Choosing the Best Work Pants for you
Years ago, I would watch my dad head off to work in his truck in a pair of faded, often ripped and holey work pants. The same style he wore day in and day out until the day he retired. As far as I was concerned pants were pants and they all looked the same, just varying degrees of fade and condition. This was until I attempted to buy a new pair of work pants for my tradie partner. Seriously? There are more options out there than you get on a Swiss Army Knife!
There's cotton, cotton twill, cotton drill, ripstop, polycotton, denim, Dyneema®, Cordura® and even polyester that’s PVC coated. They’re waterproof, hi-vis, utility, vented, straight, slim, cuffed, leggings, jeggings, lightweight or heavy weight. With cargo pockets, multi pockets, swing-away pockets, pockets for knee pads and even ‘exercise pant’ inspired phone pockets!
Then there’s the look. Yes. The look. Not only are there plenty of options in the specs, but there are also now plenty of options in the look. And I’m delighted to say, many more options for Tradie Women! It seems the people have spoken, and the leaders in workwear brands have answered. The market is so flooded with options now that your worksite could resemble a fashion catwalk!
The thing is, whatever you choose, you’re going to wear it on average, 10 hours a day. Day in, day out. So, it’s kind of important you make the right choice. There’s a plethora of work pant options out there, so where do you even start to find YOUR perfect work pants?
Here's a quick rundown to help you sort through the growing range of options.
These are traditionally polyester or polycotton fabric with reflective material strips. Hi vis pants are worn by workers in railways, roadworks, ports, construction sites and factories – pretty much anywhere where increased visibility for safety is required – by workers, tradies, police, and emergency services personnel.
Usually made with cotton, synthetic or cotton-synthetic fabric blends, this style is not only a work pant, they’re also often worn as casual wear - by both men and women. Cargo pants are loose-fitting, and easily identified by their big side pockets. They seem to be the most popular work pant style - and with all those practical pockets, how can you go wrong? This quite traditional style is the universal language of work pants.
Did you know that jeans were originally called ‘waist overalls’? Well, they were! Because originally, they were made for work. The term ‘jeans’ was only adopted in the 1960’s, a time when they made their statement as more of a fashion item than a work staple. Originally made from woven cotton (known as denim), these days they’re mostly made of stretch denim, so they’re a bit comfier - and easier to work in! Hard Yakka, KingGee and FXD contributed to the resurgence of the good old denim jean with their modern styles and technical construction.
These have pouches on the knees to put knee pads in! Having said that, I’m pretty sure most tradies never put anything in them, but at least there’s an extra layer of reinforced fabric to wear through before you end up with holes in your knees. If you’re a tiler, roofer, carpet layer, plumber, electrician, or landscape gardener, you probably really should put pads in them. You want to be able to walk when you retire, yes?
Shorts - particularly cargo shorts. Whilst technically not pants, I had to give these an honourable mention as they're an integral part of working attire. Let’s be honest, we all know ‘that person’ who wears shorts when it's 10 below and blowing a gale. Right?
Slim Fit, Low Rise, Cuffed and just downright revolutionized!
The modern-day tradie is in their element right here. Volcom Workwear and FXD do a great job of bringing the street, skater look into their work range. The fit is generally slim and stylish, with a lot of stretch and a pocket for just about everything. Not only do they offer durability and extreme comfort with great colours and style options, but they also have a unique versatility. These pants look as great in a casual setting as they do on a worksite or in the cattle yards. To top it off, FXD run a dedicated women’s range! No more excess material in the wrong place!
Often, these are an ‘overpant’ – called that because tradies wear them over the top of a regular pair of work pants. Perfect for those who work in wet or damp environments, or with liquids. They offer protection against wet weather and any other liquids a tradie may have to work with. Often, they are hi-vis colours and may feature reflective tape for ensuring visibility in poor weather. They are manufactured with waterproofing chemicals and products added to the existing material, which is graded according to the degree of its water resistance. Some styles also offer protection against chemicals. Always read the label of your waterproof pants to make sure they offer all the protection you need.
We have talked about the general styles out there, now let's take a quick look at fabrics. Most of the styles I have already mentioned come in cotton, polyester or combinations of both. These materials are tried, tested and trusted for work clothing. Some manufacturers though have taken material technology and construction to the next level. So if you need something with a bit more grunt, these materials are a sure bet.
This stuff is crazy tough. Crazy! Fifteen times stronger than steel, and it's tear and abrasion resistant. If you’re a tradie who’s also a cyclist – motor or other – this fibre is ideal crash protection. Dyneema is used in everything from jeans and body armour to ropes, cables, yachting, airships, the medical industry and increasingly in ultralight backpacking equipment. Who knew you had the option to wear this kind of technology to work?
Another product that is tough – and made with the environment in mind. Lots of work pants feature this fabric in the pockets and knee pouches and other high-stress or wear areas. It’s made to seriously extend the life of your work pants.
Ripstop fabric can be any fabric constructed using the ripstop weaving technique. You can tell it’s ripstop by its square pattern and the prominent thick reinforcement yarns. This is the last in the trio of ‘Toughies’. The idea is that even if you wear a hole in your pants, or you get caught on something and rip a hole in them, the rip will stop when it reaches one of the lines of reinforcement. Thus, you can wear your pants for longer!
There you go! Hopefully, this has given you some food for thought for your next workwear shopping trip. Maybe you're even inspired to try a new style if your current pants aren't quite doing it for you. Now, at least you know some of what's out there, and you can navigate the world of work pants with confidence. With all of these new styles continually popping up on the market, your best bet is to road-test a few styles, pick your go-to colour and find the best fit for you. As long as you meet your workplace requirements, the choices are literally endless. The staff instore at Allingtons will be happy to share their expertise - whether you're looking for your favourite work pants or looking to try something new. Online, there's a comprehensive list of all the features of all the different work pants we stock - and there are a lot of them!
Now, I think it’s time to put my feet up and have a cold drink! Cheers to a comfortable work day!
If you already have a favourite style, let us know in the comments. If you have a recommendation, we would love to hear about that too.