Whether swinging a hammer, digging ditches, or spinning a wrench, manual labor requires garments that possess the durability and longevity to withstand the abuses and rigors of working day in and day out. For decades, workwear items largely went unchanged, employing the same tried-and-true constructions that generations of laborers have relied on. However, in more recent years, the advent of new, innovative materials and construction techniques have given rise to a new generation of workwear that affords even greater performance, abrasion resistance, and protection from the elements.
Because workwear items are so widely used by hundreds of thousands of laborers across the globe, scores of companies have inundated the market, all seeking to get in on the action. As a result, one now has more options to select from than ever before, though the sheer abundance of available choices can make the buying experience a rather daunting and intimidating one. Recognizing this reality, we’re thoroughly pored over the market to deliver this guide to the best men’s workwear essentials — delving into our choices for the latest and greatest pieces of workwear, along with a few old-school favorites, while also exploring what factors and qualities to keep an eye out for when shopping.
A Hardworking Wardrobe
The Main Areas To Consider When Purchasing Workwear
Equal parts robust and difficult to navigate, today’s workwear sector can be tricky to wrap your head around, as this space possesses a handful of fairly unique qualities that make the shopping experience just as idiosyncratic. To help streamline this process, we’ve compiled this brief guide on the seven most pivotal elements to factor in before making your purchase.
Materials: Not all workwear is created equal, and one of the biggest factors that separate the more premium and hardwearing items from the less durable, more budget-focused offerings is the materials used to craft the garment. Obviously, the primary construction or shell (or, when dealing with shoes, the uppers), is the most important material on almost any piece of workwear, though you’ll also want to explore areas such as the liner or membrane used, and whether or not the construction has been treated with an additional finish such as a DWR-coating, or bestowed with supplementary overlays in high-stress or key-impact areas.
Construction Techniques: The materials that comprise any piece of workwear are monumentally important to the item’s overall quality and durability, though a good deal of a garment’s ruggedness is owed to the construction techniques that were utilized to piece it together. This includes everything from double and triple-stitched seams, to constructions that are reinforced throughout, to items with heat or laser-welded seams.
Versatility: Because of its immense quality, durability, and longevity, well-made workwear doesn’t come cheap. Fortunately, these items often lend themselves to far more than just job-site duties, and can also be used for activities like camping, hunting, or hiking, or utilized as a daily-wear item. Art the end of the day, workwear pieces with greater versatility simply add value to the item, making it a better buy.
Price & Value: Good workwear is seldom cheap, and cheap workwear is seldom good. So, while it may sound counterintuitive, you’ll almost always save money in the long run by opting for a more high-end piece of workwear, as you’ll likely spend more regularly replacing more budget-focused items — not to mention the annoyance and inconvenience of having a jacket or pair of pants rip or fail while on a worksite. With exceedingly few exceptions, most quality pieces of workwear are what are referred to as “one and done” items, meaning you only need to invest in one that will last your entire lifetime (with at most some minimal upkeep or repair).
Climate & Conditions: Regardless of whether you’re shopping for a jacket or pants, workwear items come in a variety of different styles in order to suit different temperatures and conditions. By considering the location that you’ll be working in — and its climate — you’ll have a much better sense of what type of garment will be best for your particular needs, such as whether you’ll want a lined or insulated.
Size: When it comes to sizing, workwear can be a bit tricky. Depending on the item, you may want to go a size up (i.e. one size larger than normal) in order to wear extra layers underneath. This is especially important when looking at shirt-jackets, rain slickers, and other garments made to be worn over the top of other items. This is also another area in which you’ll want to consider the climate in which you’ll be working to help guide your decision.
Warranty: As previously touched on above, the lion’s share of high-end workwear is engineered to withstand a lifetime of abuse on the job site, and to prove this, a great many workwear manufacturers stand behind their respective products with generous warranties — many of which are lifetime warranties. Items backed by these insurance policies do tend to cost a bit more, though they come with the extra peace of mind, knowing that, should you manage to somehow damage one of these tremendously rugged items, that its manufacturer will step up and replace it, no questions asked.
Anyone that spends their days working on their feet can tell you just how immensely pivotal a quality pair of footwear can be. The literal foundation of any workwear loadout, a solid set of work boots needs to offer ample ergonomic support and cushioning, while simultaneously protecting your feet from getting cut, punctured, or crushed. Different jobs will obviously require different types of footwear, though below we’ve rounded up five of the best all-around work boots currently on the market.
Carhartt Lightweight Steel Toe Work Hiker Boot
A contemporary take on a work boot that borrows elements from modern hiking footwear, this pair from Carhartt features a seamless nylon mesh and synthetic upper paired with a shock-absorbing cushioned, polyurethane insole, an ASTM 2413-18 standard-certified steel toe, a FastDry moisture-wicking liner with an Insite technology-equipped antimicrobial foot-bed, and a lightweight cement-constructed rubber outsole that offers protection from electrical currents of up to 18,000 volts.
Danner’s Steel Yard models blur the line between modern and traditional job-site boots, employing a more traditional outward appearance that conceals a host of the Northwest footwear outfit’s proprietary technology and features. This includes boasting the Danner Comfort System, though the boots are also offered with or without Thinsulate insulation, as well as available ASTM-certified metatarsal or toe protection, plus the option of the Danner Dry Waterproofing or a breathable mesh liner.
Thorogood American Heritage Emperor
Decidedly high-end yet still relatively affordable, Thorogood’s American Heritage Emperor boots are an updated take on a workwear classic. Made in small batches in America, these boots feature Briar Pitstop full-grain leather uppers, a fiberglass shank sole, a MAXWear 90 slip-resistant outsole, a dual-density polyurethane mid-foot, and a composite safety toe cap. A removable shock-absorbing footbed also allows these boots to protect their wearer from up to 18,000 volts of electrical current.
Red Wing Traction Red
Made in America, Red Wing’s Traction Tred model is another classic-looking boot that combines numerous modern innovations with a selection of tried and true features and technology such as Goodyear welt construction, triple-stitched Red Wing Oro-Iginal leather construction, and a flat-bottomed sole with shallow lugs that affords ample grip without picking up mud or debris.
White’s Foreman Lace-To-Toe
With a linage dating back to before the American Civil War, White’s Boots is unequivocally one of the most trusted American heritage footwear brands, and with offerings like the Foreman, it isn’t hard to see why. Built atop White’s 610 last platform using stitchdown construction, this 6” heirloom-quality model is equipped with a Vibram Cristy Crepe sole, a leather midsole and shank, and full-grain leather water-resistant uppers. These boots can also be rebuilt and/or resoled, allowing for a literal lifetime of use.
Characterized by their tremendous durability and ample versatility, quality workwear jackets will be well-engineered, utilitarian items with reinforced seams and constructions that can stand up to anything from rough shingles and rusty rebar to mud and grime. And while this sector was previously limited to just a handful of more traditional garments such as the classic hoodie, chore coat, or shirt-jacket, today’s market now boasts a myriad of more advanced, and performance-oriented items that borrow elements from everything from military garments to motorcycle gear to modern activewear. Below, we’ve handpicked a condensed but nonetheless diverse selection of well-made workwear jackets that you can count on to work just as hard as you do.
Carhartt Loose Fit Washed Duck Insulated Active Jac
Starting with one of Carhartt’s best-selling workwear items of all time, the J130 jacket, this updated take on a tried-and-true classic was developed using extensive feedback from the public and Carhartt’s in-house team. The jacket is crafted from heavyweight, 12oz, washed cotton duck that’s been bestowed with 80 grams of 3M Thinsulate insulation, a quilted nylon lining, triple-stitch construction, internal rib-knit storm cuffs, and CORDURA reinforcements in key stress areas.
Husqvarna Technical Jacket
Though technically engineered for chainsaw work, Husqvarna’s Technical Jacket is versatile enough to lend itself to a wide array of different on-the-job applications. This high-performance, high-visibility garment is made from a four-way stretch material with pre-bent arms that don’t restrict its wearer’s range of movement, and CORDURA overlays across the elbows. On top of sporting numerous zippered pockets, this jacket also comes with numerous zippered ventilation ports to increase airflow as needed.
L.L. Bean Double L Waxed-Cotton Upland Coat
Waxed cotton offers immense durability and water-resistance, though is difficult and time-consuming to clean or re-wax. Recognizing this shortcoming, L.L. Bean partnered with British Millerain — the originator of waxed cotton — to deliver a game-changing construction that maintains the ruggedness and weatherproofing of waxed cotton, while being machine-washable. Brimming with premium details, this jacket also sports a timeless and markedly more elegant appearance than most of the other items on this list.
Filson Tin Cloth Jacket
Wonderfully encapsulating the “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” ethos, Filson’s Tin Cloth Jacket is a bonafide workwear staple that’s remained in production for years going almost entirely unchanged. The jacket is constructed from 14oz – 15oz heavyweight oil-finish tin cloth — Filson’s most hardwearing waxed canvas — and features a snap-closure front, cuffs, and pockets. This jacket can also accept zip-in Filson liners as well as a detachable tin cloth hood.
Vollebak Indestructible Jacket
While Vollebak isn’t a name that typically springs to mind when discussing workwear items, the unparalleled durability its jackets possess actually makes it a stellar choice when shopping in this space. The innovative outfit’s aptly named Indestructible Jacket is unequivocally one of the most rugged on earth, boasting an ultra abrasion and tear-resistant Dyneema Black construction, backed by more than 200’ of reinforced stitching. Other highlights include two invisible chest pockets with concealed zip entrances and metal fasteners, a high double collar with reinforced zig-zag stitching, and shatterproof corozo nut buttons anchored via their own woven polyester military tape.
Far too often are pants an overlooked item when buying workwear, which is unfortunate, because not only are pants just as crucial a workwear element as jackets, but now is almost unequivocally the best time in history to be purchasing workwear bottoms, as the advent of new proprietary materials like CORDURA and Dyneema has resulted in a cutting-edge array of insanely rugged and abrasion-resistant, workwear-specific jeans, cargo pants, khakis, and shorts.
Ben Davis Original Ben’s Pants
Quality workwear is very seldom sold at budget-friendly prices, though Ben Davis’ Original Ben’s Pants is something of an exception to this rule. A workwear classic for decades, these pants feature a 10oz blended twill construction, a full cut, and are produced in more than half a dozen different color options in some two-dozen sizes. These admittedly aren’t the most rugged pants on the market, however, dollar for dollar, they’re pretty hard to beat.
Patagonia All Seasons Hemp Canvas Double Knee Pants
Despite being best known for its hiking and outdoor gear, Patagonia has recently been tapping into the workwear market with offerings like the All Seasons Hemp Canvas Double Knee Pants. Made from Patagonia’s 9.6oz All Seasons Hemp Canvas — a hardwearing yet lightweight combination of industrial hemp, recycled polyester, and organic cotton canvas — these Fair Trade Certified-sewn pants feature double-fabric knees with knee pad inserts, a contoured seven loop waistband, a gusseted crotch that affords unrestricted mobility, deep drop back pockets with an abrasion-resistant double-fabric seat, and front pockets with gussets for carrying an EDC knife.
SA1NT Slim Fit Jeans
Though they look and feel like an ordinary pair of high-end jeans, SA1NT’s Slim Fit Workwear model features an advanced Dyneema-infused multi-way stretch construction that enables the material to be substantially stronger than standard denim without sacrificing comfort, breathability, or mobility. Workwear-focused details on this premium pair of jeans also include a ruler and pen pocket, felled and reinforced seams, and the Australian outfit’s signature orange accent wing outline embroidery.
1620 The Shop Pant
1620 Workwear Inc. may lack the extensive history and iconic status of brands like Carhartt and Red Wing, though in the company’s short history its managed to carve out a stellar reputation for producing top-notch job-site-focused apparel like its Shop Pant. Made in America using a Spandex-infused nylon twill construction, these pants are equipped with mil-spec buttons, a gusseted crotch, YKK zippers, dedicated utility pockets, low-profile angled back welt pockets, and a heavily water-resistant DWR finish.
Mission Workshop The Mission Jean
Raising the bar in terms of durability and versatility, these Mission Workshop jeans are crafted in small batches in Los Angeles using an advanced Italian-sourced extreme four-way stretch woven twill fabric that was developed exclusively for MW by Mectex MIS. Heavily infused with polyamide, the breathable, moisture-wicking construction of these five-pocket jeans also benefits from a rugged DWR finish.
When the job needs to be done, rain or shine, keeping a protective rain shell on hand is absolutely essential. Engineered to keep you dry without restricting breathability or your range of movement, these hardwearing additional layers typically utilize advanced membranes that allow for optimal performance. So, whether you’re interested in a traditional shell or a more modern take on a rain slicker, one of the five items below is sure to have you covered.
Carhartt Waterproof Loose Fit Heavyweight Coat
Carhartt’s Waterproof Loose Fit Heavyweight Coat is a no-nonsense, no-frills take on a single-layer rain shell. This supplementary layer is comprised of a 0.45mm polyurethane construction that’s infused with vinyl acetate and paired with a polyester backing. Making this item all the more conducive to the job site is its reinforced seams, double-front storm placket, and adjustable Internal rib-knit storm cuffs. Carhartt also offers this jacket in black, yellow, or green color options.
Timberland Pro Outdoor Heritage Waterproof Windbreaker
An eco-friendly integration of a modern high-performance rain jacket, Timberland Pro’s Outdoor Heritage Waterproof Windbreaker is constructed from the company’s ReBOTL fabric, which is partially composed of recycled and leftover materials. Capable of breaking down and fitting into its own pocket, this packable rain jacket also features zippered pockets with color-contrasting zippers, an adjustable hood, and Timberland logos at the spine and left arm.
Truewerk S3 Solution Hoodie
Like 1620, Truewerk is a fairly new outfit that is well on its way to becoming something of an institution in the workwear space by delivering updated, high-performance takes on traditional workwear staples. The brand’s S3 Hoodie is a stellar example of what the company is all about, calling on a proprietary triple-layer bonded fabric technology that’s breathable while still being completely impervious to wind and water and highly resistant to tears and abrasions. On top of its advanced 10K/10K membrane, this four-way stretch hoodie also boasts a micro-ripstop outer shell and a bonded inner fleece liner.
Patagonia Hose-Down Slicker Jacket
Tipping the scales at less than 1.5lbs, Patagonia’s Hose-Down Slicker Jacket is a tremendously waterproof rain shell that’s equally conducive to downpours on the job site as it is on Alaskan crab fishing boats. The jacket is made from a nylon ripstop that’s Fair Trade Certified-sewn and fortified via a TPU-film laminate. A fixed hood with an adjustable drawcord, a snap-closure front storm flap, and internal wrist gaskets with hook-and-loop closures collectively ensure that the jacket’s wearer stays dry no matter how much the skies open.
Fjällräven Sten Jacket
Fjällräven admittedly makes warmer and more robust jackets, however, the premium brand’s Sten model is almost certainly one of, if not its most rugged and waterproof layers, made from a super abrasion resistant and sustainable G-1000 Lite construction that’s reinforced with G-1000 Original overlays in key areas. This jacket can also be waxed for even better protection from the elements. Offered in five colors, this fashion-forward rain shell also features a leather Fjällräven shoulder patch and custom-branded leather zipper pulls.
Finger & Knuckle Guards
One doesn’t need to be an anatomical expert to realize how crucial the use of your hands and fingers is when working. As such, it’s hard to overemphasize how wildly important it is to keep your knuckles, palms, and fingers fortified from cuts, scrapes, impacts, and abrasions. Below we’ve selected five of the finest work gloves for keeping your hands protected while on the job site.
Mechanix Wear Durahide Originals
An even more rugged version of the best-selling Mechanix Wear Original Gloves, these form-fitting work gloves replace the standard item’s construction with ultra-durable Durahide performance leather, before being finished off with a TrekDry liner, and thermoplastic rubber closure wrist closures. Other noteworthy details include double-stitched index finger and thumb reinforcements, pinched fingertip construction throughout for added dexterity and strength, and Durahide leather fourchettes and palms.
Husqvarna Technical Work Gloves
Another top-notch item from Husky’s Technical Workwear lineup, these gloves boast the same hardwearing DuraHide leather construction as the above item, though also sport a myriad of other crucial upgrades. This includes full coverage impact protection that comes courtesy of cutting-edge D30 armor, and TPU bumpers and wrist closures. The use of a mesh construction along with strategical-placed perforations also allows these gloves to afford ample breathability.
Magpul Patrol Glove 2.0
Though developed and engineered as an advanced pair of tactical gloves, Magpul’s second-generation Patrol gloves boast a level of ruggedness, protection, versatility, and dexterity, that they double as an absolutely exceptional pair of work gloves. Manufactured in black or coyote color options, these touchscreen-friendly gloves are made up of goatskin leather palms mated to corded stretch nylon construction hand backs with closed-cell foam knuckle armor.
Danner Unlined Roper Glove
The Pacific Northwest footwear brand’s take on a classic pair of ranch-hand-style work gloves, the Danner Unlined Roper Glove was born out of a joint effort with Centralia, Washington’s Geier Gloves and is crafted from genuine ranch-raised American Bison leather. The palms on these gloves are also reinforced, and the wrists have been given an elastic closure for a more precise fit.
Give’r 4 Season Gloves
Tough enough to take on just about anything you’ll encounter on the job site, the Give’r 4 Season Glove pairs a retro-inspired appearance with a selection of contemporary elements such as a breathable Hipora membrane and 40-grams of Thinsulate insulation. Our pals over at Huckberry are also offering this best-selling glove in a number of exclusive colors.
The 15 Best Men’s Winter Workwear Essentials
Want to get a headstart on piecing together your cold-weather workwear wardrobe for the upcoming seasons? Then be sure to head over to our guide to the best men’s winter workwear essentials for more than a dozen of the finest jackets, gloves, hats, pants, and boots that were built specifically for labor in subpar conditions.
HiConsumption is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more