Natural vs Man-made: It’s all about the fibres

If you’re looking to either update or create a new uniform for your team, one of your biggest decisions will be what materials the garments should be made from. And your first choice will be between man-made or natural fibres for your garments. Other things you’ll need to think about are fit and style; one of our sales team would be happy to discuss your options.

When it comes to selecting the right fabrics for your team’s corporate clothing or uniform, it ultimately boils down to three things:

1. Durability
2. Comfort
3. Cost

How does it wear?
Durability, the ability to withstand consistent wear, washing and all the while staying in great condition, is generally the top quality you will look for in a uniform fabric. This includes aspects like colourfastness, fade resistance, and a fabric’s strength.

Is it comfortable?
Comfort will be the top thing in your team’s mind (other than maybe how easy it is to clean) because they are the ones who will be wearing the garments during their working and commuting hours. And if they are uncomfortable, they will let you know!

What will it cost me?
We know that you also have your eye on the bottom line, and the cost of an individual’s uniform can vary greatly depending on how often the individual garments will need to be replaced. A pricier item that is rarely replaced is more economical than one that is inexpensive but replaced frequently.

Going au Naturel

Natural fibres are great for all seasons, particularly for summer, as they absorb moisture, are (generally) easy to care for, and they get even more comfortable with wear and washing. Natural fibres like cotton, wool and silk are often perceived as more environmentally friendly than man-made ones, but that isn’t necessarily the case.

Cotton
This extremely popular fibre is soft, versatile and durable. Known for its breathability and softness on skin, you’ll find cotton in a wide variety of indoor and outdoor garments from socks to tops and trousers. Something to remember is cotton does shrink, it’s important to know if the garment you’ve purchased is pre-shrunk or not (and we will definitely tell you!). With a variety of price points, you’ll be sure to find the right garment for your budget.

Wool
Whether it comes from sheep, goats or even rabbits, wool gives you temperature control with durability. While it can require special care, it is excellent for both indoor and outdoor wear and has naturally occurring anti-microbial properties to help combat odours. There are a few negatives for wool, including special care, fabric pilling, and it can be scratchy/cause irritation for some people. Wool is not cheap when compared to man-made fibres and with wool prices being so volatile over the last few years prices have varied, but the cost is worth it. The natural feel and properties of wool just can’t be replaced by manmade fibres. You can tell when it’s wool!

Silk
This high-end natural fibre is often seen in linings and accessories like ties and scarves. It’s also used for shirts and dresses. Due to its absorbent properties and greater expense, it is not often seen in uniform garments. It’s extremely durable, but can be snagged. It does also require a delicate handwash or dry cleaning.

Corprotex says:
When considering comfort, natural fibres are best and your team will thank you. For example: When considering a fine suit, natural materials such as wool can be woven into exquisite fabrics. Or if you are looking for one of the best thermal regulating performance garments, look no further than Merino Wool, it’s not inexpensive but it performs at an astounding level.

From the lab

Synthetic fibres and fabrics came from the lab and are often made from petroleum products, though some man-made fibres are made from cellulose (like beech trees or bamboo). These fabrics are usually hard wearing and less expensive than their natural counterparts. They can have special cleaning requirements (including dry cleaning), but are generally just as easy to clean. A big thing to remember with man-made fibres is they are more likely to hold onto odours, and it can be difficult to fully remove them over time.

Polyester
This man-made fibre is everywhere. It’s extremely durable, which makes it the most popular synthetic fabric. It does have a lower heat tolerance and can melt at high temperatures. As to comfort, it can be stiff or scratchy on its own. An inexpensive option, but it can lose points for comfort.

Rayon
Rayon was originally created as a silk substitute in France, this man-made material is made from cellulose and you may have heard it called viscose or modal. A variety of grades of viscose exist with textures from cotton and linen to silk making it a very comfortable fabric to wear. With the various grades also comes various cleaning needs from dry clean only to a normal wash in a household machine and the costs will vary as well.

Technical fabrics
For general use by sport or businesses with active team members, these fabrics are breathable with a range of qualities including good stretch, being lightweight whilst also weather resistant, offering great ventilation and moisture wicking properties. In the case of PPE garments, you find a variety of features across the ranges including built-in SPF, extreme water proofing yet breathable fabrics and fire-retardant properties either from its inherent nature or with a fire-retardant coating. With these properties does come an increased price tag, but it’s always worth it as a comfortable team is a team that works hard.

Lycra/Elastane
You will be familiar with these two materials; they’re known for their stretch and the give they add to stiffer fabrics. Generally, you’ll find them in fabric blends as they aid in the shape retaining properties of a garment, whether it’s in shirts or trousers. It also helps garments fit a variety of body shapes well.

The best of both worlds – Fabric Blends
The best way to get comfortably strong and cost-effective is by choosing fabric blends of natural fibres with man-made ones. Cotton-poly blends are extremely durable and comfortable on skin. A hint of Lycra or elastane (3-5%) gives a great fit to garments and helps clothing lines fit a wide range of body types without requiring alterations.

Corprotex says:
Manmade materials like polyester are best for durability, they simply wear like iron. Technical fabrics on the other hand, while manmade, are high-performing and while they are continually improving with technological innovation, they do have a shorter lifespan and a higher price tag. They are the best fabrics for the job.

Overall advice

We know how important fabric choice is for your uniforms and when we first discuss a new project with you, we spend a great deal of time listening and asking questions. We want to hear exactly what you want for your uniform, what is and isn’t working in your current uniform, and what the budget is so we can make our best suggestions on what will work for you and your team. We don’t want to suggest a lightweight fine wool suit for a staff member who will put their suit through heavy wear and tear, this fabric is simply not up to the task at hand. We have many ranges which cater for many different uses and it is our job to match the use with the range.

Something we’re seeing more of is stretch being added to fabrics, it’s really taking off in a big way and our customers want this added element of comfort in their uniforms. We’ve seen a variety of well-known brands like Brook Taverner and Club Class including this fibre into individual garments and entire lines.

If you’d like to have a chat about what fibres and garments are right for your staff uniform, give us a call on 0161 223 2226, or email sales@corprotex.co.uk. We can talk you through the different options and help you choose the most suitable garments for your business needs.