Polyester vs Cotton

 In Fabric Choices, Quality

Let’s break down the argument!

There’s a lot of pressure placed on uniforms today.

  • Professionals demand comfort, ease of use and iron-free; with features making them dry, cool and functional to carry out their jobs effectively.
  • The consumers in these professionals also ask for different styles, colours, fit and fashion-forward looks.
  • Organisations are increasingly seeing the power of the uniform to unite teams, set distinction among roles whilst still holding true to a common theme, to be durable and above all to present their staff professionally, consistent with their brand and business.

That is a lot to ask of a piece of clothing, yet completely achievable with today’s fabric technologies and compositions. Historically with natural fibres this would have been an impossible task!

We have learned via HR professional Ingrid Cliff’s article on Business Uniform Design Challenges  that many businesses face challenges when it comes to decisions relating to uniform design. According to Ingrid, the natural fibre camp stay true to 100% cotton. These employees end up battling with the polyester easy-care camp who don’t own an iron and do not want the hassle of high maintenance uniforms!

Industry feedback and experience has taught us that peer pressure backed by the ever-mounting evidence around synthetic fabrics providing the feel of cotton and other benefits, is persuading many to compromise and embrace polyester/cotton blends and even more recently polyester/rayon blends.

So what are the features of polyester/cotton blends? They provide the softness of cotton with the durability of polyester. That means they tend to keep their shape and more importantly their colour. They are not prone to wrinkling (supporting the iron-free stampede in uniforms) and generally cost less and last longer.

Newer polyester/rayon blends provide the feel of cotton but all of the performance benefits of polyester.

Key criteria used in the clothing and apparel industry for comparison are:

  • Colour fastness (resistance to fade)
  • Shrink resistance
  • Will maintain shape
  • Easy care (iron-free)
  • Less absorbent (keeps you drier)
  • Durability when subjected to repeated washing and detergents

Polyester out performs cotton in each of these areas…without question!

Cotton will fade. It may shrink. It will most certainly pull out of shape and will require ironing. It will absorb perspiration! Scientifically this helps to cool the body however from a presentation perspective when referring to uniforms this results in them remaining wetter for longer. I have never met a business or a client who would prefer to see employees wet with sweat whether they be providing care services in an individuals home, serving you at a restaurant or helping your child in the emergency ward of a hospital.

It’s important to not completely negate cotton as it is best for those with skin allergies and where there is potential exposure to flame such as for chef’s and kitchen staff and maintenance workers.

“Yarn-treated” polyester is the first-choice fabric for major fashion and activewear brands for its wearability and comfort. The new generation of polyester filament sets new benchmarks and provides performance benefits and a standard that cannot be replicated with natural fibre.

An important fact for the uniform industry is that effective antibacterial treatments can be applied to the yarn to help manage odour and control bacteria accumulation.

So…when you next face the daunting task of styling and selecting your new uniform, consider starting with what features your brand and your staff need. If you can’t find something…go bespoke and create your own custom-made solution to tick every box!

BY KATE GIBSON
Advance Design, Trade Marketing

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