Not the most straightforward of trends, workwear can be a tricky style to get right. Looking to jump on the trend? Read on for our simple, straightforward guide on how to get it right.Read more Men’s Style Guide features and check out our Store.
The Workwear Trend
The workwear trend is one that's been dipping in and out of popularity for the past few years now. Bringing brands like Dickies and Carhartt to the fashion crowd, the market has become inundated with a wide range of practical, durable clothing from work trousers to denim overalls getting contemporary overhauls.
Even though workwear brands are among the most reliable out there, they're often what people struggle with the most when styling. Famous for their durability, they're not historically associated with style or appearance, but in recent years they've begun to find a place on the backs of super stylish men.
Brands like Dickies and Carhartt have been providing American labours with clothing that kept them coming back for years. While we're sure that you're sold on the heritage and quality of these types brands, you're probably wondering how you're going to incorporate them into your own wardrobe. Well, fear not, this is your complete guide to wearing tough threads.
What is Men's Workwear?
Inspired by the American labourers of the early 20th century, the workwear trend has really taken off in recent years. With everyone from the high-end designers to the traditional workwear brands banking in on the current predilection for simpler threads, we've seen a reinvention of what was typically a stagnant market.
These days, the workwear aesthetic can be considered as wardrobe staples, comprising of many pieces such as jeans, denim jackets, work trousers and boots to name a few. The key is all in the laid-back styling, comfortable fit and practicality of the clothing used. With so many different combinations, it's relatively easy to get confused and a little overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options available. With this in mind, we've outlined a selection of outfits and key pieces so you can get the look.
Men's Workwear Outfits
We've broken down some of the key pieces of men's workwear fashion below that'll have you nailing the workwear look in no time. Work clothes for men don't have to be styled boring or like a uniform, so take a look below and see how you can 'work' them into your wardrobe.
Men's Workwear Shirts
When looking for a workwear suited shirts you should be thinking of lumberjack prints, plaid, durable materials and practical fittings. Although it's generally accepted that navy, beige, and black are among the most popular colour choices when going for the workwear look, you can typically play around with other colours once the structure and general look of the piece is reasonably utilitarian.
One of the most instantly recognisable workwear style shirts is the lumberjack. Originally dating back to the 1500s, the lumberjack really took its place as a favourite in the mid 20th century. While plaid shirts in all their forms can be tied back to the workwear aesthetic, it wasn't until 1936 that the iconic red plaid came to the forefront; after a particularly cold winter, the small town of Cedar Springs began to produce its own flannel for workmen (particularly lumberjacks) to allow them to continue working through the adverse conditions. The print took off, and the rest was history!
Another surefire way to get the workwear-inspired look is with a high quality, durable work shirt. First made for the likes of factory labourers and tradesmen, they've since been adopted by the fashion community with the rise in popularity of the trend. Typically coming in a thicker material than your average smart shirt, they're robust enough to be worn over an undershirt on a cool day, making them an ideal versatile Autumn/Winter wardrobe addition.
Finally, the favoured denim shirt. Denim, in all its forms, is a popular choice for achieving the workwear look. Durable, practical, versatile and, not to forget, incredibly stylish. While it is possible to wear a denim shirt with a pair of jeans, unless you're confident in your colour matching skills, it's typically best to wear with some chinos or work trousers. As with the lumberjack shirt, you can also wear a denim shirt open with a simple undershirt - only furthering its multi-functional nature.
Looking at the three options above, all of these will effortlessly convey the workwear aesthetic. These looks are all reasonably easy to put together and most of the pieces can be interchanged for others as they all work well in an outfit. Consider switching up a pair of chinos for some work suit trousers if you want to keep the workwear vibe but smarten it up.
Men's Workwear Trousers/Jeans
When it comes to putting together your workwear-inspired look, the natural choice is to go with either denim or a robust work trouser such as those from Dickies or Carhartt. Originating back in the late 19th century, denim was historically used for hard labour by cowboys, factory labourers, and even motorcyclists to protect them from injury if they were knocked off their bike.
Similarly, thick work trousers were also designed with protection, durability and longevity in mind around the same time. Their wide legged nature partnered with their time-enduring quality and stain resistance made them a popular choice among industrious men who required maximum mobility and a quality pair of trousers for work.
If you have taken a look at the above outfit inspiration and freaked out, don't worry. We're not trying to kit you out in full on overalls (unless you want to). We're showing you how good denim can look when worn head-to-toe. If this look isn't for you, go for some wide leg denim jeans and a bag denim overshirt or jacket on top.
When going for denim with a workwear look, wide legs, as opposed to a skinny fit, is the best way forward. They are really easy to style and will look much better than slim-fit where the outfit will end up looking too formal. Make use of turn ups and pair with some Vans Authentics or Chuck Taylors and you're gonna be nailing a classically-inspired, contemporary style.
Workwear denim is some of the toughest on the market. Raw, unwashed and heavy, it was used to withstand the construction of coal mines, highways and railways of the early 19th and 20th centuries. It's no surprise then that it could shrug off decades of your morning commutes. Heavy-duty denim like this is an investment that you will see a return on as the years go by. As you break-in the heavy cotton fabric, you'll notice the jeans offer the best fit you've ever had, and they'll only get better over time. There's nothing hard about styling them properly either. They'll look just as good paired with a thick lumberjack shirt and Timberland boots as they will with your favourite trainers or plimsolls.
Much the same as denim jeans, the work pants were created with workers in mind so their durability and sustainability make them a great investment piece in any man's wardrobe. Typically coming in a wider fit than most other trousers, work pants lend themselves well to warmer days when a little more breathing space is welcomed.
Style them simply with a white T-shirt or elevate the look with a printed bomber or souvenir jacket. In terms of footwear, white trainers will fit the bill perfectly or you can opt for a pair of Chelsea boots if you're heading somewhere smarter. Another great benefit to the work pants is the sheer amount of colours they're available in - seriously, there's something for everyone meaning you'll never be short of options no matter the event.
Men's Workwear Jackets
When it comes to men's workwear jackets, you're typically going to be looking at some form of a sartorial extension to the work pants. Usually coming in a similarly oversized fashion, the work jacket's main functions are in practicality and manoeuvrability.
Obviously, safety was paramount with the original work jacket designs so you won't find any bells, whistles or swinging tassels on any of these numbers. Clean minimal lines with a typical jacket-like construction are the norms, however, gilets and body warmers are also common styles of work jacket.
When styling, the workwear jacket typically pairs well with most items in a man's wardrobe. To achieve the desired workwear aesthetic, however, it's best to maintain the clean silhouettes with simplistic complementing items such as white T-shirts, clean workwear trousers/denim, and minimal accessories. With a trusty construction built for longevity, the workwear jacket will serve you well through the years if you care for it properly.
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