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Photo courtesy of Truewerk

This Local Apparel Company Makes Athletic-Inspired Workwear

If Carhartt and Under Armour had a love child, it would look something like Truewerk, the Denver-based online retailer that creates high-end apparel for trade workers—a group often overlooked by outdoor brands.

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Colorado’s outdoor enthusiasts are spoiled with options for savvy adventure gear, but as Truewerk founder Brian Ciciora saw it, there’s a large group of people being overlooked by the strides made in performance wear: trade workers.

He knew the woes of archaic workwear all too well himself. Before taking an interest in product development, Ciciora worked in construction, building homes in the Winter Park area as well as working in the ski patrol at the resort. Performing metal works at 9000-feet of elevation comes with plenty of unique struggles, and Ciciora guarded himself from the elements in what’s often considered the usual for the industry: cotton canvas and duck cloth from workwear giants like Carhartt and Dickies. “Anybody that’s ever done [that work] knows that you start out in the morning, and you’re walking around in the snow, and the leg just gets wet and it works its way up to your knees,” Ciciora says. “The sun starts to set, and you get a big icicle around your leg, and you just hope it thaws out and dries by morning.”

Ciciora and most others in his industry accepted this as, well, just the way it is for trade work—until he paid a visit abroad and noticed workers in Europe sporting garments that more closely resembled the Arc’teryx he wore skiing.

“It sort of dawned on me that there were better options, and that the people in the trades—the people that I was working with at the time—didn’t need to be the last in the world to benefit from clothing technology,” Ciciora says. Though he spent a few years after this discovery doing product design for Boulder-based snow safety equipment brand Backcountry Access, the vision for what would become Truewerk’s niche had already been realized.

Ciciora launched Truewerk in 2015 with a four-piece winter collection, and has since expanded to six different lines for every climate and just about any kind of “industry athlete.” If you’re wondering what an “industry athlete” is, Ciciora says there are three characteristics: someone who’s doing physically demanding work, someone doing work that requires skill, and someone whose work is just that—work. (Translation: it could be anyone from general contractors to rope access technicians, solar panel installers, equipment operators, and beyond.)

Photo courtesy of Truewerk

The premise is simple: Ciciora likes to describe it as Carhartt meets Under Armour. And It certainly helps that advancements have already been made in fabrics for the outdoor industry; Ciciora says they simply build on this and adapt it for the job site. Take their T2 WerkPant, for example—made from double-woven, softshell fabric that boasts four-way stretch and a soft interior, but is also abrasion- and water-resistant. It’s something one of Truewerk’s customers eloquently described to Ciciora as feeling like “astronaut pants made from space leather.”

Ciciora says they also think about workwear as an integrated system, designing items with layering in mind so that they can work together instead of bunching up (again, not a terribly new concept for athletic gear, but Ciciora saw the need within the workwear world). For example, the T3 WerkHoody is intented to be layered on top of a T2 mid-layer fleece, or the EDO Quilted WerkJacket, which are designed with outer fabrics that slide against the inside space of the shell layer.

Other brands have caught on and tried their hand at launching similar workwear-specific lines—like Patagonia’s collection that dropped in 2017, most of which features items made from industrial hemp. But few seem to have moved past the traditional materials like cotton duck, compared to the sports-tech fabrics that Truewerk has adapted.

Truewerk currently doesn’t have any products specifically for females, and Ciciora doesn’t necessarily want to do a strictly female line (he wants to avoid the trite “shrink it and pink it” trap that many other brands succumb to with womenswear), but he says they are actively working on gear that will be better tailored to fit women’s bodies for the future.

Truewerk takes safety seriously, too—and not just in the ways one would expect from a workwear brand, like compliant reflective materials for high visibility. Ciciora says he wants to focus on the humanity of the workers wearing his products, emphasizing overall health with fabrics that are breathable in hot weather to avoid dehydration, or built-in UV protection to try to counteract the high risk of skin cancer in construction and trade industries.

“When you start stretching eight-hour, days, weeks, and years on end, the cumulative effects of the sun, the heat, and exhaustion, they lead to sometimes acute problems,” he says, emphasizing that stubborn materials don’t help in this equation. “You put them into a pair of pants that’s got all the characteristics that we would use to go skiing or climbing or mountain biking, it literally is life changing.”

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