New Uniform Fabric Technologies: Good News for Workers and Employees
In the past, your employees may have been working hard for hours after the fresh, professional appearance of their uniforms disappeared. You may have faced complaints from servers concerned about the appearance of their uniforms, bartenders who felt constricted by their uniforms when dashing from one end of the bar to the other, or kitchen staff wishing for lighter-weight fabrics.
Uniform manufacturers and service providers today make it less complicated and less difficult to meet employers’ and workers’ needs. Today’s uniforms are engineered to be better than ever before – they are less constricting and soils are much more easily removed. State-of-the-art textile features of particular interest for restaurant uniform applications include:
- High-performance fabrics now available for uniform applications wick away sweat and moisture and may be ideal for busy servers, especially those serving outdoor tables in hot weather. These new textiles, known as hydrophilic fabrics, have become familiar to consumers under brand names such as Nike’s Dri-FIT. Hydrophilic fabrics used in work apparel are 100 percent polyester knits, but these are not the polyesters of the 1970s. They combine the advantages of both all-cotton fabrics and cotton/poly blends, using spun yarns that give a truly cotton-like feel and create soft garments that people like to wear. These fabrics have the softness and breathable qualities that active workers prefer, and excellent soil release properties that enable them to look like new after laundering. They also resist wrinkling, keeping servers looking neat – compared with 65 percent cotton/35 percent polyester blends that offer reduced wrinkling, but also are less breathable. And the new fabrics’ durability makes them cost- effective, because they hold up well with intensive laundering and wear by physically active workers;
- Other fabric options offer stretch-based comfort for active workers. Pre-washed stretch denim is among other fabrics of increasing interest to today’s employers seeking new options for their uniform programs.
Lycra®, which is commonly incorporated into fabric blends in consumer clothing to add stretch capability, is less suited to workwear, because it can be hot to wear during extended activity. Also, its limited durability may make it unattractive to employers. However, wicking Lycra® is now available and may increase the wearer’s comfort during active work. Or, instead of using Lycra®, a mechanical stretch can be woven into uniform textile fibers.
Flame-Resistance Enhances Safety
Kitchen workers in close contact with open flames may benefit from uniforms that have flame-resistant properties. Until recently, flame-resistant garments have frequently been the subject of complaints from employees who became too warm while working in them. However, today’s flame-resistant fabrics are more breathable and comfortable than those of the past, which helps motivate employees to wear the garments that they should be wearing.
Alternatives include a flame-resistant finish that can be added to cotton garments, with the finish also increasing the fabric’s color retention. Nomex® , an inherently flame-resistant textile, is available for production of uniform pants, shirts, coveralls and outerwear.
David Hobson is president and CEO of the Uniform Textile and Service Association. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.