#TheStreetScene: Why workwear brands are making a comeback

The trend which everyone is hopping on

The term “workwear” is used to describe the style of clothing which is mainly worn for jobs involving manual labour. These items of clothing are crafted to be extremely durable and fit for purpose; helping people carry out their work to the highest standard, without worrying about their clothes being ruined. Workwear was made to provide the highest safety to the person wearing the garments – but once again consumers within the fashion industry have taken another interest in the style.

A pair of Dickies workwear trousers. Image from Pinterest

Britain essentially “gave birth” to workwear in the 19th century, where it was the normality for manual labourers to wear corduroy trousers, paired with heavy leather boots. Thick jackets made from woollen fabric (also known as donkey jackets) complimented a flat cap well; all parts of the body were covered. Even overalls were a massive thing to be wearing in these times, due to working with steam-powered machinery which would likely release a lot of excess liquids and fumes. Workwear brands, and their customers, were thriving.

Vintage workwear style. Image from Pinterest

In the 1980s, workwear became more of a trend within the fashion industry, mainly due to the rise of the punk, skinhead and football hooligan subcultures. Especially within the punk culture, oversized donkey jackets and Dr. Marten boots were worn on the streets as they believed in non-conformity. This means that they wore whatever they wanted to, as they didn’t want to follow the “norm”, and didn’t care about being judged for it. In these times, stereotypically, people wearing workwear were of the lower class, and so these subcultures took on the style to show that they wanted to break the social class brackets.

1980s punk style. Image from Pinterest

Over the past couple of decades, this has evolved in to a form of streetwear, with this style taking massive influence from the workwear decades. Materials such as denim, corduroy and quilt have all come back into style, especially with the theme of ‘comfort’ being a massive interest in this new decade. Cargo trousers, lumberjack coats and dungarees are all items which have drawn inspiration from the workwear era.

Modern workwear style. Image from Pinterest

There have been several brands that have made, or are in the middle of making, a comeback into the mainstream fashion industry, who are known for their workwear products. One of these brands is Dickies, which has recently gained a lot of popularity within the streetwear industry. Founded in Texas by C.N. Williamson and E.E. “Colonel” Dickie in 1922, Dickies were originally known for their mass production of uniforms for the U.S. soldiers in World War II. Expanding into the European market in the 1950s, they continued to create the perfect workwear garments for manual labourers to wear at their places of work. In 2017, Dickies was sold to VF Corporation, an American clothing company who owns brands such as Timberland, The North Face and as of yesterday, Supreme. Since then, it has been nothing but success for Dickies. Some of their items of clothing have been the go-to option within the streetwear and skating industry, with their ‘work pants’ (more of a chino style) and their cargo trousers being very in-demand at the moment.

A pair of Dickies cargo trousers. Image from Pinterest

Another brand which has made a massive comeback and is now one of the biggest brands in the fashion industry right now is Carhartt, another American apparel company. They were founded in 1889 in Michigan, where they specialised in workwear items such as jackets, overalls and shirts, with some even being fire-resistant. Carhartt’s items of clothing are made from the best quality materials, helping the garments lifetime in terms of durability. A brand that was affected by the Great Depression so much so that it may not have had a future, Carhartt has hit the limelight since the mid-2010s, similarly to Dickies and other workwear brands. Their subsidiary brand, Work In Progress (WIP), is their streetwear-orientated line, which is one of the most sought-after brands in the world currently. Their iconic logo, made out of a car and a heart, can be seen worn by celebrities such as Kanye West, Rihanna, Jonah Hill and many more.

Kanye West wearing Carhartt. Image from Pinterest

There are so many other workwear brands which have gained a lot of following over the past few years due to the massive increase in the trend, such as CAT, Helly Hansen and DeWalt to name a few. With the trend of workwear not showing any signs of slowing down, many more brands are surely going to have their turn in the spotlight soon – it’s just a matter of time.

Written by Matthew Nicoll for #TheStreetScene