Work wear has to be three things: durable, protective and comfortable. These considerations don’t always apply to fashion clothing, as women easily wear shoes that are more akin to torture implements, and men’s shoes that look sophisticated are often uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that work wear has been used to create industrial chic fashion: large boots and caps emblazoned with a work wear manufacturer’s name are about as fashionable as you can get. But how did this come about?
In Japan, their construction work wear is a combination of traditional Japanese clothing and practical European designs. Then in 2005, the designer, Bernhard Willhelm, took from the outfits worn by Japanese construction workers (called Tobis) to create his spring fashion clothing line. From then on, Tobi fashion clothing stores started springing up all over Tokyo, to the point that even children’s clothes were made in the Tobi style. This has also had repercussion in the construction business. Now workers can walk into construction clothing shops and be faced with colourful hardhats and overalls, making the work place also a place of fashion and fun.
One big name in fashion shoes is traditionally a manufacturer of construction vehicles. It seems a giant leap of faith to go straight from manufacturing construction vehicles to releasing a fashion footwear line. Yet, by 2005, the vehicle manufacturer had sold 57 million pairs of shoes over a period of ten years. Experts attribute the brand’s success to their success in creating reliable machinery for the construction industry. People assumed that the footwear would be as tough as their machinery and the shoes are well-respected for their durability and they exude power and strength.
But the real reason for the transformation from dirty and dangerous work to fashion clothing is that work wear suppliers have responded to the demand in the market and started customizing work wear to look mainstream and to suit all tastes. Just like sportswear manufacturers such as Adidas did by creating all different lines of urban fashion clothing, work wear manufacturers have started tapping into the lucrative consumer market too. This is a win-win situation because people are assured of comfort and durability for their everyday activities with work wear lines.