We all know what to wear to dinner with grandma, what attire to wear for a funeral, the best outfit for a wedding, and the perfect winter get-up that will keep our arms and legs from turning into ice sculptures.
But what do you wear when woodworking?
The best clothes for woodworkers are well-fitted (not loose around any part of the body). Long sleeves and long pants give the best protection, but be sure there is no gapping or excess fabric that can cause an injury while you are working. Steel-toed, skid-resistant boots are also recommended.
When considering woodworking clothes, the brand is not super important here.
The biggest concern is that you have clothes that fit properly, give you room to breathe, but also do not have the potential to get hung up in any of the tools you use.
Continue reading to understand why there are rules for what you wear in your shop and how you can best clothe yourself for every woodworking job coming your way.
Why Safety Comes First with Woodworking Clothes
When it comes to clothes, of course we all want to look good.
You do not want to be in the middle of the most earth-shattering, incredibly ornate, beautifully crafted project to only look at yourself and see someone wearing an oversized stained hoodie from college.
Now I will give it to you, your clothing style is not the biggest concern when it comes to woodworking, but safety is.
To save a little face, you do not want to be caught in something grunge, but it MUST be safe.
Primarily, safety is critical to maintaining not only your wellbeing, but the wellbeing of your tools, projects, and business. If you have employees, requiring them to wear clothes that are safe to be worn around tools is a must for their own protection.
Truly, it is not overly complicated once you keep the frame of “safety” as your front and center piece.
To take it one step further, let’s break these categories down for all things clothing when it comes to woodworking.
I am going to give all the reasons why these main pieces need to be worn, how they should be worn, and why it should be done that way.
I know you are the master of your shop, but let me give you a little insight into your wardrobe.
Do not worry, I will not have you knocking down Pradas door, you just need to keep a few simple things in mind and you can be on your way.
What Types of Shirts Should Woodworkers Wear?
A shirt is one of those things that most of you are already wearing and will continue to wear throughout your woodworking career.
That is unless you are some type of rogue woodworker in the middle of a tropical rainforest that never receives any sort of air conditioning.
If you are not this guy, then a shirt is on your back.
This may seem like a simple category, but it is one of the most important components when it comes to considering how you dress in the shop.
When the winter months start to creep in, many woodworkers start to reach for long sleeves to keep the chill at bay.
Why would they not? I mean come on, it is cold and a simple long sleeve is going to solve the problem without getting them overheated. Do. Not. Do.
This. I repeat – do not do this! Unless you are only using manual tools 100% of the time, wearing a long sleeve shirt (including a pullover, jacket, hoodie, etc.) can be a major safety risk that can end in much more than a torn sleeve.
When you are using electric tools like a sander, miter saw, circular saw, or planer, you put yourself in a position for injury.
Do not get scared, these tools are designed for safety, but you have to do your own part to ensure that can be seen through.
So many times woodworkers have found their long sleeves being caught in a rotating piece and have ended with an injury that needs a whole lot more than a simple band-aid fix.
Long sleeves mean extra fabric, and extra fabric can easily get caught in any number of power tools no matter how careful you think you are being.
All it takes is one grip of the shirt and your finger could be the object gliding through the blade rather than the wood piece.
Graphic, I know, but this is why you skip the long tee and go straight for the short sleeve sitting in your drawer.
A little cold is much more bearable than a hand that struggles to function properly!
Or, if wearing a long sleeve shirt is an absolute requirement for you, then you need to make sure that the fabric is fitted to your arm.
I am talking about a long sleeve shirt that you can happily show off your muscles in.
But if this option does not sound appealing, then stick with short sleeves.
What Types of Pants Should Woodworkers Wear?
Now that you have spit out your drink and come face-to-face with the harsh reality that you could lose a digit due to the wrong shirt, let’s talk about something a little lighter: pants.
Pants are not as dramatic as shirts are when it comes to their need to be a specific length, but there are some pants out there that can make your life a whole lot easier when you find yourself getting down and dirty with your projects.
Wearing shorts in your shop is not really an issue, but wearing long pants may save you a bit of annoyance.
When you wear pants, you are able to protect your legs from any sort of sharp tool that you are using.
This is for those instances where you drop a tool and it ends up on the side of your calf rather than on the floor – pants help to keep that injury at bay.
Beyond wearing long pants, you need to consider the material.
You want to wear pants that are made of a material that will not snag or get caught easily in anything.
This means avoid loose-fitting workout type pants and go for those that are more heavy-duty like denim, cargo, or even a heavy khaki.
These are going to last longer and will be able to withstand a lifetime of woodworking beating if you get something good quality.
Just as your own products, investing in good quality means longer and better use.
One last thing to consider when thinking of wearing long pants or shorts is sawdust.
If you are working with wood, sawdust is going to make its way into every nook and cranny of your shop, including your shoes,
If you are wearing shorts, sawdust is going to find its way down into your boots in a matter of seconds and it will stay there for weeks and months to come.
Wearing long pants helps to keep your boots clean and your toes nice and fresh.
What Types of Shoes Should Woodworkers Wear?
Shoes might be last on this list, but it ranks right up there with shirts when it comes to their stake in woodshop safety.
I cannot tell you how many times I have found myself wanting to get out in the shop for a quick touch up and have nearly slipped on a pair of flip flops for the simple fact of their ease.
I am only going in to do something small, no way something can happen, right?
Wrong. You need the proper shoes every single time you step into your shop.
Good shoes in your shop are a tool that is just as important as your saw and workbench.
It is essential that you find something that is going to protect your toes if all kinds of crazy break lose and you find an enormous piece of hickory on your feet rather than on the table.
So many think they are immune to accidents, but they happen to everyone and you need to be prepared no matter how cautious of a craftsman you may be.
That being said, invest in some good quality steel-toed boots. This is the very best option for woodworkers working with heavy pieces and big equipment.
Never wear open-toed shoes and if you find yourself in a position that you do not have steel-toed boots, opt for a close-toed shoe that has a bit of girth in the front.
You want something that is going to keep your little piggies from ending up in the emergency room and good shoes are the first step in prevention.
What Protective Gear Should Woodworkers Wear?
Outside of your standard short sleeve shirt, good quality (thick, well-fitting) pants, and steel-toed boots, you will need to consider a few different types of protective gear while you are in the shop.
Of course, you might feel like skipping this if you are just running in to grab something quickly, but it is recommended to keep all protective equipment on while you are near functional woodworking tools.
Other types of protective gear that woodworkers should wear (besides high-quality shirts, pants, and shoes) include goggles, a woodworking apron, ear protection (if you plan on working with loud tools for a prolonged period, and other protective equipment geared toward the specific niche of woodworking that you are in (such as large or small pieces).
Without taking proper care to invest in the appropriate clothes and safety equipment for yourself (and any employees), you are risking your safety and that of your shop, equipment, and assets that you worked so hard to build up.