Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fashionistas: The Fireline Edition

Much like Catholic school kids, wildland firefighters dress alike on the job.  There's no flipflops in firefighting; for awhile, some safety officers even roamed the woods with rulers, ready to measure your boots if they didn't appear to meet the eight inch high standard.  However, just like some kids modify their uniforms, some of us like to push the envelope.

Shirts:  We are supposed to wear a bright yellow fire resistant shirt on the fireline so that we can be seen easily from the air and through the forest.  Now there are all kinds of colors, from red to blue to even plaid.  My assistant wears a brown one, which means he can't easily be found in the woods, which is possibly his intention.  However, this is better than the guys who stuff themselves into too-small shirts from the 1980s, when the shirts were lighter weight with covered buttons.  They want to look like they've been fighting fire for a long time, but you're not fooling anyone, guys.
They make khaki now! I might need one.  Available here
Pants:  The pants used to be green and looked suspiciously like what people called "dress pants" in the early '80s.  They had shallow pockets in the front only, which means you didn't lose stuff, because you couldn't carry it.  From there they morphed into an ill-fitting jeans type of pants that are now referred to as "discos," as in, "Tom's rocking the discos today."  Now we have cargo pants, which means we lose stuff because we have so many pockets to put it in.  These also now come in many colors.  They even come in camouflage, which are good enough for military troops in a firefight but not good enough for some agencies since they are not certified.  If you see people with these, they have either come from an agency that is OK with buying them, paid for with the person's own money, or somehow slipped into the budget.
OK, now there's khaki pants TOO? From the same source as above.
Boots:  Everyone used to wear the logger type boots. If you were from the Pacific Northwest, your whole crew probably wore Wescos, while other crews wore White's.  If you were a rookie, you probably bought Red Wings for your first boots.  Now a lot of people wear hiking type boots, and fierce debate rages over what is OK and what is not.  Since we sometimes hike 20 miles to get out of fires, I'll go with comfy boots.
This fire was fun, and we had a 16 mile hike out, dropping down to the lake and then out the valley.
Accessories:  Most newbies start out wearing bandannas around their necks.  Then they realize this is a rookie move and stop.  It doesn't count if you stuff your bandanna into your hard hat as a sweat band.  Why? I have no idea.  However, doing the Brett Michaels headband look is not cool either.  T-shirts, usually crew ones, are usually worn; some women ran afoul of a tank top-hating ranger when they tried to wear them and found them to be banned.  I see a lot of bracelets, even on men.  Copper is common.  Creative hairstyles appear when hard hats are taken off: mohawks, interesting dye jobs, braids.  "Weird Beard" braided his beard, while A., heading south from Alaska for an assignment, shaved her head one summer.  When I had waist length hair, I used to weave colored flagging into it.
He might be able to pull this off.  You can't, rookie.  (picture from people.com)
Next time you see a group of wildland firefighters on the TV news, look closer. You might see pink hair, dangly earrings, or mutton chops. 

Anyone else out there work in a job where you have to wear a type of uniform? How do you express your flair?


  1. I'm certainly going to look more closely at those photos of wildland firefighters from now on! Nope, never had to wear a uniform as such, but eyebrows would be raised at deviations from the norm. I think less so now and that's probably a good thing.

    1. I forgot to mention nose piercing, that is getting pretty common.

  2. Interesting info. I've never thought much about firefighter attire - I just assumed it should be somewhat fire resistant. You guys should do a fashion show! :)

    1. That's a good idea for those long nights camping out on fires! I've seen a fire camp wedding, why not a fashion show?

  3. I never even thought about it! Firemen in England wear a black coat and trousers, which always look like a tent, which has fluorescent yellow stripes with a canary yellow helmet. I can't say I ever had a uniform, having always worked in research or admin, but it's 'smart attire'. Thing is, whilst I love girly outfits with skirts etc. I cannot be dealing with the early morning wake-up, plus time for make-up and hair AND a commute, so I would just wear black trousers, flat ankle boots and a shirt. The days where I had more time, or could go into work, I'd make more of an effort, but I remember colleagues saying, "Wow! You look nice, for once!" Oh well, comfort over beauty any day!

    1. Haha, "for once"? Did they really say that? I have to say, having a "uniform" really helps with the whole getting ready thing!


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