Women have different shapes even in the same size.
The Latest in Women’s Police Gear
By: Karen Bartuch
“What size uniform pants do you wear, officer?” An acceptable response would be, “28 x 34, Sir” had that officer been male. Of course, true women’s pants aren’t sized by waist and length. They are sized by a single number and occasionally in short (Petite), regular (Medium) or long (Tall) lengths.
Until recently, designing uniforms and tactical gear specifically for women was not a high priority. In fact, women were simply wearing men’s uniforms. Sometimes the uniforms were dubbed “women’s” but were the exact patterns that men were wearing. (For the men who say “Suck it up!” or “What is the difference?” please wear women’s pants for a day and report back on your comfort level.)
Men and women have distinctly different bodies built for different purposes and the clothing design should reflect that. And it isn’t a matter of aesthetics. It is a matter of performance and function. For instance, pants that sit too high on the waist make a holster draw extremely cumbersome as well as make one’s ballistic vest ill-fitting and less effective. Here is the latest from a few leaders in the industry that are tackling women’s gear and doing it very well.
As one of the first companies to make women’s tactical gear, 5.11 Tactical continues to lead the charge and expand its women’s line. Recently, the members of the Women’s Tactical Association (www.womenstactical.com) participated in a product development meeting with staffers at 5.11 Tactical. Many opinions were expressed about women’s gear.
Among other things, the WTA members stressed the importance of a dedicated women’s section in the 5.11 Tactical catalog. In previous editions, it seemed like the women’s products were hidden in a corner. 5.11 Tactical prides itself on listening to their customers. True to form, the next catalog had a female on the cover and an entire women’s section.
Perfecting the fit of women’s pants was a real “5.11 Challenge,” but they tackled it head on to make the 5.11 Women’s Taclite Pro Pant right. “You cannot take a men’s pant and make it into a women’s pant, it won’t fit right and women won’t like them. It took over a year to get the fit right on our pants and we continue to evolve them”, said David Hein, category business leader, Police Department Uniforms at 5.11 Tactical.
“We listen to our customers. A lot of research goes into what we do,” Hein added. The new women’s Taclite Pro pant is a result of these efforts, with a lower waist and numerous strategically placed pockets. The pants are made in a lightweight rip-stop fabric and offered in a range of sizes from 2 to 20, 16W – 28W, in short and long inseams.
BlackHawk! went all out with their women’s line. They offer everything from pants, shirts, belts, bags, footwear and workout gear built for both on-duty and off-duty. BlackHawk! thought it out and it shows. They combined the functionality and performance of their men’s wear with the cut, fit, and features needed by female officers. The standouts are the off-duty pant and performance polo.
The off-duty pant is made of a lightweight breathable material that makes it easy to move in but doesn’t scream “police.” This is good for covert officers, detectives, attending court or actually, any time. Despite the discreet look, the pants offer ample pockets, reinforced belt loops for holsters and magazines. They sit lower on the waist. The inside waistband is decorated with words such as “daring”, “ambitious”, “ready” and “secure” for that extra motivation when prepping for any battlefield.
The polo shirt fits and performs extremely well. Typically, the sleeve is the most ill-fitting part of a polo shirt but this polo is definitely cut for a woman right down to the cap sleeves. These fit perfectly, adding to the comfort and functionality. And for those hot and sunny days on the range, the fabric is moisture wicking and provides a sun protectant factor of SPF 30. The pistol belt and tactical handbag are also worth checking out. Watch for a full review of the entire BlackHawk! Women’s Apparel line in a future issue of LAW and ORDER.
Her Blue Wear Uniforms
Frustrated after a foot chase that left her pink underwear exposed and nearly a hundred bucks in the hole, Her Blue Wear Uniforms (HBWU) co-owner, Tanya Sirl, partnered with Denise Czack to tackle the many issues surrounding uniform pants for women. Up until now, many uniform companies simply take men’s pants and size them smaller and call them a women’s pant.
Aside from the fit and aesthetic issues this causes are the functional issues like Tanya experienced. The crotch of her pant was hanging too low while trying to jump a fence. Other issues like the holster draw is too high or a very small ballistic vest (which is measured off the waist of the pants) are some others that have plagued women for years.
Understanding that women’s bodies are all very different, Sirl and Czack recruited Susan Ashton, professor of physiology, to help determine sizing and patterns for HBWU pants. Professor Ashton used 3D body image scanning to aggregate different sizes and shapes. “The last time sizing was done was in 1941 and that was based entirely on white women’s bodies,” said Czack, president of HBWU. “Women can be the same size, say a 14, but have entirely different shapes,” she added. That is why HBWU offers three different fits: streamline (ruler), balanced (hourglass), and defined (pear). The pants have been field tested extensively and HBWU is currently taking orders.
Triple Aught Design
If you have ever owned anything from Triple Aught Design you know the superior quality and functionality of their garments. The TAD website boasts, “High performance meets a modern silhouette.” It is true. Their fleece jackets fit perfectly and function even better. They understand women want to look good as well as feel good and perform well. Their products are priced higher than most but worth it: “We value quality above all,” said Raquel Rusing, Global Sales Director at TAD.
TAD was started 16 years ago by Patrick Ma, an outdoor enthusiast, who desired high-quality, simple and clean designs in subdued colors to blend in with the environment. Although the company largely still serves outdoor enthusiasts and adventure travelers, TAD is being seen more in the tactical community. This makes sense—their products that perform well, fit properly and are subtly colored are perfect for certain military and/or law enforcement personnel. The good news is that TAD is working to design more products for women in addition to the handful they already offer. As an aside, the Artemis hoodie should be a staple of every active gal’s wardrobe.
Rusing sported a women’s cargo pant prototype at a recent SHOT Show, which TAD hopes to debut in 2013. “It’s a long process. We started from the ground up on these pants, literally. The prototype was built just for me. It’s important the pants fit well and perform,” Rusing said. TAD is planning to add even more women’s apparel in late fall including a breathable, soft shell jacket with great stretch that is fully waterproof.
Already a household name, Under Armour continues to innovate and defy expectations. That is certainly the case with their latest addition to the Tactical brand. UA launched the Tactical brand in 2003, “out of a sense of social responsibility to the men and women who were in the field and on the streets risking it all to keep us safe. Our founder, Kevin Plank, has a long-standing respect for our military and law enforcement professionals,” said Adam Mattis, global product manager for the Tactical division.
“UA is already innovating for the female athlete. The next logical step is to design for the female tactical athlete. Considering our wealth of experience in developing world-class women’s products, we feel we are best equipped to suit the needs of these heroes,” Mattis added.
Mattis, retired from the U.S. Army, is heading up the Tactical effort and knows what it takes. “Innovation is the cornerstone to everything we do here at UA. We never release a product just because, but always look for ways to innovate even simple uniform pieces and make them better by adding an element of performance.” Fit and fabric were also paramount for the women’s line. The pant fabric is both water and stain resistant and it includes stretch for added comfort.
The women’s HeatGear fabric is light, soft, anti-microbial and Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) protectant. UA plans to offer footwear and apparel including cargo pants, performance T-shirts, and hoodies with custom features such as stretchy water-and-stain resistant fabric, integrated magazine pouches, hidden document pockets, a hidden expandable waste, knife/light pockets, and offset belt loops for proper holster placement.
Karen Bartuch has been in law enforcement since 2002, working a variety of assignments including patrol, gang patrol, gang team, undercover, narcotics, policy advisor and intelligence. She is the founder and current president of the Women’s Tactical Association. She can be reached at email@example.com.