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A Stitch In Time

David Harmer, Category Manager at Alexandra, discusses the recent developments in cleaning workwear, and the evolving priorities placed upon it.

The world of workwear considerations is becoming a more open landscape than ever before. Practical considerations have always been at the forefront of developments in workwear; but now, other factors are entering the mix, as businesses strive to reflect their professionalism and brand identity through all areas of their operations. As a result, branding and appearance are fast becoming key secondary priorities in the uniforms used by the cleaning industry.

In order to assess the most practical uniform for cleaners, it is important to first acknowledge the environment they will be working in and what dangerous conditions they may be exposed to. These will be highly sector dependent; an industrial environment, for example, will require cleaners to wear more hard-wearing garments, such as durable footwear and thicker, heavyweight fabrics. This is in contrast to the hospitality sector, where the number of different jobs one cleaner may have to fulfil creates a need for lightweight, adaptable and less cumbersome clothing.

Over the years, the fabrics themselves that manufacturers use have not altered hugely. Rather, developments have focused instead on existing fabrics and the features they exhibit. The combination of polyester properties being used now means garments are easier to clean and more hard wearing. The incorporation of a Teflon-coating to help with stain-resistance has made uniforms more efficent at dealing with unclean enviroments, while there have been improvments


in breathability and the weight of fabrics to maximise user comfort during arduous tasks.

Beyond these initial practicalities, businesses are expanding the range of workwear they use. In hospitality, for example, many businesses are recognising the value of tabards and overcoats, which minimise the impact of dirt. If worn over a uniform for particularly dirty tasks, these can easily be removed once a task is completed, leaving an unmarked uniform, which allows employees to continue with other jobs.

Furthermore, in certain sectors, particularly hospitality, managers are also recognising that there is a public-facing element to cleaning jobs, and this is having an impact on workwear choices. More than ever, cleaning staff are being recognised as an integral part of a brand, outwardly representing a corporate identity to customers – be that in their own cleaning business or that of a wider business. Traditionally, dark colours such as navy, grey and black were commonly adopted to prevent the obvious appearance of dust and dirt, but shifts in branding mean that many are now favouring different coloured trims, buttons, and patterned fabric to match a specific business brand colour.

An emphasis on colour is not only down to branding, but a desire to incorporate wider fashion trends into a business look. At Alexandra, we have noticed that the lines between beauty and hospitality workwear have started to blur. Tunics often used by salons are now being

favoured by cleaning personnel – these being brighter colours such as purples, greens and oranges. These developments are reflective of businesses considering how their working wardrobe can complement contemporary styles and give them more of a competitive edge.

In the past, cleaning operatives in hospitality, particularly in housekeeping, wore traditional dresses. Nowadays, it’s far more commonplace for professionals to wear polo shirts or tunics, trousers and protective tabards. This move away from traditional dresses has been promoted by an understanding of the need for uniforms to be more practical and adaptable in response to the multiple tasks employees are required to carry out. The popularity of tabards, for example, illustrates this desire for adaptability as they are easy to take on and off, allowing operatives to continue with other aspects of their job while tabards are being washed.

Looking forward to the rest of the year, indications are that the business approach to cleaning workwear will continue to develop in line with these trends. This relationship between practicality and professional presentation in workwear design will continue to play an increasingly important role, as businesses strive to deliver a fully-rounded service to both employees and customers.

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