2013 January 22

Result_Active_Fleece_Tassel_Scarf_36_491The first real snowfall of the year has led to lots of fun for most, but some serious consequences for others: broken or sprained limbs are just one consequence of being outdoors in snow and ice. The risk for those pursuing their fitness goals is even greater: runners aiming for the London Marathon this year are aiming to get their 12 mile run done this week – ice and snow or no ice and snow.  There are some practical tips that can help outdoor lovers to stay safe in winter weather:

1.    Check current and expected weather conditions for the time you will be outside. It may look great now, but if a blizzard or sleet is due in the next couple of hours, you need to make adjustments for temperature drops, poor visibility or the effect of wind-chill on your ability to complete your activity safely.
2.    Dress appropriately. Several layers of lightweight and loose clothing are ideal – and the outermost layer, and preferably the one below that, should be waterproof and wind-resistant. The value of have two waterproof layers is that if the first gets damaged, perhaps in a fall on ice, the sports person isn’t exposed to the elements for the duration of their time outside.
3.    Remember that goggles, gloves, sock, shoes, hats and helmets are vital. Poor vision can cause accidents and the extremities: hands, feet and head are the most likely body parts to be injured.
4.    Don’t go out alone. If you really must run or exercise solo, make sure somebody else knows where you are, what you are doing and when you expect to return. Call them when you get back safely. If they don’t hear from you in a certain period of time after your projected return, they are in a position to alert the authorities. It’s good to carry a mobile phone but don’t rely on a signal in bad weather. Wear highly visible clothing to ensure other people can find you if they need to.
5.    Warm up thoroughly and check your health before leaving home. If you feel at all unwell, don’t exercise in extreme weather conditions. If you feel or experience any signs of hypothermia or extremity frostbite, head for shelter and get medical attention. The things to watch out for numbness and tingling in the hands or feet, lack of feeling (if the face is exposed to the elements, rub your cheek regularly to check that you can feel your fingers on your exposed skin) or poor motion in your fingers or toes.

2011 January 14

Most of us wear a uniform all the time, without realising it. We might think that the day we left school we stopped having to wear a set collection of clothing but the pin-striped merchant banker has a uniform, as does the jeans-wearing student, the office girl with her cardigan over a going-out-after-work T-shirt and so on.

Uniforms can be conscious or unconscious and the conscious decisions made by those at the top can affect not just those wearing a uniform but everybody viewing it. This month, Sir Paul Stephenson, Commissioner of the Met, and the UK’s most senior police official hit back at the ‘paramilitary’ style black uniforms being chosen by many constabularies.

He said that for 2012, Olympic year, he was ensuring that Scotland Yard’s police presence was that of traditional ‘British bobbies’ in white shirts so that his cops look ‘…reassuring, not oppressive’.

On the other hand, Hampshire, Kent, Surrey and Sussex have all gone for the ‘black-shirt’ look that is sometimes compared to the 1930s fascist uniform chosen by Sir Oswald Mosley for his acolytes.

So why is the black uniform so popular? It seems that officers find the clothing looks professional and as if they mean business, it’s easier to wash and it gives those wearing it a sense of being properly equipped.

2010 January 18

While you might not give a lot of thought to your jacket, apart from recognising that it keeps you warm and protected from the wind and rain, it’s one of the most versatile items of clothing around.

While a jacket can be worn over almost anything from a smart shirt and tie – when it looks formal, to a casual T-shirt, when it looks relaxed, other items of outerwear, like long coats, can look decidedly strange if worn over less formal clothing.

A high visibility jacket made of reflective material or simply with reflective strips is a good choice for the foggy and rainy weather of late winter and early spring, and is vital if you ride a bike, or are working outdoors or travelling on foot along busy roads.

The colour of your jacket says a lot about you.

•    Yellow and orange jackets suggest a sporty personality and look better on people with a tan or with darker skin tones as the yellow can wash out pale skins and make them look unhealthy.
•    Red is an exciting colour and suggests energy – it works better with casual clothing than formal.
•    Blue is the classic colour for jackets and can be teamed with almost any other item of clothing from a printed T-shirt to a monogrammed shirt.
•    White was traditionally the colour of yachting jackets so it suggests sport or smart-casual clothing. White jackets look best teamed with a strong colour and shape such as a green or brown collared polo-shirt to offer contrast.
•    Black is the colour of a smart jacket and often looks formal or semi-formal – a black jacket sometimes has a bit of a funereal feel and to get away from this solemn impression, it’s best teamed with a red or pink shirt.

2009 September 14

steel toecap socksIt comes as news to many people that there are socks specifically designed for specific situations and specialist footwear.

Most of us have got used to the idea that there are sport socks that are engineered to stop the feet sweating and blistering and not to chafe, but did you know that there are special socks for many situations?

There are specially cushioned socks for work-wear, designed specifically for people who spend a lot of time on their feet and especially for those who are active on their feet: builders and loaders of vehicles, for example. These work socks are often called crew socks and are worn to protect the feet as well as keeping them cool, comfortable and infection free.

Steel-toe boot socks are specially designed to offer both maximum comfort and maximum safety when wearing steel-toe capped boots or shoes – the best ones have reinforcement in both the heels and the toes, an arch support which offers extra comfort and supports the foot during long hours spent standing, and an antibacterial finish, because one problem with steel-capped footwear is that it is prone to making feet both smelly and more liable to fungal infections.

2009 September 1

glovesChoosing and using the correct work glove can protect you from injuries, but it also helps you to work better if you’re wearing the right gloves for the job.

Light gloves are ideal for simple but dirty tasks. They keep dirt and non-toxic items like grease, or paint off your hands – the fabric may be cotton or nylon and if it has a cotton liner it also allows your hands to ‘breathe’.  The PVC dots on the palms give excellent grip for lifting smooth boxes, plastic items and particularly glassware, which can be both slippery and dangerous.

Split leather gloves offer more protection and if they have cotton or canvas backing, they keep the hands cooler than a full leather glove, while offering reinforcements on the palm, thumb and index finger. They are ideal for heavy tasks that do not require specialist gloves: for example loading vans, packing equipment or gardening and other agricultural work.

If you need to handle toxic chemicals or liquids, then you have to wear some form of plastic gloves – neoprene, PVC, polyamide or nitrile material will protect your hands and longer lengths ensure that nothing you are handling splashes up your arms.

2009 February 9


The AA is trying to re-educate the nation, not about speeding, or parking or even drinking and driving. They want us to re-learn our attitudes to clothing.

The recent cold weather has prompted them to tell us what to wear. Their head of safety says, ‘someone who is sat in a queue for three or four hours is at the same risk of hypothermia as someone stuck on a mountainside or tent. You may not have enough petrol to keep the engine going for four hours.’

The RAC have similar concerns – suggesting that anybody who has to make a journey over half an hour in any form of extreme weather should ‘take extra warm clothes, hats, gloves and high-visibility clothes, as well as food and hot drinks.’

All the breakdown patrols have had experiences with people who felt their cars would protect them from their cold and then discovered otherwise, finding people in sub-zero temperatures wearing very little more than spring clothing and often with children in nightwear and a blanket or sleeping bag – nowhere near enough to keep them safe from hypothermia. Children should, at a minimum be wearing two layers of clothing such as a sweatshirt and jacket – clothing can be removed while in the car, but shouldn’t be packed where it is difficult to get at. Because small children have a lower bodyweight than adults, it’s important to make them wear a hat if you leave the vehicle as much of the body’s heat is lost through the head.

The advice from emergency services for people driving in bad weather is to wear at least three layers of clothing – this should be something like thermal underwear, a T-shirt and a jumper and then to have a winter weight coat or jacket in the vehicle, along with a hat and gloves. It’s important to ensure that the vehicle also contains something waterproof and high-visibility for every member of the family in case you have to leave your car and stand behind a motorway barrier while you wait to be rescued. Don’t forget that if you travel with pets, they also need to be protected from bad weather.

2008 November 20

One of the biggest bargains around this winter is a ski holiday – prices are falling faster than a novice on the piste, as the credit crunch bites home in the mountains too.  If you fancy some winter exercise and you’ve nabbed a ski holiday at rock bottom prices, there’s still the issue of clothing to consider.  But remember, there’s really no need to invest in expensive ski clothes for your first ski holiday.

All you need is a couple of warm well-fitting jumpers or sweatshirts, a fleece jacket and a waterproof and some well insulated trousers (not denim, which chafes) as well as a winter jacket that you fleece will fit under. Waterproof trousers are a good idea too. Finally you need some good gloves and some high visibility wear such as a hat or jacket.

If you buy ski clothing that can be used in any cold weather conditions, you’ll be doubling your investment – you save money by not paying fancy prices and you gain clothing you can wear on a winter walk or trip to the pub. As an example, a fleece jacket can be used as an insulating layer during cold weather, and worn by itself on spring days.  If you’re concerned about fashion and think you might want to invest in your own skis at some future point, buy ski clothing that is neutral in colour such as black, grey or brown, so that whatever investment you make in skis, there won’t be a colour clash.

2008 October 16

At this time of year thousands upon thousands of council workers, up and down the land, trade in their high-vis waistcoat for their high-vis jacket. Cyclists and bikers, who’ve been taking their life in their hands all summer, remember with pleasure their high visibility waterproofs, and young people find their school coats have sprouted reflective armbands or even whole children’s high-vis vests in luminous yellow.

High visibility clothing saves a life a day, so ROSPA claims, and this includes road accidents, industrial accidents, and injuries to those in the response services who have to deal with everybody else’s problems.

Children’s Hi-Vis, in particular, are responsible for many fewer young people being hit by cars as they walk home from school in the dusk. Safety clothing doesn’t only save lives in potential accidents. Actually putting on high vis clothing or safety wear causes the person concerned to think about the task they are about to perform, meaning that the focus on potential risks more carefully than they would if they were casually dressed.

But high-vis is also high impact, and having a workforce that is clearly identified as professional and ‘on the job’ can reduce delays in a hundred areas from deliveries through to site inspections or even getting projects signed off. Why, because we’re all trained to respond to certain signals, and when we see a person in high-visibility gear we assume they’re either in charge or in a hurry, so we tend to deal with them before we deal with other people who are less obviously marked out as being busy or important!

2008 August 11


Miguel Caballero comes from a country where clothing can save your life, and he trains new employees by shooting them! Colombian-born Caballero tests his garments by firing at his staff as they model the clothing – the ultimate test of both the wearer and the clothing.

In 1992 he was studying at university during his country’s vicious civil war, and many of his fellow students in Bogota were the children of politicians and business leaders – and wore bullet-proof vests around the campus.

His clothing combines style with utility and is worn Steven Seagal, King Abdullah of Jordan and Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez. Caballero clothing is lighter than military style vests: a bullet-proof leather jacket weighs only 1.2 kilos. Perhaps somebody should have told Harriet Harman and then we’d never have seen her wandering around Peckham in that cumbersome stab-proof vest, because his collection includes shirts, formal blazers, raincoats, and even bullet-proof ties.

But there is one drawback – a polo-shirt that will absorb the bullets from a mini-machine gun is rather expensive … starting at £5,000 and washing instructions are extremely complex!

Mauricio Chazaro, director of Miguel Caballero Ltd, arranges the bulletproof leather jacket for display

2008 July 29


The hutongs (alleys to you and me) of Beijing have a new police force – of sorts.  They are called ‘Public Security Volunteers’ and there are more than 400,000 of them – arranged into neighbourhood groups that are serving the Olympic security forces which include a mixture of police, over 100,000 ‘counter-terror troops’ and more than 300,000 CCTV cameras. The PSVs patrol litter-dropping, inappropriate clothing and spitting in the street – but by the locals, not the expected foreign visitors!  Despite the attempt to distinguish the new PSVs from the old ‘neighbourhood committee’ by giving the new volunteers a snazzy red and white striped polo-shirt to wear when ‘on duty’, there’s a lot of concern in the populace – the former committees were a mixture of spies and party members who reported on the irregular activities of their neighbours, and caused many a midnight arrest or disappearance for ‘re-education’.    

The PSV polo-shirts are a big sign of changing China – they are sponsored by the Yanjing beer company, which would have been unthinkable a decade ago, and while every volunteer has been given one, less than half actually wear them. The other half have been put on the black market, still in their original wrappings, as part of the Beijing Olympic memorabilia business. That too, would have been impossible (or an arrestable offence!) a few years ago.  The concern that the new volunteers have caused can be directly related to their entrepreneurial flair. Those who have flogged their polo-shirts still need to distinguish themselves from ordinary citizens … so they’ve dug out Cultural Revolution-era red armbands to wear, and those armbands remind nervous Beijingers of the knock on the door in the middle of the night …

Beijing street cleaners in new uniforms