Essential Construction Clothing and Gear
It's not about fashion. Check out our favorite hard-working, practical, functional work clothes and accessories.
A New Work Jacket
Most of us work jackets until they’re absolutely falling apart (about four years) because the more worn they get, the better they feel. We recommend a canvas shell, a fleece or quilted lining, and big pockets. A medium-weight jacket is best so it will be comfortable in cool weather but can be worn with layers for way-cold weather.
This is our favorite to date: it’s the Duluth Trading Co. Action Flannel-Lined Jacket, No. 32526. It’s made from the ultra-durable “Fire Hose” fabric and has all the other stuff we like too: attached hood (no zippers or snaps), under arms and shoulders designed for non-binding movement, and best of all, the rugged zipper that you can expect to last the life of the coat. Plus, it has more pockets than a billiard hall, which is always a plus.
Construction is a strange industry. Depending on where you live in the world you could spend your time worrying about whether or not it's going to be hot, or trying to figure out how you're going to work an entire day in the cold. If you work or play out in the heat, give this cooling towel a shot.
You can buy the Arctic Cove Cooling Towel on Amazon here. If you’re not one to read directions, remember this—don’t throw it in the dryer or you’ll wreck it!
Fits Like a Glove!
Going to the home center or hardware store to buy disposable gloves can be aggravating. The inventory is “one size fits all.” You gotta be kidding. Those gloves might fit your daughter’s hands but not your big paws! It's a struggle to put them on, they often rip, and once on, they always put the squeeze on your dexterity.
We suggest you try these extra-large nitrile gloves. They’re just what the doctor ordered (no pun intended). Use them for light-duty chores like painting or spraying foam insulation. If you have a latex allergy, nitrile is a great alternative. Liberty T2010W Nitrile Industrial Gloves are available online. The same manufacturer makes a thicker glove that holds up even better for rough work and for working on your vehicles.
Cooler Mud Boots
If you work or play in serious wet weather and mud, completely waterproof boots are the only choice. But in warmer weather, they can be torture—like walking in a swamp of your own sweat.
The Original Muck Boot Company has come up with an improvement. Its “Chore Cool” boots have a moisture-wicking lining to help keep your feet dry. We tried them last spring, and the wicking lining helped, especially on days that started cold (the boots are insulated) but ended warm.
Mostly, though, we love the regular features of Muck Boots: a soft top that doesn’t chafe your skin; aggressive Vibram soles; and stretchy, flexible insulation that keeps your feet warm without making you feel like you’re wearing buckets on your feet. Comfortable waterproof boots—what a concept!
You can find Muck Boots, including the new Chore Cool models, online or at sporting goods outlets like L.L.Bean and Cabela's.
Freshen Up Work Boots
At the end of a long workday, fill up your boots with cedar chips. (Better yet, slide in an old sock that's filled with cedar chips.) The cedar chips absorb moisture and eliminate odors. You can buy a bag of chips, sold as animal bedding, at a pet store. Change out the chips every month or so.
Protect Your Head
Nobody is a fan of hard hats. They’re just not very comfortable, and they tend to fall off unless you’re standing completely upright.
For those jobs where a hard hat isn’t required but there’s still some danger of whacking your noggin, try a bump cap instead. It doesn’t provide as much protection as a hard hat, but it’s not nearly as cumbersome, and it fits just like a baseball cap.
Bump caps can protect your melon when you’re climbing around a cramped attic, working in a tight crawl space, or whenever you’re near a clumsy coworker who has a bad habit of dropping tools while working off a ladder.
The Skullerz Bump Cap shown here is made by Ergodyne.
Cool Covers for Your Shoes
When you're doing flooring and trim jobs where you can't set up your saw indoors, running outside to make every cut is time consuming. And if the ground is wet, muddy or snow-covered, you have to take off or switch your boots every time you get back inside. Well, not anymore... just get yourself a pair of Shoe Ins shoe covers. Slip these puppies on and slosh right through the mud or snow without ever having to take your shoes off. Nice! They’re lightweight, easy to slip on and off, and easy to clean.
Favorite Shop Apron
There are lots of shop aprons out there but none perform better than the Fire Hose Bib Apron from Duluth Trading Co. You wear an apron not only to keep your clothes clean but also to keep your essential marking and measuring tools at hand. Any apron with pockets can perform these two tasks. The features that set the Fire Hose Bib Apron apart are the three mesh bottom pouches that let sawdust flow right through and the straps that take the apron weight off your neck and put it squarely on your shoulders.
The pouches are where you can keep your tape measure, square and hearing protectors. Behind those pouches, there are additional pouches for less-used tools. And you'll appreciate the breast pocket design with pencil sleeves that keeps pencils and a 6-in. steel rule in place even when you stoop to pick something up off the floor.
Long-Life Work Boots
If you're a serious tradesman, you don't buy a pair of boots because they're on sale—you buy the boots that treat your feet the best, and sometimes that's not cheap. Tuff Toe is a polyurethane adhesive that's chemical- and water-resistant. It protects the toes of your boots from getting chewed up on rough surfaces like concrete or shingles. Tuff Toe is fast and easy to apply, and let's face it—a comfortable pair of work boots is a construction worker's best friend. If you could extend the life of your best buddies for about $20, you'd be crazy not to. Buy a kit and watch the application video at tufftoe.com.
Gloves for Digital Digits
Most of us are pretty much glued to our smartphones. Even when you're in the middle of a big project, you check e-mail, answer the phone and add things to the list app. So now you'll be needing these Ironclad TouchScreen work gloves, which allow you to operate the touch screen with gloves on. The gloves have a snug fit, so you have plenty of dexterity. There is leather reinforcement and even a terry cloth sweat wipe. They’re not designed for rough work like framing or masonry, but they’re excellent for automotive, mechanical, electrical and similar work. Buy them online.
Duluth Trading Co's Flex Ballroom Jeans are one percent spandex, so the denim is just a little stretchy. That, along with the hidden crotch gusset (extra space down under) makes them extremely comfortable work pants. You can wear them on a big tile job and never once unbutton them, which is often necessary during floor work. Like all of Duluth Trading Co's other clothing, these jeans are built to last, with “Fire Hose” fabric pockets, waistbands and bottom hems. Get them at duluthtrading.com.
Painter's Pants Designed by a Painter
Leave it to a professional painter like Josh Banks to make painter's pants that really work. He was fed up with pants that wore out and didn't do anything but cover him up, so he set out to design a pair of top-quality painter's pants that actually solve problems. And, after a few years of prototypes, he succeeded.
The pants have special pockets to hold everything a painter needs, including a handy thigh pocket for your smartphone. But the real clincher is the pair of built-in knee pads. Anyone who's spent a day filling nail holes in baseboards knows how valuable this feature is. The pads are just right. Not so thick that they're bulky, but cushy enough to make kneeling comfortable. The pants are available in white, khaki and black. Order them online at armedworkwear.com.
Job sites are noisy. Don’t wait until you develop hearing loss to protect your hearing. That means you, young guys! Regular earmuffs work OK, but they can be hot and uncomfortable, and wearing them is a good way to irritate your coworkers who regularly have to yell to get your attention.
EP3 Sonic Defenders are earplugs that block noise above 85dB but still allow you to hear lower, conversation-level sounds. They come in small, medium and large and are designed to be comfortable enough for all-day use. They include a small stopper plug if you want to block out all sounds. That may be helpful when the new kid has rap music cranked up on the job site radio.
Kneel for a Living?
So exactly how many knee pads have you gone through over the years? When it’s time for replacements, forget the home center and go to Tommy Lesosky, the Wizard of Knee Pads! He’s been making nothing but knee pads for the last 25 years and makes 25 percent of all the pads sold. Tommyco knee pads have cushions, surfaces and shapes specially designed for different trades. Install vinyl flooring? Kneel on lots of broken glass and nails? Lay tile for a living? Or maybe carpet? Doesn’t matter—you’ll find a pair just for you. They’re all built for durability, comfort and pain-free James Brown–style knee drops.