Highlight on Hi-Vis

If someone were to ask you to describe a Highways and Utilities operative, the chances are the first thing you will picture is a team member sporting a high-visibility coat or bib. For many years, the dazzling fluorescent garments have been sported as a necessary piece of workwear which is so valued, it has even at times entered the arena of high-fashion for its statement look and brand-building character.

The origins of the bright yellow waistcoat

According to the official website for all things hi-vis, the invention of high-fluorescent colouring came about in a very unique way. A teenager in the 1930s by the name of Bob Switzer tripped, banged his head, and subsequently awoke from a coma a few months later. Due to the damage caused by the trip, Bob’s medical team advised that he stayed in a dark room for a while once he regained consciousness.

Obviously, Bob was a little bored with this recovery arrangement. Not on to be defeated by lack of resources, Bob started playing with fluorescent materials, which he then decided to add in to some wood varnish. Fluorescent paint was born, named ‘Day-Glo’, and deployed by Bob for international fame and fortune by way of making great magic tricks.

Bob went on to mix his Day-Glo with fabrics, and achieved this first through designing his wife’s wedding dress. The US Army took an interest, production ramped up, and the rest, of course, is history.

According to the hi-vis site, the publicity of the day pretty much summed up the universal brilliance of the product – “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!”

The issue with national Hi-Vis appreciation

While it’s great to notice that the hi-vis garment is so loved by British society that it is frequently adopted by top fashion houses (e.g. Anya Hindmarch AW15, Moschino SS16), there is a downside to our nationwide esteem for the fluorescent outerwear. As James May, guru on all things driving has remarked, the acceptance of hi-vis clothing into casual wear is actually placing the iconic safety garment’s value at risk.

Too much mainstream sporting of bright reflective yellow may dull the significance of operatives’ ubiquitous uniform, sending safety experts on a quest to create a newer and more startling version of our loved and useful hi-vis garments. Watch this space for neon flashing, strobe-effect waterproofs with built-in blues and twos. We’ll think about it. Meanwhile, check out our current range of modern hi-vis products, to keep Highways and Utilities operatives in possession of the garment synonymous with the sector.