How To Choose Quality Work Clothing

By Robert Robillard on Tool and Product Reviews

Rob Robillard Concord Carpenter

Author field testing out Arborwear Cambium Jacket and Timberland work-boots

Quality Work Clothing

As a mobile contractors, and re-modelers, our job site environments are constantly changing from indoors to outdoor, to all seasons and weather.

When you work in the elements you tend to choose tools and clothing that can stand up to the harsh environments and test of time.   Once you find a brand, tool or clothing that fits that mold you tend to hold on tight!

That is how the Concord Carpenter crew feels about their clothing.   We test a lot of different brands of clothing on the job site and are always putting them to the test.

What’s Important?

What aspects are important to the employees who will be wearing these garments? Our crew, and probably most folks in the trades would agree that the following are a decent criteria on how to choose quality work clothing.

  • Durable construction
  • Abrasion resistance
  • Fit and Feel – designed for freedom of movement
  • Performance in elements
  • Personal Protection Equipment [PPE]

Phil Benevides field testing Dickies work pants

What Makes a Garment Durable?

According to Phil Benevides, carpenter and assistant editor at Concord Carpenter, “durable job site clothing should not wear out quickly, be designed to reduce stress on seams, and allow full range of motion.”

arbor wear

Arborwear carpenter pants – accessory pockets

arbor wear

Durable Construction:

Durability is probably the most important reason tradesman choose their clothing.   But what does that mean?   Durability really covers many factors that go into clothing such as;

  • Garment Washing; does the company wash the fabric prior to building the garment, to reduce shrinkage and allow for a broken in comfortable fit
  • Industrial Stitching; double-needle stitching throughout the clothing and strategically placed bar tacks reduce seam blowouts and strengthen high wear and tear areas for longer use.

    Bi-Wing Shoulder

    Bi-Wing Shoulder

  • Built In Gusset or Bi-wing expansion shoulders;  Building a gusset in the crotch of work pants such as a work pant allow the wearer an increased range of motion and reduce stress on the seams that most commonly blow out.   A “Bi-Wing” shoulder”  prevents a jacket, or shirt from binding up and stressing the shoulder seams when extending the arms forward or moving.
Arbenter Pants

Arborwear “Arbenter Pants” with crotch gusset

  • Heavy Duty Canvas;  Heavy cotton canvas seems to perform the best on job sites and that is due to their incredible durability and comfort. They are also washable which can be important if you work in dirty environments. For durability, look for a minimum of 12 ounce cotton canvas.
How To Choose Quality Work Clothing

YKK Zippers on Arborwear’s Forest City Jacket


  • Zippers;  Zippers matter, and should be 100 % reliable. The problem is that there are still tons of faulty zippers out there. Teeth can break, pulls tabs pop off, zippers can misalign, and ultimately irreparable lockups.   The zipper does not make a garment but it sure can break it. Replacement zippers cost $30 to $50 depending on the garment, who has time for that?

Our crew has decided that the best performing zippers are the YKK zippers.   YKK stands for Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaishaare, a Japanese company, and currently the benchmark for strength and durability.


Abrasion Resistance:

Abrasion refers to the wearing away of any part of a material when rubbed against another surface. When surface abrasion happens to a garment, its protective properties from the elements are compromised. Look for clothing that is rated for abrasion.

Arborwear Tech pants

Lightweight summer pants: lightweight, functional, durable


Fit and Feel:

While some of the items above like the pre-wash and the gusset construction affect fit and feel there are other items in clothing that you should be looking for.

Well-placed and usable pockets such as a cell phone pocket, hammer loop, deep pockets or a Napoleon pockets are useful and can make the difference in comfort and usability when working.  Many tool manufacturers are now offering heated clothing gear that integrates with their cordless tool batteries.

Look for clothing designed for the specific applications what you do at work. Free-moving designs constructed with heavy-duty fabrics, durable and functional should be your goal. The ability to perform your work, move freely and unrestricted while still offering you comfort and protection is the goal.

True to size fit is important and sizing can vary between brands and designers.   Try on all clothes to ensure proper fit.


Layering clothing – elastic wrist and waistband

Performance In Elements:

When trying to determine how to choose quality work clothing you need to consider the environment you work in and take into account high performance fabrics.   High performance protects you from the elements and some factors to consider are:

  • Rain protection
  • Insulation
  • Wind blocking
  • Moisture wicking
  • Fast drying
  • UV protecting
  • Odor inhibiting
  • Slip protection
  • Reflective items

Clothing used for layering should include features such as elastic like cuffs and waist band that resist stretching and keep the breeze out.  A tight knit garment, worn close to the body, makes perfect for layering. Snug fitting is different that too tight.

KEEN Tacoma Industrial Boot

KEEN Tacoma Industrial Boot

Personal Protection Equipment Options:

Choosing quality work clothing also means meeting safety standards or personal comfort / safety features to make you safer and more comfortable.  Clothing worn in high-risk occupations, should meet PPE. There are many options out there to consider such as:

  • Flame resistance:  In many dangerous jobs, flame resistance (FR) in clothing is of the utmost importance. For FR clothing to be durable, the garment must be inherently flame resistant, and the FR protection must be a permanent part of the fabric. If flame retardant materials are applied after the garment is made, the FR will typically be temporary and not durable.
  • Knee Pads:  Many pant manufacturers are no offering work pants with built in knee pads. Many tradesmen incur long term knee injury’s from prolonged kneeling.   Knee pads built into the pads offer a job site solution to traditional knee pads, which are not always readily available and can be uncomfortable to wear.
  • Reflective clothing: Most often, high-visibility clothing is worn to alert drivers and other vehicle operators of a worker’s presence, especially in low light and dark conditions. High-visibility head wear can also be worn to increase the visibility of the wearer in situations where part or all of the wearer’s body could be obscured (e.g., leaves/trees, traffic barriers, construction materials, etc.).Reflective clothing, such as a reflective vest, reflective arm, trim strip, shoulder or leg bands are all considerations.
  • Slip protection and safety toe: Look for rugged,  slip- oil- and abrasion-resistant rubber out-soles.  Footwear with a safety toe is actually a lightweight alloy material that offers steel toe protection without the weight that translates into less fatigue in your legs and lower back at the end of the day.  We’re fans of anything that allows me to be safer, more productive and less tired!







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About the author

Robert Robillard

Carpenter / Remodeler / Editor

Rob Robillard is “The Concord Carpenter” Rob is a builder, general contractor, carpenter, woodworker, and editor of Concord Carpenter and ToolBoxBuzz As a General Contractor and carpenter, Rob owns and operates Concord Carpenter LLC. A full-service remodeling and construction company. Rob is a recognized leader in home building best practices and a source for how-to information for building professionals. On this website, Rob covers all aspects of home construction, building science, home improvement, woodworking, remodeling, and some of the best product and tool reviews. Rob is in charge of our Tool and Product Review series - Concord Carpenter Videos where we post all of our tool reviews and video tutorials. Rob approaches remodeling and building construction with a pragmatic and problem-solving approach. He enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help and educate building professionals as well as DIYers on best practices in the construction and remodeling industry. He's a strong advocate for "raising the bar" in the construction trades and promoting the trades to youth. #BeAMentor #Green2Great Craftsmanship, quality, and pride guide his journey on this channel The Concord Carpenter's motto: "Well done is better than well said!" : Read more about Rob

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