Dressing and Style Tips for the Working Man

by Antonio on July 26, 2011 · 108 comments

in Dress & Grooming, Style

The term “blue collar” has its origins in the blue colored shirts of the working class.

Unlike “gentlemen” who wore white shirts, the blue collared man labored with his hands and didn’t wear white cuffs or collars as they were impractical. Instead, he wore blue cotton shirts dyed with inexpensive indigo which helped cover up his clothing’s imperfections after hard wear.

The blue collared shirt, and blue collared man who wore it, became a universal symbol of the working class. The French have their bleu de travail, we have our blue collar working man.

blue collar style

Today we’re going to discuss several dressing and style tips that can be used by the blue collar man to improve his working wardrobe.

Of course there will naturally be those that consider the topic of this post a contradiction, arguing that men who work with their hands care little for how they dress, as they are measured by results, not appearances.

No one is suggesting that blue collar men should be interested in fashion trends or become fastidious about their clothes. But giving a little attention to how you dress can improve the functionality of your clothes, increasing both your personal comfort and your safety as you work. It can also boost your confidence and bolster the impression you make on people. Many blue collar men–like plumbers and electricians–are contractors that need to win clients and repeat business. Customers are going to be most concerned about the work you do, but your appearance can help win their trust as well.

Finally, how you dress, no matter what line of work you’re in, is about more than just appearance. Style in clothing is about expression of the self through selection and maintenance of gear that reflects the tastes and pride of the individual.

Three Style Guidelines for the Working Man

1. Clothing is Functional

Above all else, the blue collar man’s clothing does its job. His boots protect his toes and keep him steady on oily ground; his shirt covers his forearms from sparks; his head-wear shields him from the sun.

Never skimp on clothing that will protect you. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean buying the most expensive pair of boots out there; it means understanding what your needs are and buying the item which will protect you even if it means purchasing it at full price. That steel beam isn’t going to wait for you to be ready to fall on your foot.

2. Clothing Should Fit

Clothing that fits right simply looks better. It displays your healthy manly physique. Clothing that’s too big makes you look sloppy and square.

But more importantly, clothing that fits stays out of the way and performs better by giving its wearer more freedom of movement. This may seem contradictory–shouldn’t looser fitting clothing give you more room to move? The answer is no.

Looser fitting clothing that sags too low in the crotch and has too large of an armscye restricts movement of the arms and legs. In addition, excess fabric along the torso and extremities is likely to be caught on sharp edges and can lead to very dangerous situations around moving parts.

3. Clothing Should Be Put on Clean

Every morning when you get dressed, the clothing that you wear next to your skin should be clean and presentable. Although your work may be of the nature that it’s almost impossible to not be covered with grease by the end of the day, you put forth the effort to be clean and orderly around your family. A clean presentation may take effort, but it is always worth it when you can hug your daughter and not worry about staining her dress. A clean presentation is about pride in oneself and a show of discipline.

To minimize the amount of cleaning necessary, utilize a protective uniform or clothing specifically designed to cover you. Make use of that shower at work and pay special attention to the cleaning and conditioning of your skin if you need to use harsh soaps. There is a difference between the man who gets dirty at work and adjusts vs. the man who doesn’t care to clean himself.

Personal Style Pieces for the Blue Collar Worker

1. Work Boots

Western work boots

Long before mass manufactured shoes were common, boots were the footwear of choice. Whether a man had to walk along a muddy road or he had the means to afford a horse, the boot was the functional answer to protecting the feet and ankles while providing support and stability in the saddle.

Today less of us ride, but all of us can benefit from this underused and very stylish piece of men’s footwear. Whether you’re a plumber in Brooklyn or a bricklayer in San Francisco, investing in your feet with a pair of well-fitted work boots is a smart decision.

As mentioned before, your boots above all else should be functional. But too often we fall into the trap of overbuying on feature-rich, space-age looking boots or purchasing footwear that is made from poor materials and is shoddily constructed. Better to invest in a timeless pair of well-made classic leather work boots that can be re-soled. My favorite are of the western variety–they have no laces, are easy to take on and off, and they look nicer after a year’s wear when treated correctly with leather conditioners.

2. Work Jeans

Carhart JeansJeans started off as work wear, but today they’re either being manufactured so poorly they barely last a day as work pants or they’re sold by designer brands for $500+ a pair. Finding a pair of jeans that are value priced, look respectable, and serve their purpose as work-wear is harder in 2011 than it was in 1911!

When selecting jeans, it’s best to opt for dark indigo or black. It hides stains and dirt best, and choosing darker jeans over the lighter variety is a very simple way to get a more stylish look without changing what you normally wear. Avoid anything worn or stonewashed; this isn’t 1985, and if you need someone else to wear out your jeans you’re reading the wrong article!

Your jeans should fit snugly, and hold up without a belt. Too loose, and the low rise will restrict you as you walk, and worse, become a hindrance when you’re trying to get a job done. Cotton stretches over the day, and if you ever have an issue with them becoming too loose, dry them on high heat. If they’re too tight, stop drying them with heat and instead wash them only in cold water and hang dry; this will also help them last longer.

My favorite brands are Carhartt, Levis, Lee, and Wrangler. FYI–look for the Art of Manliness’ upcoming article on American Made Denim. In fact, if you know of small American companies that should be featured, please contact Antonio.

3. Denim Trouser Alternatives

Khaki Cotton Chinos

If you’re wearing khaki pants, you can’t be getting that dirty at work. But even though formality-wise your choice of trouser is a step up from blue jeans, the pants you’re wearing might look worse due to a poor fit. To improve their appearance, consider taking them to a tailor or seamstress. Small adjustments like having the waist brought in or the legs shortened can make a world of difference.

Another option is to darken-up the colors you wear–not only will these darker colors be more resistant to stains, but darker colors are more formal and paired with medium colored cotton work shirts or dress shirts will give you a more streamlined look.

Wool Flannel Trousers

Not exactly work pants, grey flannel trousers are a durable wool napped weave that is a viable option for the man who needs trousers dressier than jeans but is tired of cotton chinos. Choose a fabric in medium or charcoal grey–it’ll look sharp with a patterned dress shirt and not look too far removed from your blue collar roots.

4. Quality Protective Eyewear and Sunglasses

Oakley protective eye-wear militaryI have never heard of a situation where cheap glasses are a better investment than a quality pair of optics, especially under extreme working conditions. High quality lenses better protect the eyes, are made from sturdier materials, are more comfortable (and therefore more likely to be worn), and are often covered by a warranty.

The most common excuse stated for buying cheap eyewear is that the man in question has the habit of losing them. My response to this is why then should he be trusted with a single tool or an important piece of equipment? If he can’t mind his own gear, why should he be trusted with anyone else’s?

Seriously–without your eyesight you would be unable to do almost every task you perform at your job today. So many men play roulette when they operate equipment without eye protection, oftentimes because the eyewear provided to them is uncomfortable.

The working man purchases glasses that suit his needs–military and police forces often select sport shades which hug the head and stay in place when running, climbing, and shooting. Engineers select eyewear that enables them to clearly make out far off objects despite intense glare but still look professional when meeting with the onsite client. Machinists select eye protection that is comfortable, protects their eyes fully, and is breathable.

Check to see if your company will reimburse you for the purchase–if not, don’t let their shortsightedness affect your healthy vision. Invest in yourself–it only takes one close call to make it all worth it.

5. The Work Shirt

A T-shirt is not a work shirt–although you can work in it, it does not do any work for you. T-shirts leave your forearms and neck exposed, are often made from synthetic materials that do not breathe, are too lightweight to protect the skin from sharp objects, and have no pockets.

Instead of working in old t-shirts–invest in the work shirts that worked for your grandfather.

The Classic Cotton Work Shirt

western work shirtThe classic cotton work shirt is occasionally mistaken for a dress shirt, but the two are different. Work shirt fabrics are often made from a thicker yarn than dress shirts and give the appearance of a rougher weave–yet they still feel soft to the skin. In addition, the fabric of choice is solid and dark to better hide stains and slight tears. Cotton work shirts become softer over time but remain durable for years thanks to cotton’s unique properties. Double stitched, they gain character when patched and are styled with a functional pocket on each breast.

Denim Work Shirt

Denim shirts have long been a favorite among the working man as they’ve traditionally been hard-wearing and inexpensive. But while they are made from a lighter weight denim than jeans, the material is heavier and the weave is tighter than lighter woven cottons which makes them less breathable; this is fine for light work in the fall or winter but denim shirts can quickly become uncomfortable as a man starts to work up a sweat and are unbearable in hot weather.

Chambray Work Shirt

Chambray Navy ShirtChambray is a light-weight cotton fabric, normally made with white and blue thread interwoven to form a light blue. Because of its delicate drape, it can come off as more formal than either the cotton work shirt or the denim shirt. However, most chambray shirts incorporate a wide range of casual style features that keep them grounded.

In the last few decades chambray has been hijacked by fashion houses, and although their production gives us more variety and options to buy, at the same time the average price has risen. However, light-weight chambray shirts at affordable prices can be found at box stores in the spring or western stores year round. And although it belongs in the work man’s wardrobe–a versatile chambray shirt can also be worn with a suit.

Short Sleeve Collared Work Shirts

In general I am not a fan of short sleeve work shirts unless worn in extreme heat and the work to be performed is light. Better to wear a light-weight long-sleeve classic cotton with the sleeves rolled up–then you have options.

6. Protective Headwear (not hard-hats)

panama hat workwearA stylish piece of protective headwear is perhaps the easiest way for a blue collar man to declare his sense of style and common sense. What makes more sense…to have the hot sun beating down on your head all afternoon or to wear a light colored straw hat that allows air to circulate and keeps the sun off your skin?

Most men who work outside, if they wear a hat, wear a baseball cap. This is a poor excuse for a protective cover, as it only partially shields the eyes and is rarely fitted to allow air circulation. Instead, break the mold and opt for a straw hat or panama–which if made correctly are very durable and can be rolled up and then unrolled with no damage.

7. The Handkerchief

Yes, a paper towel or a tissue is more sanitary. But a cotton handkerchief is more versatile. A red handkerchief can be used to not only clean up after sneezing, but to apply pressure on a bleeding hand, mark a truckload as extra long, temporarily tie down a pipe, or 1000 other things.

Video Summary

I’ve created the following video summary of the post for those of you who prefer to consume your content via video:

Alright, what did I miss? What would you add to the article to make it even better? What are your personal recommendations for things like boots, jeans, and shirts? Share your tips with us in the comments.


{ 108 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jon July 26, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Sadly most hats just aren’t cool. Imagine if two guys show up wearing fedoras. You can’t do that! Haven’t you see The League?!

2 Big Whiskey July 26, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Sta-Press pants are also some good work pants and hold up well, same with Dickies. A good pair of slip-resistant steeltoes are a must

3 James July 26, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Antonio, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen working in clothes that are way, way too large for them, and ridiculously fragile looking “shoes”. I can tell you it was a high percentage of them that got clothes ripped when caught on something, broken toes from trying to be a hero in chuck taylors, and having to constantly re-adjust their baggy pants while they should have been paying attention to their job.

I worked in a rather easy going atmosphere, but it was serious business. While we weren’t working construction, we were still working with a lot of gear, lots of moving parts. We were (I have since left this industry) always at attention, yet they let their clothes effect their work. Quite sad.

The only thing I would add, is a good, sturdy, quality belt. Those little fashion oriented “rope belts” (not sure if that is what they are called) are fine for when you’re relaxing, but in a job that requires physical action and constant movement, a quality leather belt keeps your pants where they belong, allowing you easier movement, especially when your pants fit correctly!!

I will be passing this article on.

4 Ken July 26, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Antonio, I recommend the reinforced jeans from All American Clothing Co. Not an employee or investor, just a satisfied customer.

5 Josh July 26, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Good article, being a welder its very important to protect myself from sparks and heat. Im in Florida and with 100% humidity and 95+ temperatures I still have to wear long pants and long sleeves. Carhartt are my favorite work pants, unfortunately not all of their clothes are made in the US anymore :/.

PS- what kind of boots are those??

6 Roger A. Mann July 26, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Diamond Gusset jeans are well cut, well fitting and made in the USA! Not affiliated just a happy customer

7 Doug July 26, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Clean clothes…My grand father and great grandfather had a general contracting business and they always said, “Come to work clean. You can get as dirty as you want on the job but always show up clean.” Being in the construction business myself I couldn’t agree more.

8 Former Electrician July 26, 2011 at 6:48 pm

I worked in the construction industry for over twelve years, and often found it interesting that people were made fun of for being presentable on the job site. The cultural norm was to be a slob. Anyone who had the audacity to dress sharply, polish his boots, wear a shirt with a collar, or apply cologne before coming to work in the morning had his sexuality called into question, or at the very least was denigrated for being a “metrosexual”. Even if the ridicule wasn’t based on sexuality, at the very least, those who took pride in their appearance were considered to be sellouts our kiss-asses trying to move up in the world. Perish the thought!

This type of atmosphere was, in my opinion, due to the fact that the population largely consisted of ill-educated thugs and criminal types. To be fair, there were also some gentlemen, but they were in the small minority. Kudos to the select few who rose above the taunts and jeers. They were true to themselves and therefore manlier than any of their would be oppressors ever will be.

9 Eddy July 26, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Could I ask what style those Chippewa boots (the dark brown western style) those are up there? I saw those and knew I needed a pair immediately.

10 Former Electrician July 26, 2011 at 6:52 pm

“sellouts *OR* kiss-asses”…

Don’t you just hate it when a typo steals your thunder? I sure as hell do!

11 David E. Ray July 26, 2011 at 6:52 pm

A few comments on work gloves would not go amiss. Of course there is different styling for different uses, but I would appreciate a few words about presentation.

12 Hoss July 26, 2011 at 6:55 pm

this is not supposed to be a plug but there is a company called Duluth Trading that does a good job with all this stuff.

13 Derek July 26, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Does anyone know store franchises that carry a variety of cotton work shirts (that aren’t too expensive)? I’ve been looking for them for awhile, but didn’t know what they were called.

14 Barrett Horne July 26, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Belts, from the Gun Store, err, I mean sporting goods store. Galco and Safariland, like police officers wear. Heavy, look good, thousands of secondary uses.

15 Andrew July 26, 2011 at 8:09 pm

@Eddy I don’t believe Chippewa makes that particular color anymore – or if they do I didn’t see it on their website – but it’s one of their Arroyo line of boots.

For those who aren’t familiar, Chippewa is one of the most durable brands of boots you’ll ever encounter. They’re handmade in the U.S.A., which is a rarity for work boots these days. And if you don’t prefer the western style, they also make boots with lower heels and a wide variety of lace ups as well.

16 Tom July 26, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Not a bad article, and I agree with it’s direction and points of reason. I’ve worked in the heavy equipment repair industry for over 40 years now. Jeans ? Not a chance! To tight in the crotch and legs, your body needs free movement. Proper fitment of clothing is absolute! Gloves are fine when I’m welding, but as a mechanic, far to much dextarity is lost. Eye protection is a must, you only get one pair of eyes! Something that wasn’t mentioned was jewelery, IE: watches, rings. chains etc. Don’t do it! Loose that shit or loose the digits. Hair ….keep it short, long hair and moving parts or fire don’t mix. Carry a sharp knife, personally I’ve found that folding utility knives are the best all around instrument on the market. When they are dull you just flip or change the blade. They are compact and clip onto the inside of your pocket. Wear 100% cotton, it breaths and cuts down on fatigue. Boots as he said …buy quality shoes! If your feet hurt or aren’t protected your day will be ruined as well as your feet.

17 Donovan Worland July 26, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Ben Davis pants, thrift store shirts, Dickies shirts, suspenderstore.com, holdup suspenders with some nice Dr. Martens and a twenty dollar cap. An outfit that has the flyest suss at all times and can be worked in. Ben Davis will include suspender buttons for free if you need. Wear your pyjamas to bed louts, men should have pipes full of steam filling out a nice shirt! Right on Antonio you are quite the classy gent!

18 Daniel July 26, 2011 at 9:25 pm

Antonio, you need to mention L.L Bean and Duluth Trading company. American made and great quality! @Hoss beat me to Duluth but hes right!

19 Andrew July 26, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Josh – Those are Chippewa boots.

Eddy – I’m not sure Chippewa makes that particular color, but it’s from their Arroyo line.

For those who aren’t familiar with Chippewa, they’re some of the most durable boots you’ll ever come across. They’re also handmade in the U.S.A., which is rare for work boots anymore.

20 Jim July 26, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Great article. Before going back to college to work on my Masters and PhD in the History of Science. I worked several different jobs as a carpenter, meat-cutter, fishmonger and ag equipment distributor/warehouse/shop. I always kept my jeans starched as heavy as I could, this allowed slag from cutting torches and welding to bounce off more frequently than burning in. I loved working in the warehouse and working on gearboxes, but found I always needed more pockets. With one quick trip to the local goodwill I was able to get a few vests. A little warm in the summertime, but not terrible if worn over a light cotton or cotton blend shirt, even when removing transfer cases in the field. I agree with the posts here as well, I know many people who wear clothes that just don’t fit. I saw it when I was working construction and I still see it now that I am academia. No matter the color collar, there is no excuse for looking like slob. Another great post Brett! PS @Derek, we found some nice ones at Tractor Supply.

21 Brian E July 26, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Please take a look at Pointer Brand denim for American-made, low priced denim clothing.

22 James July 26, 2011 at 10:50 pm

“Of course there will naturally be those that consider the topic of this post a contradiction, arguing that men who work with their hands care little for how they dress, as they are measured by results, not appearances.”

Is this the opinion of the author? If so, I find that last part unfortunate because it almost comes across as implying that a man who wears a suit to work isn’t measured by results.

23 Chris July 26, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Can anyone recomend a good pair of work boots and how to take care of them. I weld and I am a custodian. They need to be tough. Thanks.

24 Rob July 26, 2011 at 11:12 pm

I have been waiting for such an article as this one. I currently work in the artificial turf industry and I produce the plastic yarn that is made into turf. I spend most of my days around dyes, hot rolls, and ovens, all within the range of 200 to 400 degrees. Compound that with the summer heat and you get 12 hours of nothing but cooking. Currently I wear shorts (safety wise they are acceptable in my line of work) and a tank top. Although I guess it keeps me rather cool, I’m getting tired of the tank top look. So I think a few chambray shirts should do the trick.

25 Adam Perrault July 27, 2011 at 12:28 am

I really like my White’s boots. They are super comfy and built very well. I have gone through many pairs and styles of boots and these ones are great! I was a diesel mechanic for 10 years and even though I have left the industry I still wear boots every day in my sales job. (but I do go into shops everyday)

26 BenG July 27, 2011 at 1:05 am

I’m a carpenter who came up through the Union working in heavy commercial construction, then switched to residential work and finally started my own business. I give a hearty second to dressing sharp and showing up clean as a worker in the trades–a professional at their craft should look like one! If you are in the mud you absolutely cannot beat a pair of Danner’s super rainforest boots–they will run you 250-275 bucks, a little more than a day’s wage for a union journeyman carpenter. An old timer once told me a good pair of boots has always cost a day’s wage. On concrete and wood floors a pair of wedge soled Redwings is the best footwear–I prefer low tops for cooler feet. Now that I work less in the field I’ve switched to Dr. Martens which can perform in the field but look great to a client. Carhart duck is my go to pants and coat–I like the Detroit style jacket.

One other reason to come home clean to your kids is chemical safety–nobody wants their kids lungs getting a big whiff of concrete dust or worse by hugging your leg as you walk in the door!

27 Neal July 27, 2011 at 1:07 am

Does anyone know of good chambrey shirts? for years cabelas had great ones but they dont carry them anymore.

28 Paul July 27, 2011 at 2:55 am

Good article.
I live in thailand and work as a dive instructor – obviously it’s impossible to stay sharp all day, but I’m always surprised by how many instructors turn up looking like slobs – even when they are in the shop trying to sell dives.I agree with idea that it doesn’t matter how messy you get at work but make sure you look good when you start – this includes shaving each day (unless you have a beard, of course).

Chris (comment 21)
The best all round boots I’ve found are by Blundstone: http://www.blundstone.com/products/classics-and-lifestyle/
They are an Australian company who originally made boots for sheepherders. This meant they had to be strong, tough and comfortable for long wear.
They are also nice looking in most environments. I used to ride a motorbike to work right through the Enlish winter. The boots were tough enough to take this and smart enough to wear in the office. Not sure if they are available in the states but they seem to last forever so worth paying to import I’d say.
Hope this helps.

29 Belligero July 27, 2011 at 3:17 am

Unfortunately, I’ve been very disappointed with the quality of Blundstone since they moved to low-cost Asian production. The Australian-made ones were good quality for the price, but the Thai- and Indian-made ones are not. R.M. Williams boots are far superior and I find their work models are better value for money, though more costly. I’d rather have a properly made sole and upper than save a few bucks for the limp-soled, roughly sewn version.

Pro tip: don’t wear the same pair of boots every day. Give them a day’s rest – preferably with boot trees inside – between wearings and they’ll be more hygenic and last much longer.

30 John Teasley July 27, 2011 at 4:35 am

I’m a refuse (trash) truck mechanic, and my company provides clothing to us, including boots. I wear out a pair of boots in nine months with as many hours as I put in.

I have found that when wearing a uniform, the only way to look stylish, is to tuck in your shirt, wear a belt, and keep my boots wiped off. an under shirt not only improves the look, but helps keep you cool in the summer, and if I wear it backwards, it helps keep me warm in the winter.

I agree with a previous poster. I once attended a funeral before going to work. I wore my suit and tie to work, and after wore it home. I wasn’t ridiculed, but most people asked if I was going to court.

31 Paul July 27, 2011 at 5:02 am

Thanks for the tip – it’s a few years since I wore the boots (they’re not much good to me in Thailand) so my info was outdated.
Good job you were here to pick up on it.

32 Brian July 27, 2011 at 5:50 am

Hoss, ditto your post! Duluth has great clothing, plus a super “art of manliness” style catalogue and website. Check it out!

33 Paul P July 27, 2011 at 6:57 am


This is an article about blue collar workers. It does not imply that white collar workers aren’t measured by results, it just implies that you didn’t get those results while knee deep in grease and sweating your balls off.

34 Jeff July 27, 2011 at 8:10 am

What a great article! I’ve never heard anyone talk about the importance of the working man dressing well and I couldn’t agree more. Redwing makes great, long lasting workboots that can be resoled and they really take care of thier customers with free boot conditioning and replacement shoe strings. Most of their traditional boots are still made in America. Round House jeans and overalls are also made in America for over a hundred years. Round House also makes nice shop aprons to protect your clothing. Riggs Workwear makes well fitting, functional work clothes. I particularly like their Ranger pants. You can find great, well made utility pants from Mountain Khakis and LL Beans Katahdin Ironworks line. It’s definately worth spending the money on quality workclothes.

35 Ade July 27, 2011 at 8:20 am

Great article – can anyone tell me who makes the shirt in the photo? Looked at Dickies but they didnt even come close to the style shown – particulalry like the dark brown buttons. Thanks! Ade.

36 Sean July 27, 2011 at 8:25 am

I find wearing a well fitting athletic shirt to be comfortable and functional. It has a high collar to protect the neck, and the wicking ability to keep you cool in the summer. Boots are important, but socks that fit well are important too! I spend 60 hours a week in steel toed boots and when I wore crappy socks it was definitely a hindrance.

37 Dawgpile July 27, 2011 at 8:33 am

Did a little digging. The western work boots above are the Chippewa® pitstop western work boots retailing for 219.99 at shepplers. Very nice looking work boot, but unfirtunately not steel toe (required for the oilfield). We get a 150.00 boot allowance every year, so I am always looking for nice boots.

38 American Denim July 27, 2011 at 8:50 am

For the best quality American made jeans I buy from http://www.buddysjeans.com/

They are not the most stylish but they are the strongest, longest lasting jeans I’ve ever owned.

39 nick July 27, 2011 at 8:52 am

Filson makes very high quality work clothing and the majority of their products are made right in seattle. They have every thing from hats to boots and any man in the world would benefit from a mackinaw wool vest. Tin cloth is nearly indestrucible, waterproof and gives you and option besides carharrt

40 nick July 27, 2011 at 8:57 am

filson is very high quality american workwear

41 Dave B. July 27, 2011 at 9:22 am

Good article all around! I was delighted to see that you included the handkerchief and protective eye wear. People get way too cavalier with their eyes and forget that the pair they own is worth far more than even the most expensive work goggles or sunglasses. And a handkerchief is a tool that belongs on any working man’s person as much as a knife, lighter, or any tool that his particular profession may demand.

I have some experience in just such a line of work, and the points I would stress are as follows:

-Eye wear: a veteran organic chemist I worked with used to say ‘everyone who has eyes should own goggles!’ I have to stress this sentiment. If you’re around moving parts or chemical irritants, the risk of something coming into contact with your eye and distracting you (or worse) cannot be ignored for even a second. If you’re working outside, you should have a reasonable pair of sunglasses as well. Glare is another potential danger to your eyes, since it may distract you from task at hand.

-Boots: Don’t go cheap on these. Feel the inside of the boots carefully before you purchase them. If it feels like the inside of a running shoe, the insole and the stuff underneath will turn into bits of foam in months and you will need new boots. If you’re purchasing steel toes, make sure the fit is correct, or you’ll either end up with callouses of an unspeakable variety on the tops and bottoms of your digits (too large) or on the sides accompanied by sore joints (too small).

-Work shirts: These can be remarkably difficult to find a good fit. It’s like some curious fact of nature. Stretch in every way you can before you commit to a size, and only then buy one. If after a few weeks of wash and wear it feels correct, then proceed to purchase more. These are an investment!

-Jeans: *Crucial* point by author on the crotch. If it is straddling the inside of your thigh at the extreme of your step, you’re going to have abrasions, an increased risk of falling/stumbling, and a possible tear at the crotch. The working man needs none of these.

42 Blake July 27, 2011 at 9:31 am

Great post! My wife and I just bought land and plan to start our own hobby farm. Looking good will be very important since we plan on having customers coming and going all day.

43 jg July 27, 2011 at 9:57 am
44 WarEagleDG July 27, 2011 at 10:04 am

This is a fantastic article. I’ve been in the construction industry my entire life, from being raised in a hardware store, getting a degree in Construction Management, and working in commercial and heavy industrial construction. I want to hit just a few points:

As “James” mentioned already a good work belt is key. Invest $30+ and buy a good one and break it in, A good one will long outlast any clothing or boots, and it will have a story to tell through the years.

I’ve spent my entire career in the Deep South; Jeans are great, but heavy and hot. A good pair of light canvas or heavy khaki will keep you cooler. Carhartt’s are my personal favorite, but whatever you pick pay attention to the fabric “weight”, something under 9oz is best in the heat, and go up for colder weather.

No matter if its jeans, khaki, or canvas NEVER buy anything with less than 6 belt loops, and 8 is best. Any pair with only 5 belt loops will be uncomfortable because the pants will drop below the belt as you move.

I could write a few entire articles on each of the topics touched above, but I’ll leave it at this for now.

45 Marília July 27, 2011 at 10:09 am

On a female perspective, thank you finally saying something about men who wear too big clothes. I understand American men are tall and big but their clothes should fit. NO more baggy pants, and for the love of God, your shirt is the right size if the shoulder begins where it is supposed to begin, that is, where your arms starts.

46 Jared July 27, 2011 at 10:25 am

I second the comments on L.L. Bean khakis and jeans. They are excellent quality, perfectly fit in a variety of cuts, and priced right. Union made in USA.

47 Adam R July 27, 2011 at 10:32 am

Antonio, I just want to thank you for the clothing articles on AoM. I read every single article to see what I can do to improve my dressing habits. It has been a slow road, but eventually my wardrobe will be changed 100% from grungy college kid to Man.

48 Greg July 27, 2011 at 10:49 am

Redwings are great for footwear, some of the best money I ever spent. Both when I managed fast food and worked in a parts house, I went through a pair of shoes every one to two months. Redwings agave me over a year. And the dealers make sure you are fitted right…my legs and back stopped hurting.

Dickies are great and priced right.

If I ever ran a business that required hands-on work, I would hire a uniform service as an employee benefit. A clean, well put together man is a great advertisement for the company. Especially if the company does residential work where they meet and work with stay at home, white collar wives.

The company that picks up my trash has clean, painted trucks, crews in uniforms that fit and in good repair, and equipment that looks well maintained. It gives a great impression of the company.

49 Steve July 27, 2011 at 10:53 am

One point on the work shirts – if you work with machines, you don’t want a long sleeved shirt. I’ll take some sparks and metal landing on my arm so as to not have my arm dragged in when my sleeve gets caught. Obviously it depends on the type of work you’re doing, but I wouldn’t say that short sleeve shirts have no place.

And also, wear a panama hat or a denim shirt in public in 2011 and you’ll look like a fool. They may be useful to a degree, but denim shirts became unwearable after 1985 and wearing a panama hat is kind of like wearing a cowboy hat outside of Texas… bizarrre.

50 Clint July 27, 2011 at 11:30 am

Though I’ve been stuck in the workforce that requires khaki pants and ties for awhile, I still have my roots in hay fields, swamps, and forests from my early years of earning a paycheck. Steel-toed boots are a must, and you can’t beat a decent pair of steer hide gloves. Calf is better if you can afford a pair. The boots that can’t be beat are Redwings.

My dad has worked 40 years in coal mines, driving heavy equipment, mechanicking, and as a logger and he swears by the same pair of Red Wing engineer boots. The boots have worn out and been replaced, but he sticks with the same design. If it ain’t broke…

51 Jason M July 27, 2011 at 11:45 am

Being the military, and in a field where safety toe boots are required, a few brands of boots we buy are Corcoran, Belleville, Danner, and Bates.

52 H. July 27, 2011 at 12:25 pm

These are a companies that sell American made jeans (and work shirts, jackets, etc.):





I will personally vouch for Diamond Gusset and All American. They sell jeans for women that fit perfect:-) Regarding All American for men—make sure you get sizing right. My boyfriend ordered the same size at different times but the second pair was much bigger than the first.

53 Solo July 27, 2011 at 12:38 pm

The baker who trained me years ago would start his day making sure his work area was clean and ended his day the same way, finishing with wiping the flour off his Red Wings. He got more years out of his shoes that way and more respect out of me.

We, of course wore baker whites. In my mind there is nothing classier than a white baker’s coat, white pants, and a good pair of shoes.

54 Dave Hudson July 27, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Glad to hear good comments about Redwing boots. My dad was a self-employed mechanic for 35 years and was always in Redwings, dark Dickies pants and a long sleeved work shirt rolled up to the elbows. Bylcreen in his hair. That was a MAN, friends.Toughest man I ever knew. A truck tire (complete with truck) rolled over his shin once and he didn’t go home. Said, “I expect it’d still hurt if I was siting down.”

55 Emily July 27, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Great tips! The pictures are a nice touch too. It’s all very true! My boyfriend goes to work everyday with these exact kind of clothes on.

56 Steve M July 27, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Another great article, Antonio. Thanks.

57 Kolby July 27, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Awesome article. More men need to read this and take how they look seriously. For some reason caring for ones appearance is seen as girly or feminine especially with those I know who work dirty jobs. I just never understood this attitude. What is more manly then taking care of yourself and showing others how ones respects himself and his work? Thank you for a great article that not only manages to offer practical advice but for providing an argument against sloppiness.

58 Antonio July 27, 2011 at 2:26 pm


Thanks for all the great comments – I’m reading them and taking notes as there is so much more we could cover here. The Jean article will be released here in a couple months – but in the mean time checkout my friend Casey Golden as she’ll be helping me compile smaller articles on each brand here over the next 60 days. You can find her at http://www.butttherapist.com/


Antonio Centeno

59 karry July 27, 2011 at 2:51 pm

I’m surprised no one has mentioned Duluth Trading’s Freedom of Movement shirts. Every tradesman in the family swears by them. New shirts are for Sundays and “formal” occasions, then passed down to work shirts, then finally (after years of wear), becoming chore shirts.

60 hilltop July 27, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Great article. I’m loving the look of those western work boots that you post a photo of. Any chance you can share the brand and model? http://content.artofmanliness.com/uploads//2011/07/Western-workboots.jpg
Thank you!

61 David Nystrom July 27, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Great article. I see so many tradesmen (blue collar) show up for work or at a client’s house / place of business first thing in the morning, looking like they’ve been working in their outfit all week. First impressions are so important, no matter what the job. One other thought, my grandfather worked as an iron worker his whole life. He never showed up for dinner without following this ritual; wipe down the dusty car in the garage until it shined for the next day, come in the house the backway (to the basement), shower, bandage any cuts, burns or abrasions and put on a fresh clean set of clothes before greeting the family. He’d leave each morning, with a set of clothes & boots as neat as could be. The family never saw the dust, dirt, grim and wounds he had to put up with everyday. He made a lasting impression on me – even as a kid I never left the house unkempt, and alway mimicked him by washing up before dinner. The moral of the story of course, you never know who’s watching how you dress even when you’re just working.

62 Cory July 27, 2011 at 4:41 pm

I really enjoyed this article. A great place to find a high-quality, stylish panama hat is at BrentBlack.com. He has some great styles.

63 Carrie Wehmeyer July 27, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Great article! I would add that the wrong socks can make your work day twice as long.

64 Jeremy Nation July 27, 2011 at 5:45 pm

I am also an advocate of Red Wing boots. A roofer by trade, when I worked on slanted surfaces several hundred feet above ground in many different conditions I always could trust my Red Wings to give me a good foot hold, as well as comfort. Their flexibility with a steel toe is on par of most sneakers, leading to a stylish, and effective -practical- piece of footwear.

65 Billy July 27, 2011 at 5:50 pm

There is nothing worse than cotton boot socks that will not stay up. Red Wing makes the best boot sock that I’ve ever worn. Great article btw.

66 James July 27, 2011 at 6:02 pm

I got a good laugh out of most of these tips – sounds like somebody’s never worked in construction before. The following is my take on this article from the perspective of a mason. A typical day for me might consist of stocking block (35-55 pounds each, and we need about 55 block per scaffold section per 6-foot rise), throwing up new scaffold (usually double-planked), laying block, and pumping grout (lots of guys on a 4″ hose). Our busy time is summer. It’s hot. Based on all that, I found a lot of this advice problematic.

Boots – Don’t expect them to last long before they get cut through in a few places. Turns out scaffold frames have all kinds of sharp shit sticking out everywhere. You’re going to spend 500 dollars a year on boots. Accept this. I was happy to have a pair of Red Wings last six months – the soles are usually fine, it’s the uppers that get ruined.

Jeans – Buy the cheapest pair you can. If you’re feeling rich, buy Carhartts. Keep in mind those 65 dollar work pants are going to get shredded and cut through in about a month. Forget hiding stains. It’s not going to happen. Brown duck is probably best at hiding stains if you’re fussy.

Protective eye wear (PPE) – Just buy the two dollar glasses. They’re going to get scratched to shit in a few days anyway. Who wants to spend $100 a week on safety glasses?

Long-sleeve workshirts – Enjoy your heatstroke, bub. You want a cotton tshirt or short-sleeve buttonup (though buttons get caught on things), loose. The key is surface area to evaporate off sweat, and short sleeves and no collar for skin exposure. Tshirts come in safety colors. Do you really want to wear a heavy canvas or denim long-sleeved shirt with an OSHA-mandated safety vest over the top when you’re throwing block and it’s 95 degrees out?

Hats – You’re wearing a hardhat. All the time. Period. With jobsites come OSHA.

Handkerchief – I totally agree with this.

67 jason July 27, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Need good socks – Wigwam from Sheboygan WI. Best sock you’ll ever wear, they take a huge beating and last forever.

68 Jon July 27, 2011 at 9:50 pm

After ripping many many pairs of “quality” jeans I now almost exclusively wear Carhartt double front pants. I work in a trade where I may be welding, in a harness climbing steel at height, meetings with high profile execs, or sitting behind a desk. The quasi odd look of the double front is offset by the fact that there are no holes. Same goes for the short sleeve work shirt.

Red wing boots all the way.

Big fan of smartwool socks.

69 Darren July 27, 2011 at 9:58 pm

You might check out Arborwear. Designed by a tree surgeon while his back was healing from a fall, they are awesome, comfortable pants. The gusseted crotch is a must-have. Double front knees are great. I’ve had pairs last for 5 years. Good for blacksmithing. :-)

Ditto on the Duluth Trading Company’s shirts.


70 Jason July 27, 2011 at 10:29 pm

I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned this so I apologize if it’s repetitious.

I have no problem dropping over $200 for a pair of Red Wings. Mine have been resoled and the leather is just now starting to crack after 7 years. I will buy another pair and another when that pair wears out. I’m ok spending that much money for a product that endures a lot of abuse and lasts a long time. Not to mention they are made in the U.S.A.

I really like the look of that Buzz Rickson chambray shirt so I did a little research. That shirt is $135 and made in Japan!! I know a lot of good denim and whatnot is coming out of Japan these days, but Jesus!! I could buy about 4 Prison Blues (http://oce.oregon.gov/products/112) hickory shirts for that price and they are made in Oregon. I’m not sure the typical “blue collar worker” is going to spend that kind of money for 1 shirt. It seems a little extreme to me and even a little disingenuous. Just me 2 cents.

71 Steve W July 28, 2011 at 12:00 am

I’ve been an electrician for 16 years now and would like to think I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.

Boots: Red Wings are great. Georgia Boot and Wolverine also make good products. Foot comfort is paramount. I have spent upwards of 16 hours a day on my feet, usually on concrete. The soles of my boots usually split along the ball of the foot before the uppers die.

Socks: I buy a Merino/synthetic blend sock at Sams. Probably the best economical pair of socks I have yet to come across.

Pants: I quit wearing jeans several years ago in favor of cargo pants. I have become a big fan of Riggs Work Wear by Wrangler. I can usually buy them cheaper than Carhartts and the quality is every bit as good.

Shirts: Once again Riggs, they make excellent Tee shirts which hold up very well, with a pocket. I almost never wear button up shirts, as they tend to bind and restrict. Given the range of motion that I need to accomplish my job, long sleeve shirts (when I wear them get the sleeves rolled.) I also prefer an A-type undershirt to help with cooling.

Glasses: I wear prescription glasses, nuff said.

Hats: If I am not on a job that requires a hard hat, universally it’s a ball cap. While I prefer a brimmed hat, the brims and size of the hat tend to become an obstruction when working in ceilings.

Grooming: At the risk of coming across as a neanderthal, when one is performing manual or technical labor, especially with long hours daily involved, grooming is not considered a high priority. Hair tends to get long. Quite a few of the guys that work in one trade or another prefer long hair.

I too got the impression that the Original Poster did not have first-hand experience with contruction work. Let’s be honest, most of the guys are cheap, they don’t want to spend a lot of money on clothing that they know will get dirty, torn and rode hard and put away wet. Boots and tools tends to be where most of their money goes.

72 Mike July 28, 2011 at 12:00 am

I had an incident at work a couple weeks back in which my prescription glasses saved my eyesight. Due to back pressure in a plumbing system i got lye and sulpheric acid on the entire right side of my body. My glasses kept it out of my eyes and my Iron Heart jeans ( good, 21 oz denim) kept it off of my thighs and…other bits. Had i been wearing a proper work shirt I would not have been burned on my arms. Take it from the man with second degree burns on his face. Money is just money. Things would have been much worse without quality clothing.

73 Steven M July 28, 2011 at 5:59 am

A pretty good article with quite a few good tips. I’d like to add a few suggestions. And be aware that these are suggestions and products from an Australian so they may not apply to some of you. I believe there are two ways of going about work wear, either buy quality or buying cheap. I personally go for buying quality if I can but sometimes going cheap is just as good.
Hat- If you’re indoors all day or you work in an industry that requires you to wear a hard hat you’re already sorted but if work outdoors you need a hat, a full brimed one. I wouldn’t wear a straw hat though as these genrally don’t stand up to abuse very well and if it rains while your working they’re not much use at all. I use an Akubra ‘Territorian’ felt hat when I need it as It has a large brim that is perfect for keeping the weather at bay.
Eyeware- Something to spend alot of money on. Your eyes are fluid filled bags with no protection other than a one mm thick eyelid. It doesn’t take much to totally destroy them. While I do wear perscription glasses if I need to wear safety glasses I use contact lenses and wear the bloody safety glasses. And if you can’t wear contact lenses get a face shield. In fact if you don’t have them, make you employer buy them for you as a few set of safety glasses are alot cheaper than a million dollar lawsuit.
Anyway I wear a set of Gargoyle ANSI safetyglasses/sunglasses (The same ones as Arnold wore in the first terminator movie) so I covered everywhere I go.

Shirts- Heavy duty long sleeve cotton drill work shirts. If it’s hot roll up the sleeves, if it’s really hot, drink more water and harden up. T shirts are not work wear. A few good (Australian) brands are King-gee, Bisley and Hard yakka in order of increasing cost.

Pants- Either jeans or cotton drill cargo pants. R.M williams are the Australian work jean. They’re tough as nails and stylish at the same time. But because they are Australian made they will be expensive as in $200 a pop expensive. But I don’t live very far from a clearance store where I can get them for a quater of the price.If you’re going to buy cheap jeans pick them up and feel how heavy they are, if they’re light don’t bother as this means the denim is a light weave and as a rule, the heavier the weave the longer they’ll last. As for cotton drill the same brands as above, King-gee, Bisley and Hard Yakka.

Boots- Along with glasses these are a thing to spend money on. The only work boot I’d wear is a lace-up steel capped safety boot. Cowboy boots and elastic sided boots( very popular down here) don’t provide anywhere near as much support for the ankle as a lace up will and I know many mine sites in Australia have banned anything but lace-up safety boots for that reason. Wear them with thick woolen socks to prevent any rubbing. I wear Steel Blue boots and I’ve heard good things about Wolverine boots.

74 Steve S July 28, 2011 at 9:29 am

I don’t want to nitpick, this is a great article but if you are going to include an accessory like the handkerchief I would also include the pocket knife as a must-have accessory. Especially nowadays where they are worn as part of the working man’s uniform with a pocket clip, lanyard, or belt sheath. I end up using it everyday one way or another.

75 John July 28, 2011 at 9:54 am

Great article. I’d like to add that I occasionally work with people at the Red Wing Shoe Company and they are a great bunch of people who make great products. (I’ve been wearing Red Wings for 30+ years.) Take care of a pair of Red Wings and they might outlast you.

76 EJ July 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Interesting article on blue collar clothes. I’ve been in the mechanical/construction industry for 20 yrs now. I used to buy Carhartt till they moved production overseas. I will not buy imports and still pay the same price. Red Wing boots are good & my current pair is 5 yrs old and they are American made. If your looking for American made denims Pointer Brand by L C King in Bristol Tenn. is still in business. http://www.pointerbrand.com. I now use their overalls or carpenters pants with retired dress clothes ie white shirts, polo’s, trousers, etc for work, its cheaper. As I wear suits, tuxedo’s, and business casual when I’m not working, it provides me with plenty of retired clothes for work. Dress clothes are also cooler than “work” clothes which helps make the job much more comfortable from March to October. When the cold hits just add thermals and you’ll be nice and warm when you want to be. Remember if you want to beat the wall street guys who are sending our jobs overseas buy American. It will bring jobs back, help our sick economy, and bring money back to the great USofA ! You the consumer holds the cards to America’s future by what products you buy.

77 Erik July 28, 2011 at 11:35 pm

I’m a Union electrician and my job finds me both in and out of doors all year round. I’ve learned some basic truths about work wear and working in that time. One of the most basic is this. You get what you pay for. Regardless of what it is. I rely on my tools everyday, they are my livelihood. So, it should be no surprise that my personal tools are best i can get. the same can be said with what i wear on the job. I won’t go into boots here, plenty has been said on the subject already by my fellow working men. Save these few choice bits of advice. Have a pair of tennis shoes in the car to change into at the end of the day. Gives you feet a break from the heavier work boots, allows the boots to air out and you don’t track the crap on your boots in the house for your wife to find! lol. If you can afford it, buy two pair of the same boot, and rotate them so they get a chance to air out every other day. And despite the quality and workmanship, chances are that a pair of work boots will last about 6 months. The pounding we working guys give them is nothing to sneeze at. When they start getting uncomfortable or your feet hurt at the end of the day, get rid of them and get some new ones. Better to spend the money then to screw up your feet.

Now, the reason I wanted to respond to this piece was because of the back and forth over shirts. Most guys are right. Under most working conditions long sleeve work shirts are just horrible. There to tight, they snag and tear on sharp stuff and are just plan unsuited to the task. Add to that that in my line of work, many shops issue company t-shirts with their logo on them, so that you can be identified at a glance as one of that shop’s employees. I’ve found over shirts from the likes of Ben Davis, or Dickie, etc. are very useful. ( I personally like Ben Davis for their quality.) The shirt protects you from dirty and grime getting on you and then your car or home furnishings. The large open top pockets have plenty of room for the pencil, sharpie, tig tester, ball point pen and such that you’ll need through out the day. And the additional layer allows for sun and wind protection, while allowing for sweat to evaporate. They come in a pallet of colors and patterns. Classic hickory stripe or better yet safety orange so you don’t have to wear a restrictive safety vest that can get hung up in a ceiling or caught on equipment. And you guys are probably right, Antonio probably rarely gets his hands as dirty as ours, but he means well, and that, in my book is what counts… Just my two cents. Stay safe, take care of yourself and your family and friends. And keep building…

78 Grant July 29, 2011 at 1:05 am

As an engineer, I spend my time between the office and the field. The same is true (in reverse order) for our field technicians. There are varying degrees of dress requirements based upon your task for the day. I think the article does a decent job outlining what a construction supervisor or foreman might wear– someone whom is expected to maintain a level of professionalism in a field setting.

That said, a few other posters have already pointed out that OSHA tends to dictate the fashion rules out on a job site. PPE (personal protective equipment) changes from job to job, but generally you need to have a hard hat, hard toe (composite or steel) boots, and safety glasses (or side shields if you wear glasses). In my industry, you may need high-visibility vests, work gloves, fire resistant clothes (FRC coveralls) and hearing protection.

Like I said, there are different degrees of dress expectations. If you’re going to be doing some heavy lifting or hazardous activity, t-shirts are the norm. If you’re hosting a contractor over for a pre-construction meeting / lunch or management is delivering a presentation, generally you wear a cotton collared shirt.

Above all else, safety is paramount. I really don’t care if a guy has a whole-ridden t-shirt with stains on it. All I care about is that he’s wearing all of his PPE, and that he goes home at the end of the day in good health.

79 Blake July 29, 2011 at 1:28 am

Great Tips, i would like to ask though what are some good websites or stores for boots?

80 rick July 30, 2011 at 11:32 am

Bib overalls always worked for me. Put the wallet or billfold in the bib pocket, don’t worry about plumbers crack. No belt buckle to scratch a car hood.
Did a lot of outdoor landscaping- altima boots with the panama sole. I do own some diamond gusset genes for less than formal wear and they are worth the investment.

81 Anthony July 30, 2011 at 11:15 pm

The best all around place for clothes and stuff? Sportmansguide.com

The best place to get work jeans? Look up Riggs jeans @ Denimexpress.com

Sportsmanguide guide has pretty good prices especially if you get a membership.

Denimexpress has good prices on Riggs jeans which are quality jeans.

82 b July 31, 2011 at 6:55 am

I have to disagree with the boots advice. Slip-ons are a liability. Always go with Lace-up, for the added ankle support. RedWings are my choice for hot weather, but expect to wear them out in 9-12 months if working on Steel and concrete all day. I also like the Terra balistic nulon boots, they really held up well, but I could only find them in the Insulated versions, good for Canada, not so good for Africa.

83 John July 31, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Great article! I have a question though; I am a 28 year old full-time college student. I served in the military and am afforded the luxury to be able to receive income through the GI Bill thus, allowing me to focus full time on my studies. My question is this, because I’m substantially older than my classmates, I feel strange going to class in t-shirts and shorts or otherwise all-around comfortable clothes. The reason I don’t invest much effort into my clothing at school is because I’m there for a few hours and then the rest of my day is spent studying at home. Is it understandable to dress down at school, regardless of age? Or am I coming off creepy considering my age and am dressed similarly to the 18-22 yr olds around me? The other seasons aren’t a problem because I love wearing khakis, jeans, collared shirts, but in the summer I over heat quickly. Thus, the shirts and shorts. Any help is appreciated, fellas!

84 Anthony August 1, 2011 at 2:44 am

@John – You can dress cool without looking like a teenager. It might take some hunting around for the right clothes but it would be worth it. As for the school environment nobody is going to care (your teachers might appreciate it though) but what’s important is how you feel in your clothes. If you feel like a slovenly teenager then yes a change of clothes might be in order. Also if you are planning on becoming a professional in your chosen field starting to dress the part now will do wonders for your mindset and outlook. Also you can have a different change of clothes for school and home, for example when you get home after school you can change into something more casual.

85 Adam August 1, 2011 at 10:18 am

For nearly any type of work…

24-7 Tactical Pant Rip-Stop are an absolute must!!! I have never been happier with a pair of pants. They look classy enough to wear in an office environment that is work casual. They are tough and light enough to wear on backpacking/canoe trips. They are Robust enough to wear while working in the field. There are double layers on every crucial area, the pockets are billeted, but stay tight to the body via well placed velcro so you have no excess material flopping around.

They arent just for you operators out there. very utilitarian.

Get the Rip-Stop material, as opposed to Cotton, if you are really gettin in amongst it.


86 Keith VanDyke August 1, 2011 at 6:36 pm

I know that after finishing my last conveyor install, my hard-hat was BEAT! There were a bunch of DEEP gouges that would have been a trip to the hospital if I didn’t have it on!

87 Jonathan August 1, 2011 at 10:05 pm

I noticed that one thing that was missing from the grooming section. Be it oil, dirt, mulch dust or cement a working man’s finger nails get dirty. So seeing as you didn’t mention this I felt the need to remind my fellow working men to clean your finger nails. You can use the tip of a pocket knife blade, a toothpick or a sewing needle. The key is not what you use but to do it.

88 Jacob August 3, 2011 at 4:34 am

I work in a semi-casual office right now, but I have worked at manual labor in a wholesale greenhouse in the past. Anyway, my 2 cents:

Gloves: Very important. Jersey knit gloves when it’s cold are OK, but they get torn to shreds fast. Goatskin work gloves are relatively expensive, but very comfortable and still allow decent dexterity. They are not as rugged, though, as proper cowhide work gloves. Find a size that fits, and buy in bulk.

Boots: I haven’t had a job requiring boots yet, but my dad the electrician swears by Wolverine.

Trousers:: Dad wears Carhartts and/or denim coveralls. I watch the sales at Penny’s and get St Johns Bay jeans when they’re around $25/pair. The denim is thick enough for wear resistance and basic protection.

Shirts: Dad the electrician wears either a bright safety-orange t-shirt or a long-sleeved cotton work shirt. His overalls also usually provide arm protection, though. For me at the greenhouse, it was a t-shirt with a jacket stashed in my car for inclement weather.

Eyewear: Dad wears proper safety glasses. I wear prescription glasses, and I have some cheapo oversized goggles with side shields on hand in my tool box if I need them around the house.

Headgear: Baseball cap or a cotton bucket hat. Dad wears a Tilley unless he needs a hardhat.

89 Nathan August 4, 2011 at 6:36 pm

Slip-on boots are for cowboys. Buy an 8″ lace up boot for ankle support. I typically wear out a pair of boots in about 10-12 months, so I have worn many different brands over the years. I used to be a fan of Red Wing boots, but trust me, there are better choices out there. I am currently wearing Thorogood boots made by Weinbrenner Shoe Co. and believe they are the most comfortable boots I have ever worn. They are also union made in the USA. Many Red Wing boots are now imported (but not any cheaper, of course).

Carhartt is another company that is slipping in quality. Most of their products are now imported (but not any cheaper). The “duck” material they use keeps getting thinner and softer. It tears easily and just doesn’t hold up like the older varieties.

Safety glasses get scratched, period. Unless you wear prescriptions, buy the cheap ones.

Blue jeans that are too heavy get soaked with sweat and become very uncomfortable. A better choice may be Dickies work pants. They breathe much better and dry out faster after being soaked with sweat.

90 Jeremiah August 5, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Good article. Though it may not apply to everyone, I personally would add, clean tools and a presentable bag or case to put them in. May not be so important if the job comes to you, but when you have to go to the job, don’t bring a filthy, busted tool box into someone else’s home or place of business. If a customer is left to clean up dirt or grease everywhere you may have set a tool down, they might not be so quick to call you again.

91 Dave August 5, 2011 at 8:56 pm

I currently work as a firefighter in an older inner city area. Before that I worked as a wildland firefighter. I ONLY wear redwing boots. I came to swear by them whilie working on a fire in idaho. I wore my redwings for 5 days 24 hours a day only taking them off to change my socks. Out of 20 men on the crew only two of us had no blisters or complained about our boots, both of us were wearing redwings. Currently I still wear redwings just not the 10″ logger style at my firehouse. I would not trust my feet to anything else.

As for pants and shirt we have issued uniforms, nomax type fabric. They get dirty, sooty, sweaty in one or two shifts. i would not pay to much for clothes that are going to get trashed.

As for safety glasses I always just buy the cheap 5 dollar pairs at the hardwear store. Why pay top dollar for something that is going to get scratched up in no time.

two things i noticed that were not mentioned in the article:

A pocket knife- No man white collar or blue collar should walk out the door without atleast a pen knive in their pocket

A good thick quality leather belt. Nobody wants to have to keep pulling up their pants all day long whilie they work. If you buy a thin dress style belt the sweet and dirt will break it down in no time.

92 Dustin August 7, 2011 at 9:37 am

I agree with just about everything here. As a superintendent for a commercial contractor in Georgia, arguably one of the most uncomfortable summer climates. I know of what I speak. I agree almost 100%. Especially the work shirt bit. You just can’t beat a good cotton shirt in the summer. I was quite angry when my old company handed out the shirts they wanted us to wear everyday. A nasty cotton/poly blend. It was like wearing a hefty bag. I never understood the idea of wearing petroleum by products on a site where lots of stuff can catch on fire at any minute. Makes no sense.

Also, the quality eye protection bit. I can’t tell you how many times I have to put up with the “my glasses fog up/ i can’t see/ yada yada yada.” If you buy cheap, yeah maybe. For my money, UVEX protege glasses can’t be beat. Super light, no fog, excellent eyewear. As for “I get the cheap ones because they get scratched.” I see so many guys toss them in their hard hat, tool bag, or lunch box. Is that where you put your ray bans? No protect them, they’ll last. The requirement isn’t going away.

Also, to the mason that posted above about t-shirts- Wrong wrong wrong. A good cotton shirt will breath better and protect your arms and neck from sunburn than any t-shirt. The right cotton breathes as well as bare skin with reduced heat from sun exposure. Stop buying wally world polyester shirts and see what I mean. Your skin will thank you.

As for a safety vest causing extra heat… Complete BS. I’ve heard that tired complaint so many times. The vests are so thin they are hardly noticeable. For that matter, I’ve done days of layout in Georgia summer heat in a full on surveyor vest. The only time I’ve bought the “vest is too hot” bit is when one of my welders set his on fire. Yeah, that got toasty.

Also, for the record, OSHA doesn’t mandate half the PPE companies make you wear. They’ve just been sued so many times by idiots they make it for the lowest common denominator. 100% Hardhats/Glasses/Hi-Vis Vest/Workboot rules? Not in the CFR.

93 woiki'n man August 8, 2011 at 9:13 pm

The best choice is overalls, Herman survivor lace-ups and a t-shirt. Some websites have so called “new and improved” overalls made of nylon and elastic that cost 60 bucks a pop. DON’T BUY THEM! Most clothing industries are moving twoards cheap knockoff crap like nylon and other synthetics. Here in Arkansas it gets so hot that if you wore anything nylon it would melt to your skin.. I’m a firm believer in “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” The blue denim overalls that papaw wore will work for you. Whether it’s cheap or expensive it all wears out at the same pace, so you might as well be able to afford replacements. Go for Dickies or Big Smith. I agree with some of you. cowboy boots are for cowboys. Working men need ankle support and durability. Go for lace up Herman survivors, with real leather uppers, and at least 8 inches tall. I personally prefer a cotton hanes t-shirt, even in cold weather (I’m hot natured). Wear a sweater over it so that if you get hot you can take it off and be comfortable. long sleeve shirts are good choices for welders or similar trades with the dander of sparks, but in the log run the cheap, easily affordable and replaceable t-shirt wins. A thick cotton hankie is a must for a working man, and don’t forget the cotton flat cap too!

94 JD August 10, 2011 at 12:18 am

Be sure to include Duluth Trading Co. They sell high quality blue collar clothing, much of which is American made, at reasonable prices.

95 D Khuluq August 15, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Who can forget Dickies work pants? For years I’ve been wearing the double layered knee variety as a wallpaper hanger. Preferably the dark navy and dark grey colors to hide paste stains, and occasionally blood from razor blade wounds. I’m planning on switching to the classic work pants soon, however, because those double knees look a little to rough and tumble for what I do and where I’m doing it. Mostly in wealthy residential settings. I usually, except on brutally hot Philadelphia summer days, wear a plaid button down long sleeve shirt with the sleeves rolled to the elbows. And a scally cap.

Dickies makes work shirts as well, but I don’t favor them in combination with the pants unless you work for UPS or something. They also make good carpenter jeans.

96 Christopher August 16, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Blue Diamond Gusset denim jeans with Red Wing boots. Can’t go wrong, durable and priced right.

97 Ander August 24, 2011 at 1:20 pm

As a middle-class working family university student, dressing as a working man is not so much a matter of need, but a way to define myself. That said, I live rather far from everywhere I need to go, so the boots are an essential part of my wardrove, and they are usually the most expensive piece of clothing I buy.

I do not agree with the boot recommendation, though, because I personally use a pair of caterpillar leather boots with an oil-resistant sole, and they´re the best footwear I´ve ever seen. Made of brown leather and with no more decoration than a bulldozer inlay, they have a padded ankle protection and tight-fitting laces. Periodically treated with the addecuate product, they can last a lifetime.

98 Jd November 21, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Blundstone boots have gone to shit in the last couple of years….I’ve switched to Redwings……nearly $300 but, well worth it if you’re working in them all day….they also look good after work, so no need to change before heading to the pub….classic work shirts by Dickies and Carhart work best…obviously, as far as pants go…if they’re not Carhart’s – don’t bother.

99 Andrew from Canada February 25, 2013 at 1:11 pm


Last fall I got a pair of Filson pants with good, heavy, suspender buttons, and in December I finally got around to wearing them with suspenders. I don’t know if I can go back to a belt. Usually at work I have a tool belt and a pair of chainsaw chaps, and with a belt on my pants that adds up to way too many buckles around my crotch. Additionally, if you wear a Leatherman, flashlight, key ring, and cell phone on your belt, suspenders can help distribute the weight. They have also shown themselves to be better at keeping the back of my pants in place when moving around. Suspenders are also rare enough to be a distinguishing feature. Just don’t wear the rainbow ones.

I wear Redwing boots, and they’re the most comfortable footwear I’ve ever owned, and I’ve gotten more than two years out of my current pair. My girlfriend tells me that they greatly improved my standing posture, too. Also, wool socks over cotton is my choice for all months of the year. They insulate from both cold and abrasion, and personally make my boots fit better. My feet have never overheated yet.

Incidentally, as someone who grew up around cattle, I kind of resent that people seem to make a distinction between “working men” and cowboys. Walking out into a spring snowstorm at four in the morning, reaching up to your elbow inside a cow, and helping a new life into the world should count as work in anyone’s book. Same thing with riding and fixing fence lines for sixteen hours a day, or waking up in the dark hours of a winter morning, and braving the -40 temperatures to feed animals – something that simply can’t be put off, avoided, or shirked when living things depend on you. Cowboy boots serve a vital purpose (that laced boots usually can’t) if your work involves horses, and cowboys and ranchers work as hard or harder than anyone else.

100 Flynn March 16, 2013 at 4:16 pm

I have two big problems with wearing button up shirts, thanks to my build. I have a 12 inch difference between chest and waist, and bull neck, which invariably means a shirt that fits my chest will look like a tent, and my chin will rub on the collar

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