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Making great strides

16 January 2024

As much as we might take the functionality of a pair of trousers for granted, they have developed and evolved over the years through innovation – by responding to the demands of wearer’s needs and their practical requirements. As Peter Dumigan tells us, the needs for comfort, wellbeing and efficiency not only shaped the first trousers but have driven the latest innovation in modern work trousers almost 2500 years later.

IT IS said that the origins of trousers as a functional, practical, garment can be traced back to the warrior equestrian societies of Eastern Europe and Asia Minor as far back as the sixth century BC. The Scythian and Persian peoples developed trousers as a practical alternative to wearing robes on horseback. Those more traditional garments were both uncomfortable and impractical while the comfort that trousers provided for extended periods on horseback made them the practical choice of the time. Loose trousers tucked into boots were a simple, but effective clothing innovation which increased the comfort, mobility and efficiency of those ancient horse-peoples.

Relics from archaeological finds at Thorsberg (Denmark) and Damendorf (Schleswig-Holstein, Germany) dating from 2nd to 4th Centuries AD show how trousers had evolved ergonomically to suit practical needs of the time. Made from complex patterns comprising a number of independent pieces of fabric, the trousers were produced to suit an individual’s body shape with innovations such as waistbands and even integrated foot-pieces.

From hose and brais to drawers, pantaloons, breeches and trews, trouser-type garments took many forms through the Middle Ages and it was only into the early 19th Century that ankle-length trousers – until then worn mostly by the working classes became more widely accepted as the garment of choice throughout society.

Thus, this evolutionary process of trouser design was one in which garments were tailored to the practical needs of their wearers. It was further driven by the impact of the industrial revolution and the need for clothing in the workplace that was specifically suited to the needs of those employed there. Probably the most significant clothing development in the 19th Century was Levi Strauss’s invention of the canvas work trouser for miners in 1853. It was the first of its kind, but it was not until 1873 that further innovation was seen with Strauss’ introduction of blue denim trousers, later incorporating metal rivets for greater garment durability and longevity. 

Despite innovations such as the zipper-fly for trousers and the basic-styled garments like the bib ‘n’ brace and boilersuit, the workplace had to wait over 100 years, until 1975 in fact, for the next stage in trouser evolution. It was the invention by Matti Viio – a Swedish Electrician - of the holster trousers with kneepads that heralded the Snickers Workwear brand and the era of purpose-designed working clothes for modern-day professional tradesmen and women. Since 1975, Snickers Workwear has been inventing and reinventing work trousers with kneepads each with a combination of market-leading design technology, hi-tech fabric innovations for comfort and functionality and more recently a sharp focus on sustainability.

After nearly 50 years of continual innovation, Snickers Workwear now has a range of over 90 styles of trousers with 8 different types of kneepad in patented KneeGuard Systems for individual worker needs in a wide variety of working environments. From professional trades in building and construction, to engineering and maintenance, logistics and warehousing, heavy and light industries as well as hazardous workplaces, Snickers Workwear has a pair of trousers to suit and kneepads for protection - for all shapes and sizes.

In what is probably the most ground-breaking work trouser innovation, the brand has now launched the world’s first built-in, certified kneepads which are completely integrated into a pair of Snickers Workwear’s premium stretch work trousers - the unique AllroundWork, Stretch Trousers with Capsulized Kneepads and Holster Pockets. The result of an intensive research and development process that has spanned the last three years, they deliver low-profile, comfortable impact protection – tested, performance validated and certified to exacting International Standards. These new work trousers are an innovative combination of cutting-edge sportswear technology coupled with well-established workwear know-how to suit craftsmen and women who are constantly on the move and want the comfort, flexibility and durability of welded-into-place, certified knee protection.

Building capsulized Kneepads

Designed and engineered in partnership with YBC, the capsulized kneepad components comfortably deliver effective penetration protection and impact absorption for the wearer.

A durable CORDURA stretch covering provides external fabric durability. It integrates with the first performance layer of high-density foam which delivers maximum protection. This combines further with a shield of Ortholite comfort foam technology that’s highly shock absorbent.

Comfort and protection is further enhanced by a foam comfort layer for pressure release when working while kneeling. Finally, there’s an inner polyester fabric which seals the outer protection layers onto the trouser leg and provides a comfortable surface between the wearer’s knee and the kneepad itself. 

It’s effectively a capsulized layer cake with a number of protection layers that work with each other to dissipate the energy created by the impact of working on your knees or if you accidentally bump them in and around the workplace. 

Trouser history in the making

It’s widely accepted that the long-term effects of knee injuries and the impact of working on your knees can cause of a lifetime of discomfort and restricted movement. Yet history has shown that properly designed trousers have an important part to play in delivering comfort, efficiency and well-being in physical activities.

The design technology in work trousers has developed considerably since the Thorsberg and Damendorf Trousers as well as Strauss’ first purpose workwear for miners. But while factors like durability and functionality have been the only drivers the design of work trousers for the last 170 years, Snickers Workwear’s latest innovation takes the trouser design and development process to a new level. 

Nicole Rimér, head of innovation at Snickers Workwear explains, “We have set out to solve a common frustration for workers who are constantly moving around; standing up and kneeling down. Now thanks to our ground-breaking capsulised kneepads, they can get all the comfort and freedom of movement they want and still have the practical knee protection they need.” 

Peter Dumigan is managing director of the Hultafors Group UK, which owns Snickers Workwear. For more information, visit www.snickersworkwear.co.uk