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What Is Hi-Vis Clothing?

written by
Chris Butler
posted on
25 November 2021

High Visibility clothing has been around for years, but has anyone really stopped to ask; "What is Hi-Vis clothing?"

Who knew that what started out as an experiment by an American named Bob Switzer, would still benefit people all across the world years later? Hi-vis clothing now even has numerous laws stating that it must be used in places of work that require safetywear, and is a staple of most peoples workwear.

Hi-vis clothing and hard hat safety ware customised with vinyl

A Brief History of Hi-Vis

To first discover why Hi-Vis is important, and what to look out for when purchasing, we must first explain how it was invented.

Hi-vis clothing was invented in 1933 by an American named Bob Switzer. Bob worked in the Californian Heinz factory, and that year was involved in a drastic accident that severely effected his eyesight. As a result, Bob had to sit in a darkened room to recuperate, and his only entertainment was the glowing paints that his brother, a chemist, bought him.

This sparked Switzer's interest, and years later he went into a spiral of how he could use these revolutionary paints, and went on to found his company 'Day-Glo Corporation' in 1946. Through countless experiments of how he could expand his products, one day he dipped his wife's wedding dress in fluorescent dye, and thus hi-vis clothing was born! Needless to say we're not sure if his wife was pleased...

The first introduction to hi-vis clothing to the UK was in the 1960s for railway workers, but it wasn't until the 1970s that the credibility of wearing high visibility clothing became a thing, and workers realised how beneficial it was for them to wear. There is even a regulation in act as of November 2021 that was created in 1992 that workers are required to wear high visibility clothing that employers provide in situations that require visibility.

As the years have gone on, and technology has evolved, hi-vis workwear is more commonly created using either micro-prismatic tape-which is a plastic vinyl-or glass bead reflective tape. Not bad going for dipping your wedding dress in fluorescent dye is it?

Who Needs To Wear Hi Vis Clothing?

Despite wedding dresses being used to experiment, luckily that isn't a requirement when shopping for high-visibility clothing! Hi-Vis workwear is required for anyone that is exposed to a possible health and safety risk, and should be supplied by the employer for free.

Commonly you will see hi-vis in areas of work such as building sites and warehouses, but by regulation it is required in any low light / poor lighting circumstances, and anywhere that it is crucial that a worker must be visible, for example a construction site.

Aside from working in professional environments, high visibility clothing is also used by many such as cyclists, walkers, and horse riders to ensure that they have visibility on roads or in darkened areas. Hi-vis is such a crucial part of our life and makes such a large difference in protecting yourself and those around you.

What Do I Look For?

Now you've figured out who should wear them, we can come to what to look for when purchasing hi-vis workwear!

Hi-vis workwear is available for all sorts of different items now, from the standard hi-vis t-shirts to holdall bags, and overalls, there's so many options when it comes to keeping safe!

What should you look for:

  • Practicality: Where is the work that you're doing based? Is it inside or outside? Do you require full thick coats or thinner vests? Do you need to be kitted out in full hi-vis head to toe, or do you only need one or two things?
  • Comfort: Do you need freedom of movement? Do you require a t-shirt that is moisture wicking, or thick trousers?
  • Durability: Will the item you're looking to purchase be durable enough to withstand daily use? Or are you only using it occasionally? Will what you're looking for work for how you work?
  • Colour of the Hi-Vis: What colour would stand out in your working environment? Considering the colour of your hi-vis workwear is crucial as each colour will stand out in different ways. For example; coastguards often use orange hi-vis as it stands out clearer and contrasts more with the blue/grey water of the ocean.
high visibility clothing with hard helmet, two workers

How does it work?

Essentially high visibility clothing works from a reaction of ultraviolet rays which bounce off of the reflective strips and create a glowing effect. Despite what is believed, florescent clothing is not glow in the dark, so especially at night the wearer is not visible until UV rays hit the garment such as car headlights. That's why hi-vis workwear is so essential for areas of poor or low light as it's a fast response to alert that you are there and could possibly save your life.

Hi-Vis Clothing: A Final Note

While there are many reasons to use Hi-Vis workwear, and many requirements needed in the workplace it can feel a bit daunting not knowing where to start or even what to look for. The main goal whenever you're purchasing workwear must always be to ensure that you and your staff members are comfortable and secure, and with so many options it shouldn't be hard to find one that would be suited to what your workers need.

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What Is Hi-Vis Clothing?

High Visibility clothing has been around for years, but has anyone really stopped to ask; "What is Hi-Vis clothing?" Who knew that what started out as an experiment by an American named Bob Switzer, would still benefit people all across the world years later? Hi-vis clothing now even has numerous laws stating that it must […]

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