5 Law Enforcement Apparel Trends to Watch
Law enforcement apparel strikes a difficult balance between form and functionality. Officers need to be able to move at a moment's notice, but they also have to be comfortable all day long. Plus, they need to look professional on behalf of the entire department.
Officer.com interviewed a panel of experts to uncover what's trending in law enforcement apparel, and their answers might be helpful to promotional apparel suppliers and distributors.
Here are the trends they spotlighted:
1. Body Armor Integration
In an effort to take the weight off an officer's duty belt (for health reasons), there is a growing trend to equally disperse the weight of equipment throughout the uniform.
"I believe the trend is about integrating body armor into an officer's uniform," Steve Zalkin, president of North American Uniforms and Manufacturers & Distributors (NAUMD), told Officer.com. "To me, it is about functionality one and comfort two. Public safety officers and first responders carry more equipment today than ever before. Utilizing body armor strapping systems with shirt carriers allows the wearer to carry a body camera, conceal communication wires, carry a backup weapon, a tourniquet or extra handcuffs [and] all necessary items for job performance."
2. Tactical Shirts
Along with increased leg holsters and packs, police departments are increasingly reaching for more functional shirts and pants.
"The duty shirts and pants are being replaced with more tactical or combat shirts and pants, as they allow the wearer to have more pockets, Velcro panels and adjusters, as well as performance materials to keep the officer cooler, fresher and having garments that last much longer," said Jeff Searcy, president of Tac Wear USA.
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3. Medical Equipment Involvement
According to the sources, more and more officers are beginning to carry medical equipment. In the past, this was up to the fire and medic services, but now that police are often the first ones on the scene, it has become a necessity.
"We have seen several tourniquets integrated into shirtsleeves and pant legs, but feel it is overly expensive, cumbersome to wear, and not as effective as standalone tourniquets," said Stephen Blauer, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Blauer. "We have developed a Napoleon pocket on our ArmorSkin to store officer IFAK items. They can also be added to the belt of MOLLE. In addition, Blauer is working on a full series of pouches to address emerging needs, such as Narcan and other specialty carry items as they are developed."
4. New Fabrications
The respondents mentioned that stretch is being added to uniforms to keep officers drier in wet weather, and to wick moisture in hot weather. They also mentioned that as younger officers come up the ranks, there is an increasing demand for uniforms that feel more like the Dockers, Nike and Under Armour options they grew up with.
5. Wearable Technology
Like every other industry, technology is infiltrating law enforcement as well.
"The trend will continue to accelerate," said Zalkin. "There is no stopping innovation. You will see uniforms that monitor officer heart rates and body temperature, uniforms that change color with the environment, wearables with electronic sensors, uniforms and solar-powered fabric that will recharge cell phones and flashlights."