Hi-Viz - do you know it's history?


High visibility clothing used to be only seen worn by builders, construction sites, emergency service personnel, railway and airport hangar workers as they directed planes to their gates. Now however it’s everywhere, cyclists, runners, children and pets are wearing clothing that is fluorescent and covered in reflective strips – so how did Hi-Viz become a wardrobe staple for the masses?

In California in the 1930’s a man called Bob Switzer had an accident whilst unloaded crates at a railway yard. He damaged an optic nerve and was advised to stay in a darkened room until his eyesight recovered. Bob and his brother Joseph were both amateur magicians and used this time and the assistance of their father, a chemist to use a black light to discover fluorescent compounds. After Bob’s recovery they continued to experiment and succeeded in producing the first black light fluorescent paints. They founded the Fluor-S-Art Co in 1934 to develop their bright ideas further (sorry!) We know these paints by the name Day-Glo.

The first application of fluorescent paint onto fabric was when Bob dyed his wife’s wedding dress – am not sure whether that happened before or after their wedding!

Day-Glo’s publicity material summed up how useful it could be. “What’s so great about fluorescent colour? Fluorescent colour is seen 75% sooner than conventional colour! Fluorescent colour is three times brighter than regular colour! Your eyes go back to fluorescent colour for a second look 59% of the time!”

In 1964 Hi-Viz first came to the UK as it was trialled by Railway maintenance workers in Glasgow.

The Health and Safety at Work act 1994 and the Personal Protective Equipment At Work regulations 1992 (PPE) ensured that high viability clothing would be worn to protect against risks to safety and health. These acts also covered other safety items such as safety footwear, hard hats, goggles, life jackets, respirators and safety harnesses. Many of which are also available from MyWorkwear.

In 2008, the designer Karl Lagerfeld appeared in a French public information campaign attired in a fluorescent waistcoat above the slogan: “It’s yellow, it’s ugly, it doesn’t go with anything, but it could save your life”.

MyWorkwear offer a comprehensive range of Hi-Viz clothing including bib & braces, coveralls, jackets/coats, tee and polo shirts, trousers, and vests. We can embroider or print your company name, logo or a message onto nearly every Hi-Viz item we stock.

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