TOP UNIFORM RENTAL TRENDS FOR 2014
By Catherine Dungan Jones, Senior Apparel Designer, Cintas Corporation
The uniform rental industry is constantly evolving in order to increase image, protect workers and improve comfort and peace of mind. Gone are the days of stiff, ugly uniforms. New advancements in fabric and wash technologies have led to the creation of more colors, sizes and styles than ever before, allowing businesses to select uniform programs that can enhance their brand while keeping workers safe.
To help companies improve their image and select the right workwear for the job, Cintas has taken a cue from many runway and retail-inspired fashions and identified the top five trends in uniform rental for the new year:
For decades, the word “uniform” conjured up images of stiff, heavily starched pants and shirts. Today, new fabric technology such as moisture-wicking controls have improved the breathability and wearability of employee uniforms, so workers can stay comfortable in any environment.
The trend of breathable garments also extends into protective apparel. With updated regulations, such as the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) 2009 revision that requires all workers within the right of way or work zone to wear high-visibility apparel, therefore lightweight, breathable garments are a must.
For years, the color navy was a standard in the uniform rental business. This was mostly because the dyes used to make lighter shades such as khaki or darker shades such as solid black were difficult to maintain in the industrial laundry process. Today, with new developments in dyes, fabric finishes and wash technology, these colors no longer fade after repeated wear. As a result, use of the color black and lighter colors has been steadily increasing in uniform rental.
As more organizations look to step up their workplace safety efforts, the demand for enhanced visibility apparel has increased. From construction sites to oil and gas fields, workers are wearing flame resistant shirts, pants and coveralls with reflective striping, creating apparel that protects workers from electric arc flash and low-visibility hazards.
In the past, many uniform programs approached sizing with a one-size-fits-all policy. Now, businesses recognize that better fitting apparel makes workers look and feel better. By working with an apparel provider that offers fitting services and a wide range of fit and size options, including women’s apparel, organizations can enhance their overall image. For example, adding size options like LJ and LN for employees who need longer tails on their shirts, longer sleeves and longer pant legs.
As uniform rental garments become more fashionable, their comfort and function have also improved. Advances in apparel technology have enabled manufacturers to create garments with fast-drying, soil-release and moisture-wicking capabilities—perfect for occupational athletes, such as housekeepers and maintenance and delivery personnel. In addition, large pockets with zippers and multiple compartments bring increased functionality to garments. To help protect workers from heat-related illnesses, flame-resistant garments—once described as heavy, hot and rigid—are lightweight, soft and breathable. Today’s fabrics allow for substantially more airflow and even help transfer heat off the body.
The uniform rental industry has come a long way in five years, and it doesn’t show signs of slowing down. The most reputable uniform rental providers today are the ones that can keep pace with changes in fashion, fabric technology and workplace litigation. They design garments that perform well amid rigorous physical activity, the elements and workplace hazards.
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Catherine Dungan Jones is Senior Apparel Designer for Cintas Corporation, the world’s largest industrial laundry provider and North America’s largest professional uniform provider.