Types of Protective Clothing and Their Uses

Last Updated on 13/04/2021

Types of Protective Clothing and Their Uses

Bilal Rashid
Dept. of Garment Manufacturing
National Textile University, Faisalabad, Pakistan
Email: br.dmc.gcuf@gmail.com


Clothing is a word that can be substituted with “Garment” or “Apparel”. Clothing is fiber and textile material worn on the body. The wearing of clothing is mostly restricted to human beings and is a feature of nearly all human societies. The amount and type of clothing worn is dependent on physical stature, gender, as well as social and geographic considerations.

Physically, clothing serves many purposes:

  1. It can serve as protection from various elements;
  2. It can enhance safety during hazardous activities such as hiking and cooking;
  3. It protects the wearer from rough surfaces, rash-causing plants, insect bites, splinters, thorns and prickles by providing a barrier between the skin and the environment.
  4. It can insulate against cold or hot conditions;
  5. It can provide a hygienic barrier, keeping infectious and toxic materials away from the body; and
  6. It also provides protection from harmful UV radiation.

Clothes can be made out of fiber plants such as cotton, plastics such as polyester, or animal skin and hair such as wool. Humans began wearing clothes roughly 83,000 to 170,000 years ago.

A baby wearing many items of winter clothing
Figure 1: A baby wearing many items of winter clothing: headband, cap, fur-lined coat, shawl and sweater

There are different types of Protective or Preventive Clothing being used now-a-days such as:

  1. Biohazard (Biological Hazards) Survival Suit;
  2. Positive Pressure Personnel Suits (PPPS);
  3. Hazmat (Hazardous materials or Dangerous goods) Protection Suit;
  4. Bomb Disposal Suit;
  5. Chainsaw Safety Clothing;
  6. Environment Suit;
  7. Extreme Environmental Clothing;
  8. Flame Resistant Environmental Ensemble (FREE);
  9. Flame Resistant Organizational Gear (FROG);
  10. Army Combat Shirt;
  11. High-visibility (HV) Clothing;
  12. Anti-Static Clothing;
  13. Industrial Workwear;
  14. Lifejacket (Personal Flotation Device);
  15. Motorcycle Personal Protective Clothing;
  16. NBC (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical) Suit;
  17. Clean room Suit;
  18. Arc Flash and Shock Hazard Protection Clothing;
  19. Racing (Race Car Driver’s) Suit;
  20. Flight Suit;
  21. G-Suit (Anti-g-Suit);
  22. Jumpsuit;
  23. Boiler suit;
  24. Siren Suit;
  25. Ski Suit;
  26. Pressure Suit;
  27. Space Suit;
  28. Wetsuit;
  29. Dry suit;
  30. Aprons;
  31. Mittens;
  32. Bulletproof Vest;
  33. Flak Jacket;
  34. Fire Proximity Suit;
  35. Bunker Gear (Turnout Gear).

Types of protective clothing are briefly described below with images:

Biohazard (Biological Hazards) Survival Suit:

Biological Hazard:
Biological hazards, also known as biohazards, refer to biological substances that pose a threat to the health of living organisms, primarily that of humans. This can include medical waste or samples of a microorganism, virus or toxin (from a biological source) that can affect human health. It can also include substances harmful to animals.

The term and its associated symbol are generally used as a warning, so that those potentially exposed to the substances will know to take precautions. The biohazard symbol was developed in 1966 by Charles Baldwin, an environmental-health engineer working for the Dow Chemical Company on the containment products.

It is used in the labeling of biological materials that carry a significant health risk, including viral samples and used hypodermic needles.

The international symbol for biological hazard
Figure 2: The international symbol for biological hazard

Biosafety Level:
A biosafety level is the level of the biocontainment precautions required to isolate dangerous biological agents in an enclosed facility. The levels of containment range from the lowest biosafety level 1 (BSL-1) to the highest at level 4 (BSL-4). In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have specified these levels.

Bio-safety Level

The concept of biocontainment is related to laboratory biosafety and pertains to microbiology laboratories in which the physical containment of highly pathogenic organisms or agents (bacteria, viruses, and toxins) is required, usually by isolation in environmentally and biologically secure cabinets or rooms, to prevent accidental infection of workers or release into the surrounding community during scientific research. The term “biocontainment” was coined in 1985, but the concept stretches back at least to the 1940s.

Researchers working
Figure 3: Researchers working in Class III cabinets at the U.S. Army Biological Warfare Laboratories, Camp Detrick, Maryland (1940s). Biocontainment procedures were pioneered at the USBWL in the 1940s and ’50s.

Biohazard Survival Suit:

Biohazard Survival Suit
Figure 4: The Aeromedical Isolation Team (AIT) of the U.S. Army operated mobile biocontainment equipment designed for patient care and transport from 1978 to 2010. (Photo by Bruce Maston, 2007)
Biohazard Survival Suits worn during disposal of biohazard material
Figure 5: Biohazard Survival Suits worn during disposal of biohazard material
Biohazard suit
Figure 6: Biohazard suit in use while carrying out duties inside a high-level biocontainment military grade laboratory
Battlefield standard Biohazard Survival Suits
Figure 7: Special Services Unit Soldiers wearing Battlefield standard Biohazard Survival Suits to reduce the risks in case of Biological Warfare Tactics Employment

Positive Pressure Personnel Suits (PPPS):
Positive pressure personnel suits (PPPS) or positive pressure protective suits, informally known as “space suits”, “moon suits”, “blue suits”, etc. — are highly specialized, totally encapsulating, industrial protection garments worn only within special biocontainment or maximum containment or biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratory facilities [The most dangerous threat level]. These facilities research dangerous pathogens which are highly infectious and may have no treatments or vaccines available. They also feature other special equipment and procedures such as airlock entry, quick-drench disinfectant showers, special waste disposal systems, and shower exits.

Positive Pressure Personnel Suits
Figure 8: A laboratorian wearing an older-model PPPS before entering a Maximum Containment lab or “suit lab”
Pressure Personnel Blue Suits
Figure 9: A BSL-4 laboratorian working in an ILC Dover Chemturion “Blue Suit”
Researcher at US Centers for Disease Control biosafety level suit
Figure 10: Researcher at US Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia, working with influenza virus under biosafety level 3 conditions, with respirator inside a biosafety cabinet (BSC)

Hazmat (Hazardous materials or Dangerous goods) Protection Suit:

Hazmat or Hazardous Materials or Dangerous Goods:
Dangerous goods are solids, liquids, or gases that can harm people, other living organisms, property, or the environment. They are often subject to chemical regulations. In the United States and sometimes in Canada, dangerous goods are more commonly known as hazardous materials, (abbreviated as HAZMAT or HazMat). “HazMat teams” are personnel specially trained to handle dangerous goods. Dangerous goods include materials that are radioactive, flammable, explosive, corrosive, oxidizing, asphyxiating, biohazardous, toxic, pathogenic, or allergenic. Also included are physical conditions such as compressed gases and liquids or hot materials, including all goods containing such materials or chemicals, or may have other characteristics that render them hazardous in specific circumstances.

Hazmat Suit:
A hazmat suit (hazardous materials suit) is a piece of personal protective equipment that consists of an impermeable whole-body garment worn as protection against hazardous materials. Such suits are often combined with self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) to ensure a supply of breathable air. Hazmat suits are mostly used by firefighters, researchers, personnel responding to toxic spills, specialists cleaning up contaminated facilities and workers in toxic environments.

Hazmat Suit
Figure 11: An Emergency Medical Technician team training as rescue (grey suits) and decontamination (green suits) respondents to hazardous material and toxic contamination situations”
hazardous materials
Figure 12: Hazmat Suit being used during some Detection Process
Military grade Hazmat Suits
Figure 13: Military grade Hazmat Suits used by US Army during Gulf-War 1990-91
Hazmat Suits being used by Police Officials
Figure 14: Hazmat Suits being used by Police Officials of New York Police Department during Crisis Management Drill
Level B hazmat suits
Figure 15: Drug Enforcement Administration agents wearing Level B hazmat suits.
Rescue Team wearing Hazmat Suits
Figure 16: Rescue Team wearing Hazmat Suits with self-contained breathing apparatus or SCBA

Bomb Disposal Suit:
A bomb suit or a blast suit is a heavy suit of body armor designed to withstand the pressure generated by a bomb and any fragments the bomb may produce. It is usually worn by trained personnel attempting bomb disposal. In contrast to ballistic body armors, which usually focus on protecting the torso and head, a bomb suit must protect all parts of the body, since the dangers posed by a bomb’s explosion affect the entire body.

Parts of the bomb suit overlap for maximum protection. The suit protects in several different ways. It deflects or stops projectiles that may come from an exploded device. It also stops or greatly decreases the pressure of the blast wave being transmitted to the person inside of the suit. Most bomb suits, such as the Advanced Bomb Suit use layers of Kevlar, foam, and plastic to accomplish these things.

In order to maximize precision, bomb suits lack gloves. This gives the wearer’s hands maximum mobility, but leave their hands and forearms completely unprotected.

Bomb Disposal Suit
Figure 17: A Bomb Disposal Squad Officer mobilizing while wearing a Bomb Suit
A Bomb Disposal Squad Officer performing his duty
Figure 18: A Bomb Disposal Squad Officer performing his duty
Bomb Suit used by US Army operating in Deserts
Figure 19: Bomb Suit used by US Army operating in Deserts
Bomb Squad Officer under training in a Desert Scenraio
Figure 20: Bomb Squad Officer under training in a Desert Scenraio
Bomb Suit used in Urban Warfare
Figure 21: Bomb Suit used in Urban Warfare

Chainsaw Safety Clothing:

Chainsaw Safety Mitt or Mittens:
A leather mitt for the operator’s left hand that is fitted to (but is free to rotate on) the front bar of the chainsaw. The safety mitt ensures that if kick-back occur the operator’s hand remains on the bar of the chainsaw. This means that the kickback is more easily controlled and the chain brake is engaged. The safety mitt also protects the operator’s left hand in the same way as chainsaw safety gloves.

Special fabrics have been developed for chainsaw clothing, and this development is still very active. Conventional fabric is useless at protecting against a running chainsaw, being immediately cut through.

There is a real struggle between making a fabric proof against more violent impact, and making it light, flexible and comfortable enough for the user. Clothes which make the user too hot, or which prevent the user moving easily, are a safety problem in themselves. A worker suffering from heat exhaustion is not safe. Extra fabric layers can be added to clothing to improve cut resistance, but clothes which cannot be cut at all by a powerful saw are impractical, even with modern fibres. What is worse, saw and chain technology seems to be outstripping fabric technology. High power saws with aggressively cutting chains are almost impossible to protect against.

A classification scheme has been developed in the European Union to rate trousers, and fabric in general, for protection against cutting.

Table 1: Chainsaw Fabric Classification

Chainsaw Fabric Classification

The chain speed is specified in the manual for a chainsaw. Higher class trousers are more expensive, hotter, and heavier, so there is an advantage to choosing the trousers to match the saw.

There are two standard types of trousers, type A and type C. Type A protects only the front of the legs, and can be supplied as chaps, worn over conventional work clothes, or as conventional trousers. Type C gives protection all-round the legs and are almost always worn as ordinary trousers, not over another garment. Chaps are generally used for occasional, farm or homeowner applications. Professional chainsaw operators would choose trousers for comfort and ease of movement, with fallers, ground workers and firewood cutters opting for class A trousers because of the low risk of being cut in the back of the leg. Climbers and tree surgeons would have to wear type C, as they will be cutting from a wider variety of positions. Type C trousers are, of course, highly insulating, and may lead to heat stress if worn for labour-intensive operations such as firewood cutting.

Chainsaw protective fabric works on a number of principles. The outermost layer can be made both tough and slippery, to protect against trivial damage which could compromise the filler material. Beneath this, long, loose fibers of ballistic nylon or Kevlar are laid in layers. When a saw contacts the trousers, the outer layer is immediately cut through but the nylon or Kevlar is drawn out and wraps around the saw’s drive sprocket, locking it solid and halting the chain, limiting damage to the operator’s leg. Trousers should be slightly baggy, so that there is give and not the chain pulling the leg into the chainsaw, but instead pulling excess stopping fabric into the chain mechanism. After stopping a saw, the trousers are scrapped, and the saw must be field-stripped to remove the fibers and allow it to run again.

If trousers are washed the material inside may degrade over time. As a result trousers should be replaced, and not washed in hot water too frequently. Likewise, trousers should be free of rips and tears that may catch on a chain saw or timber when moving through a forest. Chainsaw protective trousers in the EU must comply with EN381-5.

Chainsaw protective jackets in the EU must comply with EN381-11. For detailed information on fabric ratings, see the section above on trousers. The logic is much the same – the protective materials are designed to slow the chain’s rate of cutting and clog the mechanism, rather than protect the wearer completely.

Chainsaw gloves have cut-proof fabric protection like that for trousers, but only on the back of the left hand. It’s especially important that work gloves are flexible, which limits how much padding they can have. Experience has shown that most chainsaw injuries to the hands occur on the back of the left hand. In the EU, chainsaw gloves must comply with EN381-7.

Chainsaw gloves
Figure 22: Chainsaw gloves. Note that only the back of the left hand glove contains chainsaw protective fabric, and so only that glove carries the chainsaw label.
wearing helmet, gloves,
Figure 23: A man cutting while wearing helmet, goggles, ear defenders, gloves, chaps, and boots

Environment Suit:
An environmental suit is a suit designed specifically for a particular environment, usually one otherwise hostile to humans. An environment suit is typically a one-piece garment, and many types also feature a helmet or other covering for the head. Where the surrounding environment is especially dangerous the suit is completely sealed.

The first environmental suits were diving suits designed to protect a diver from the surrounding water (see timeline of underwater technology). Later developments were designed to protect the wearer from the cold (for example wetsuits and other ambient pressure suits) or from undersea high pressure and the resulting decompression sickness (for example atmospheric diving suits). Protecting the wearer from cold is also a feature of ski suits.

Environment Suit
Figure 24: Red Bull revealing its next generation Environment Suit

Extreme Environmental Clothing:
Extreme environment clothing normally refers to clothing for Arctic or mountainous areas on land, although it is sometimes used for survival suits worn by mariners. The basic approach is to insulate one’s body from heat loss, and keep liquid water or ice out of the insulation.

Extreme environment clothing
Figure 25: Extended Cold Weather Clothing System Developed for US Armed Forces
cold weather training
Figure 26: US Marines conducting extreme cold weather training

Flame Resistant Environmental Ensemble (FREE):

A group of items viewed as a whole rather than individually.

Flame Resistant Environmental Ensemble (FREE):
The Flame-Resistant Environmental Ensemble (FREE) is a multi-layered, versatile insulating garment that is adaptable to varying mission requirements and environmental conditions. The system consists of undergarments, a base layer, mid-weight under-layer, light weather outer layer, intermediate weather outer layer, and an extreme/wet weather parka. It also includes cold weather gloves, a rigger belt, and wool socks.

FREE is designed to be functional and increase comfort and ergonomic efficiency in and out of aircraft and combat vehicles. It will replace aviation and combat vehicle crewmen cold-weather clothing.

Flame Resistant Environmental Ensemble
Figure 27: Tank crewmembers demonstrating the multiple layers.

Flame Resistant Organizational Gear (FROG):
Flame Resistant Organizational Gear (FROG) is clothing used by the United States Marine Corps to reduce the number of injuries resulting from fire and flash (especially burns), due to the increased use of improvised explosive devices in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A Marine models the FROG balaclava and shirt
Figure 28: A Marine models the FROG balaclava and shirt
Flame Resistant Organizational Gear
Figure 29: US Marine models the FROG as a part of Uniform System developed by US Marine Corps

Army Combat Shirt:
The Army Combat Shirt (ACS) is a flame-resistant shirt developed for the United States Army as an addition to the Army Combat Uniform. The ACS is a stand-alone shirt designed specifically for use with Improved Outer Tactical Vest armor in warm and hot weather. It is intended to greatly increase user comfort through the use of lightweight, moisture-wicking, and breathable fabrics.

Army Combat Shirt
Figure 30: A U.S. Army soldier wearing the Army Combat Shirt in May 2007
Army soldier wearing the Army Combat Shirt
Figure 31: A U.S. Army soldier wearing the Army Combat Shirt in May 2007

High-visibility Clothing:
High-visibility (HV) clothing, a type of personal protective equipment (PPE), is any clothing worn that has highly reflective properties or a color that is easily discernible from any background. Yellow waistcoats worn by emergency services are a common example.

High-visibility clothing
Figure 32: London Metro Police Department Officers wearing HV jackets are patrolling on bicycles
Figure 33: “Firefighters wearing coats with high-visibility strips”
Figure 33: Firefighters wearing coats with high-visibility strips

Anti-Static Clothing:
Anti-static garments or anti-static clothing is required to prevent damage to electrical components or to prevent fires and explosions when working with flammable liquids and gases.

Antistatic garments are used in many industries such as electronics, communications, telecommunications and defense applications. As computers and electronics become ever more pervasive in consumer products so an increasing number of manufacturers will need to apply anti-static control measures. One such measure is antistatic apparel because people are the greatest source of static charge in the workplace.

Transportation of electrostatic sensitive devices also requires packaging that provides protection from electrostatic hazards in the transportation or storage system. In the case of an ESD protected area designed with continuous grounding of all conductors and dissipative items (including personnel), packaging may not be necessary.

The amount of static electricity we feel varies according to factors such as our body and foot size. A larger body and bigger feet require more charge to be stored to produce the same voltage. The material our clothes are made from and the soles of our shoes can influence static electricity too. Weather affects it as well. There is more build-up of static charge when the air is dry. Most people feel harmless shocks at around 2,000-4,000 volts. However electrical components can be damaged by as little as a few volts. It is estimated that between eight percent and 33 percent of product losses—-the proportion of products which are rendered faulty—-are due to static electricity. Static electricity is generally harmless to the individual but if not controlled, electrostatic discharge can cause product damage to electrostatic sensitive devices and lead to machinery downtime, lost man-hours, returned products and warranty costs particularly in the semiconductor and electronics industries, which lead 5 billion USD of damage to products each year.

Anti-static garments
Figure 34: Anti-static garments being used while testing electrical/electronic products

Industrial Work Wear:
A type of garment that is used by the blue-collar workers during carrying out their duties on the work floor, these garments are easy to wear, provide breathing space for the body to face hot temperatures and provides protection against sharp and edgy things or equipments. Usually produced or bought by a manufacturing firm in bulk for all of the blue-collar working class.

Blue colored Industrial Work Wear
Figure 35: Blue colored Industrial Work Wear is a one-piece garment
Two different variations in an Industrial Work wear
Figure 36: Two different variations in an Industrial Work wear

Lifejacket (Personal Flotation Device):
A Personal Flotation Device (abbreviated as PFD; also referred to as a life jacket, life preserver, Mae West, life vest, life saver, cork jacket, buoyancy aid or flotation suit) is piece of equipment designed to assist a wearer, who may be either conscious or unconscious, to keep afloat.

PFDs are available in different sizes to accommodate variances in body weight. Designs differ depending on wearing convenience and level of protection. Flotation devices are also found in near water-edges and at swimming pools. They may take the form of a simple vest, a jacket, a full-body suit (one-piece coverall), or their variations suited for particular purposes. They are most commonly made of a tough synthetic fiber material encapsulating a source of buoyancy, such as foam or a chamber of air, and are often brightly colored yellow or orange to maximize visibility for rescuers. Some devices consist of a combination of both buoyancy foam and an air chamber.

Retro-reflective “SOLAS” tape is often sewn to the fabric used to construct life jackets and PFDs to facilitate a person being spotted in darkness when a search light is shone towards the wearer. In the US, federal regulations require all persons under the age of 13 to wear a life jacket (PFD) when in a watercraft under 12 meters long. State regulations may raise or lower this number and must be followed when in that state’s jurisdiction.

A man wearing a life vest
Figure 37: A man wearing a life vest, with another life vest hanging on a hook at lower left
air chamber lifejacket
Figure 38: The person on the right is wearing an air chamber life jacket

Motorcycle Personal Protective Clothing:
To improve motorcycle safety many countries mandate the wearing of personal protective equipment such as protective clothing and helmets. Protective clothing may include certain types of jackets, gloves, boots, and pants. Jackets meant for motorcyclists are typically made of specialized nylon fabrics like cordura, leather, or Kevlar. These jackets typically include heavy padding on the elbow, spine, and shoulder regions. Gloves are generally made of leather or Kevlar and some include carbon fiber knuckle protection.

An alternative to leather is clothing constructed of man-made textiles. These can offer improved weather protection from heat, cold, and water, and the increased utility these garments tend to provide in terms of pockets and vents. Common materials include high density (600–1000 Denier) ballistic nylon (e.g., Cordura) and Kevlar, or blends of Kevlar, Cordura, and Lycra; and often include waterproof liners made from materials such as Gore-Tex. In both CE marked (meets European Standards) and non-protective garments, localised protection may be provided by armour and airbag systems.

Not all textile clothing is made from synthetic materials. Heavy weight waxed cotton was used for many years before the development of modern materials, typified by the jackets made by companies such as Belstaff.

Racing glove (rear)
Figure 39: Racing glove (rear)
Racing glove (palm)
Figure 40: Racing glove (palm)
Motorcyclist wearing helmet, gloves, boots and leathers
Figure 41: A motorcyclist wearing helmet, gloves, boots and leathers slides along a racetrack after crashing
wearing racing leathers
Figure 42: A rider and passenger wearing racing leathers
Armoured textile jackets
Figure 43: Armoured textile jackets: Cordura left and fully ventilated right

NBC (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical) Suit:
An NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) suit is a type of military personal protective equipment designed to provide protection against direct contact with and contamination by radioactive, biological or chemical substances, and provides protection from contamination with radioactive materials and some types of radiation, depending on the design. It is generally designed to be worn for extended periods to allow the wearer to fight (or generally function) while under threat of or under actual nuclear, biological, or chemical attack. The civilian equivalent is the Hazmat suit. The term NBC has been replaced by CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear), with the addition of a new threat, radiological, meaning radiological weapon. Sometimes they are called chemsuits or chem suits or chemical suits. NBC stands for nuclear, biological, and chemical. It is a term used in the armed forces and in health and safety, mostly in the context of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) clean-up in overseas conflict or protection of emergency services during the response to a terrorist attack, though there are civilian and common-use applications (such as recovery and clean-up efforts after industrial accidents). In military operations, NBC suits are intended to be quickly donned over a soldier’s uniform and can continuously protect the user for up to several days. Most are made of impermeable material such as rubber, but some incorporate a filter, allowing air, sweat and condensation to slowly pass through. An example of this is the Canadian military NBC suit.

NBC suits
Figure 44: Two Canadian soldiers wearing NBC suits

Clean Room Suit:
A clean-room suit, clean room suit, or bunny suit, is an overall garment worn in a clean room, an environment with a controlled level of contamination. One common type is an all-in-one coverall worn by semiconductor and nanotechnology line production workers, technicians, and process / equipment engineers, as well as people in similar roles creating sterile products for the medical device industry.

The suit covers the wearer to prevent skin and hair being shed into a clean room environment. The suit may be in one piece or consist of several separate garments worn tightly together. The suit incorporates both boots and hood. It must also incorporate a properly fitted bouffant cap or mob cap.

More advanced designs with face covers were introduced in the 1990s (like the Intel fab worker-style suits seen on the Pentium product advertisements).

Suits are usually deposited in a store after being contaminated for dry cleaning, autoclaving and/or repair. Similar suits are worn in the containment areas of nuclear power plants. These suits consist of the main garment, hood, thin cotton gloves, rubber gloves, plastic bags over normal work shoes, and rubber booties. The wrists and ankles are taped down with masking tape. Occasionally a plastic raincoat is also worn. Removal of the garments (into several barrels) is a complicated process which must be performed in an exact sequence. Often a health physicist is present in the work area to observe good anti-contamination practices.

Clean room Suit
Figure 45: Technicians wearing clean room suits inspect a semiconductor wafer

Arc Flash and Shock Hazard Protection Clothing:
Arc Flash:
An arc flash (also called a flashover), which is distinctly different from the arc blast, is part of an arc fault, a type of electrical explosion that results from a low-impedance connection to ground or another voltage phase in an electrical system.

Arc flash accident
Figure 46: Arc flash accident – real time scenario
Arc Flash and Shock Hazard
Figure 47: Arc Flash and Shock Hazard – real time scenario

Protection Equipment:
With recent increased awareness of the dangers of arc flash, there have been many companies that offer arc flash personal protective equipment (PPE). The materials are tested for their arc rating. The arc rating is the maximum incident energy resistance demonstrated by a material prior to break open (a hole in the material) or necessary to pass through and cause with 50% probability a second- or third-degree burn.

Arc Flash Protective Clothing
Figure 48: Arc Flash Protective Clothing
Arc Flash Protective Clothings
Figure 49: Arc Flash Protective Clothing

Racing (Race Car Driver’s) Suit:
NASCAR drivers are required to wear a fire-retardant suit and underwear. This suit serves a dual purpose of identifying the driver outside the car, and protecting them during a fire. The driver also wears fire retardant shoes and gloves. During long races, the heat of the engine might warm the feet to uncomfortable levels, so most drivers wear a heat shield on the bottom of their shoes.

The helmets serve many safety purposes in the NASCAR circuit. First, the helmet protects the driver from injuries. Second, the helmet has hook-ups for radio to communicate with the spotter and crew chief. Third, the helmets sometimes have visors that reduce the sun’s glare so the driver can have better vision.

Racing suit
Figure 50: Jeff Gordon and his crew wearing a fire suit for safety

Flight Suit:
A flight suit is a full body garment, worn while flying aircraft such as military airplanes, gliders and helicopters. These suits are generally made to keep the wearer warm, as well as being practical (plenty of pockets), and durable (including fire retardant). Its appearance is usually similar to a jumpsuit. A military flight suit may also show rank insignia. It is sometimes used as a combat uniform in Close Quarters Battle or Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure situations, for its practicality.

Flight suit
Figure 51: Flight suit worn by a Thunderbird passenger

G-Suit (Anti-g-Suit):
A g-suit, or the more accurately named anti-g suit, is a flight suit worn by aviators and astronauts who are subject to high levels of acceleration force (g). It is designed to prevent a black-out and g-LOC (g-induced loss of consciousness) caused by the blood pooling in the lower part of the body when under acceleration, thus depriving the brain of blood. Black-out and g-LOC has caused a number of fatal aircraft accidents.

Female pilot wearing g-suit
Figure 52: PAF female pilot wearing g-suit
Anti-g Suit trousers
Figure 53: MSF830 Anti-g Suit trousers and cummerbund fitted over a flying suit

Jumpsuit originally referred to the utilitarian one-piece garments used by parachuters/skydivers, but has come to be used as a common term for any one-piece garment with sleeves and legs.

The original skydivers’ jumpsuits were simple garments designed to insulate the body from the cold of high altitudes and minimize risk of covering important handles and grips. Today, however, the garment has found other use:

Pilots and Drivers:
Aviators and astronauts, who sometimes wear insulated, fire-retardant jumpsuits or flight suits where other types of clothing can potentially float or flap about in zero gravity or during high-G maneuvers, drivers in motor racing, who wear jumpsuits for protection against fire and (in the case of motorcycle racers) leather suits for abrasion

Sports Persons:
Skiers, who wear insulated jumpsuits or ski suits to protect themselves from cold (especially after falling or tumbling in snow). Competitive skiers and speed skaters, who wear skin-tight jumpsuits to provide freedom of movement while minimizing air resistance. Skydivers, who wear technical jumpsuits as main sport equipment for today’s sport skydiving.

Manual Laborers:
The jumpsuit’s simple one-piece design also makes it a practical garment for tradesmen, such as cleaners, auto mechanics and plumbers, who often wear looser-fitting jumpsuits, or coveralls, where they need a better-protecting garment than an apron or bib.

The jumpsuit has sometimes been mandated as an institutional uniform, as it can be a unisex garment and can accommodate a wide range of body shapes.

  1. University and polytechnic students in Finland and Sweden often wear jumpsuits colored according to their school or field of study at student parties, see student overall.
  2. In Norway, high school students wear jumpsuits for three weeks of May as a part of the graduation ritual Russefeiring
  3. Prisons in the United States and Canada frequently use bright orange jumpsuit uniforms for inmates for ease of identification and high visibility.

Small Children:
A simple-to-launder one-piece garment can be especially convenient for parents to dress small children in. In countries with colder climates, snowsuits, or jumpsuits quilted or padded for warmth, are popular during the wintertime.

Jumpsuits have also reappeared from time to time in high fashion, where it is often attractive to designers because it has an unbroken line running from the neck to the feet and can be flattering on somebody shapes. In the UK, the word onesie has come to describe casual jumpsuits (to be used as loungewear or pyjamas). Jumpsuits are generally regarded as a garment of convenience, as they are simpler to launder, put on and remove than an ensemble outfit. Unless the jumpsuit has a drop seat, however, it is necessary to remove it entirely for bathroom use.

Figure 54: A man wearing a jumpsuit
Race suit
Figure 55: Formula One driver Kimi Räikkönen in a protective one-piece auto race suit

Boiler Suit:
A boilersuit is a loose-fitting garment covering the whole body except for the head, hands and feet. The 1989 issue of the Oxford English Dictionary lists the word boilersuit first on 28 October 1928 in the Sunday Express newspaper. The garment is also known as an overall in some places, but that word is more usually understood as a bib-and-brace overall, which is a type of trousers with attached suspenders. A more tightfitting suit is usually called a jumpsuit.

Boiler Suit coverall
Figure 56: “Boiler Suit coverall”

Siren Suit:
The siren suit is a one-piece garment for the whole body which is easily put on or taken off, originally designed for use on the way to and in air-raid shelters. The suit solved the problems of warmth and modesty encountered when seeking shelter during nighttime air raids in the United Kingdom during World War II. It was roomy and could be put on overnight clothes quickly when an imminent air raid was announced by the sirens. The suit was worn by both children and adults when sheltering in either back garden or public shelters.

Siren Suit
Figure 57: Winston Churchill wearing a siren suit beside British General Bernard Montgomery during the Second World War in the United Kingdom

Ski Suit:
A ski suit is a suit made to be worn over the rest of the clothes when skiing or snowboarding. A ski suit made for more casual winter wear outdoors may also be called a snowsuit and are often used by children as everyday outerwear in the winter season. Some suits are specifically made for snowboarders but most are used by either skiers or snowboarders regardless of the style.

Ski Suit
Figure 58: Karl Schranz in a one-piece and Vladimir Putin in a two-piece ski suit

Pressure Suit:
A pressure suit is a protective suit worn by high-altitude pilots who may fly at altitudes where the air pressure is too low for an unprotected person to survive, even breathing pure oxygen at positive pressure. Such suits may be either full-pressure (i.e. a space suit) or partial-pressure (as used by aircrew). Partial-pressure suits work by providing mechanical counter-pressure to assist breathing at altitude.

Pressure Suit
Figure 59: A pilot of the Lockheed U-2, nicknamed “Dragon Lady”, is a single-engine, ultra-high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Space Suit:
A space suit is a garment worn to keep a human alive in the harsh environment of outer space, vacuum and temperature extremes. Space suits are often worn inside spacecraft as a safety precaution in case of loss of cabin pressure, and are necessary for extra-vehicular activity (EVA), work done outside spacecraft. Space suits have been worn for such work in Earth orbit, on the surface of the Moon, and en route back to Earth from the Moon. Modern space suits augment the basic pressure garment with a complex system of equipment and environmental systems designed to keep the wearer comfortable, and to minimize the effort required to bend the limbs, resisting a soft pressure garment’s natural tendency to stiffen against the vacuum. A self-contained oxygen supply and environmental control system is frequently employed to allow complete freedom of movement, independent of the spacecraft.

Some of these requirements also apply to pressure suits worn for other specialized tasks, such as high-altitude reconnaissance flight. Above Armstrong’s line (around 19,000 m (62,000 ft)), the atmosphere is so thin that pressurized suits are needed.

The first full-pressure suits for use at extreme altitudes were designed by individual inventors as early as the 1930s. The first space suit worn by a human in space was the Soviet SK-1 suit worn by Yuri Gagarin in 1961.

Space Suit
Figure 60: Apollo A7L space suit worn by astronaut Buzz Aldrin on Apollo 11

A wetsuit is a garment, usually made of foamed neoprene, which is worn by surfers, divers, windsurfers, canoeists, and others engaged in water sports, providing thermal insulation, abrasion resistance and buoyancy. The insulation properties depend on bubbles of gas enclosed within the material, which reduce its ability to conduct heat. The bubbles also give the wetsuit a low density, providing buoyancy in water.

Hugh Bradner, a University of California, Berkeley physicist invented the modern wetsuit in 1952. Wetsuits became available in the mid-1950s and evolved as the relatively fragile foamed neoprene was first backed, and later sandwiched, with thin sheets of tougher material such as nylon or later Lycra/Spandex. Improvements in the way joints in the wetsuit were made by gluing, taping and blind stitching, helped the suit to remain waterproof and reduce flushing, the replacement of water trapped between suit and body by cold water from the outside. Further improvements in the seals at the neck, wrists and ankles produced a suit known as a “semi-dry”.

Different types of wetsuit are made for different uses and for different temperatures. Suits range from a thin (2 mm or less) “shortie”, covering just the torso, to a full 8 mm semi-dry, usually complemented by neoprene boots, gloves and hood.

Wetsuits for men and women
Figure 61: Wetsuits for men and women

Dry Suit:
A dry suit or dry suit provides thermal insulation or passive thermal protection to the wearer while immersed in water, and is worn by divers, boaters, water sports enthusiasts, and others who work or play in or near cold water. A dry suit normally protects the whole body except the head, hands, and possibly the feet. In some configurations, however, all of these are covered as well. Dry suits are used typically in these cases:

  1. Where the water temperature is below 15°C (60°F).
  2. For extended immersion in water above 15°C (60°F), where discomfort would be experienced by a wet suit user.
  3. With an integral helmet, boots, and gloves for personal protection when working in and around hazardous liquids.

The main difference between dry suits and wetsuits is that dry suits are designed to prevent water entering. This generally allows better insulation making them more suitable for use in cold water. Dry suits can be uncomfortably hot in warm or hot air, and are typically more expensive and more complex to don. For divers, they add some degree of complexity as the suit must be inflated and deflated with changes in depth in order to avoid “squeeze” on descent or uncontrolled rapid ascent due to over-buoyancy.

Dry Suit
Figure 62: The One Size is a patented dry suit that adapts itself to the measurements of the user, so the need for different sizes is minimized.

An apron is an outer protective garment that covers primarily the front of the body. It may be worn for hygienic reasons as well as in order to protect clothes from wear and tear, or else due to a symbolic meaning. The apron is commonly part of the uniform of several work categories, including waitresses, nurses, and domestic workers. Many homemakers also wear them. It is also worn as a decorative garment by women. Aprons are also worn in many commercial establishments to protect workers clothes from damage, mainly bib aprons, but also others such as blacksmith or farrier aprons.

In addition to cloth, aprons can be made from a variety of materials. Rubber aprons are commonly used by persons working with dangerous chemicals, and lead aprons are commonly worn by persons such as X-ray technicians who work near radiation. Aprons, such as those used by carpenters, may have many pockets to hold tools. Waterproof household aprons, made of oilcloth or PVC are suitable for cooking and washing dishes.

The word apron is from the metanalysis of the term “a napron” to “an apron”. The original spelling of napron has been lost (from the Old French naperon; Modern French napperon).

Apron in use of professional chefs
Figure 63: Apron in use of professional chefs

A mitten is a type of protective clothing used to cover the hand. The word is usually used in its plural form (“mittens”), since most of the time a pair is used as opposed to a single mitten. Mittens are similar to gloves; in that they cover the hand and help to keep it warm in cold weather. However, while gloves have coverings for four fingers and a thumb, mittens only have a covering for all of the fingers, and for the thumb.

Baby Mitten
Figure 64: Baby Mitten
Kitchen Mitten
Figure 65: Kitchen Mitten
Knit Mitten
Figure 66: Knit Mitten

Bulletproof Vest:
A bulletproof vest, ballistic vest or bullet-resistant vest is an item of personal armor that helps absorb the impact from firearm-fired projectiles and shrapnel from explosions, and is worn on the torso. Soft vests are made from many layers of woven or laminated fibers and can be capable of protecting the wearer from small-caliber handgun and shotgun projectiles, and small fragments from explosives such as hand grenades.

Metal or ceramic plates can be used with a soft vest, providing additional protection from rifle rounds, and metallic components or tightly woven fiber layers can give soft armor resistance to stab and slash attacks from knives and similar close-quarter weapons. Soft vests are commonly worn by police forces, private citizens who are at risk of being shot (e.g., national leaders), security guards, and bodyguards, whereas hard-plate reinforced vests are mainly worn by combat soldiers, police tactical units, and hostage rescue teams.

Modern body armor may combine a ballistic vest with other items of protective clothing, such as a combat helmet. Vests intended for police and military use may also include ballistic shoulder and side protection armor components, and bomb disposal officers wear heavy armor and helmets with face visors and spine protection.

Bulletproof Vest
Figure 67: The Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV), here in Universal Camouflage Pattern, is issued to U.S. Army soldiers

Flak Jacket:
A flak jacket or flak vest is a form of body armor designed to provide protection from case fragments (“frag”) from high explosive weaponry, such as anti-aircraft artillery (“flak” a German contraction for Flugzeugabwehrkanone), grenades, some round shot used in shotguns and land mines and other lower-velocity projectiles. It is not designed to protect against bullets fired from small-arms such as rifles or handguns. However, certain flak jackets are able to sustain certain gunshots, dependent on the armor, the gun, and the distance that the bullet has travelled.

The term “flak jacket” is often colloquially applied to newer body armor featuring protection against small arms projectiles, but the original usage predated the existence of functional bulletproof vests and the two are not interchangeable in performance.

Flak Jacket for Urban Combat Unit
Figure 68: “Flak Jacket for Urban Combat Unit”

Fire Proximity Suit:
A fire proximity suit (also, silvers or silver bunker suit) is a suit designed to protect a firefighter from high temperatures, especially near fires of extreme temperature such as aircraft fires.

Fire proximity suits first appeared during the 1930s, and were originally made of asbestos fabric (hence also known as the asbestos suit). Today they are manufactured from vacuum-deposited aluminized materials that reflect the high radiant loads produced by the fire.

There are three basic types of these aluminized suits:

  • Approach suit—used for work in the general area of high temperatures such as steel mills and smelting facilities. (Ambient heat protection up to ~200 °F (93 °C).)
  • Proximity suit—used for aircraft rescue and firefighting (AR-FF) and, in more heavily insulated versions, for kiln work requiring entry into the heated kiln. (Kiln suit ambient protection ~2,000 °F (1,093 °C) and proximity ambient protection~ 500 °F (260 °C))
  • Entry suit—used for entry into extreme heat and situations requiring protection from total flame engulfment. Most commonly made of Zetex or Vermiculite and not aluminized. (Entry suit ambient protection ~2,000 °F (1,093 °C)) for short duration and prolonged radiant heat up to 1,500 °F (816 °C).
Fire Proximity Suit
Figure 69: Firefighters training at a U.S. Air Force base in fire proximity suits

Bunker Gear:
Bunker gear or turnout gear are terms used by many firefighters to refer to their system of outer protective clothing. “Bunker gear” and “turnout gear” can refer, depending on the context, to just the trousers, boots and jacket, or to the entire combination of personal protective equipment and personal protective clothing. The terms are derived from the fact that the trousers and boots are traditionally kept by the firefighter’s bunk at the fire station to be readily available for use. This clothing is usually referred to as “fire kit” in the UK and Ireland. In Hong Kong, it is referred to as incident gear.

Bunker Suits
Figure 70: Fire fighters wearing Bunker Suits as a part of Bunker Gear

You may also like:

  1. Protective Textiles with Its Enormous Applications
  2. Manufacturing and Working Process of Bulletproof Jacket
  3. Anti Ballistic Fabric: Materials, Protection, Properties and Application
  4. Ballistic Protective Textiles – An Overview
  5. Knitted Space Suits: Protective Wear for Future
  6. Aerospace Textiles: Raw Materials and Applications
  7. Protective Clothing for Space Shuttle Traveler

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