldest guard of workwear, Carhartt pants, will always have a special place in my heart.
Designed for durability and used ubiquitously by mechanics, construction workers and farm laborers, the gusseted crotch and double-reinforced knees were built to last forever. Breaking in a pair of Carhartts is a badge of honor, best marked by oil stains and off-white fading from years of use. Like many, I'll probably never throw out my first pair.
While the origins of workwear are planted firmly in practicality, the category has recently found its way into the fashion world. Box cuts and flannel shirts are quickly rising in everyday use, and accordingly outdoor brands are trying to keep up, designing products to fit new customer needs. Yet, the category is a challenging design problem. Workwear needs to be extremely performance driven, without sacrificing comfort for long days on the job. We've rounded up some of the best workwear on the market – gear that will last a lifetime that you should consider investing in today.
If Carhartts are the old guard, the new guard is fresh off the press. Meridian Line launched a climber-inspired denim on Kickstarter last month that redefines the standard for performance pants. The Momentum Denim collection by Meridian Line is designed for the rigors of climbing, but styled for everyday wear. The line is a collaboration between artist and climber Jeremy Collins and former prAna men's clothing designer, Benji Thrasher, and according to those who have an early pair, are a game changer.
If jeans aren't your thing, good alternatives are the Hemp Bibs by Patagonia ($99) (Women’s) or Chelsea Construction Pants ($100) by Helly Hansen (Men’s). Both are lightweight, durable, and lauded by almost everyone who uses them daily.
For professional tradesman working outside in any weather, the most important piece of workwear is often their jacket. It needs to be waterproof, windproof, warm, and durable, without sacrificing range of motion or mobility. More often than not, jackets need to be reflective, to aid visibility and safety of the worker. Making reflective jackets stylish isn't easy. Enter the Chelsea Shell ($200) from Helly Hansen. Cordura-reinforced shoulders and elbows, venting zippers, fully waterproof construction, and reflective tape make it the complete package.
A good budget-friendly backup is the Prudhoe Bay Hoodie from Duluth Trading Co. ($70) It's a simple, durable, and warm design that's inspired by those who work in the Alaskan Arctic and need a tough and resilient jacket for long days in extreme weather.
Born from logging and exploration, the Stronghold by Danner ($190) is handmade in Oregon and tested to hold up to pretty much anything you can throw at it. Danner's new line takes lessons from many previous boots and incorporates those into what might be the brand’s best yet, bringing together modern technology and materials with a classic style that looks good anywhere.
For those who work in freezing cold and rain – fishermen, winter construction, and field techs, looking at you – I'd recommend the Aero Insulator by LaCrosse ($190). They are a simple, no frills slip-on that's worth their weight in gold, especially if you're often in below-zero temps.
For those with poor circulation – or that simply want to be prepared for all conditions – consider snagging a pair of Guide Gloves by Black Diamond ($170). These super warm and weather-resistant gloves are designed for very cold conditions like ski slopes, without sacrificing the dexterity of a mitten.
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