Is your garden clothing department ready for a makeover?

Cater to your customers looking for smart, functional and well-fitted workwear.

Photo courtesy of Tracy Walsh
Locally inspired shirts and accessories are great as impulse and gift items, but consider stocking clothing specifically made for gardening, too.

As gardeners, might it be time to update our planting, digging and weeding wardrobe? I’ll admit, I have often had this internal dialogue with myself, especially after a neighbor has caught me out in my garden at 7 a.m. (when no one is supposed to see me). There I am, with my bed head, ratty t-shirt and old yoga pants that keep catching on rose thorns to the point of being full of holes. It doesn’t really feel like I’m doing much for the image of gardening (or myself for that matter!) After such unwelcome encounters, I always chastise myself for not making at least the tiniest effort to put on some functional and decent-looking clothing whilst I’m outside for all the neighbors to see.

I know what some of you are thinking: who cares what I wear when I’m gardening! And sure, aesthetics may not matter to you, or to some of your customers. Nor am I suggesting that we can get much done in the garden wearing billowing white linen shirts and big, stylish, floppy hats. But I bet comfort, mobility and durability sure do matter. My arms and legs sport an intricate highway of scars from rose thorns and other gardening-related altercations. Better protection that is also stylish and comfortable would serve me well.

Regular jeans get to be too uncomfortable for gardening, especially in the Texas climate. I used to do much of my gardening in jean overalls, as they were convenient, durable and had lots of pockets. But then overalls fell out of fashion after the ’90s and so over time, I traded them out for yoga pants, which make no sense in the garden. Neither do leggings or other athleisure wear, for that matter. My go-to garden sweats and yoga pants are pretty much trashed at this point and offer no real protection, and I bet your customers are looking for better options, too.

Outdoor workwear that is comfortable and durable is trending. IGCs could be missing an opportunity by not stocking clothing options.

As you may have noticed, people are willing to spend good money on clothing that they mostly sweat in — i.e., those sometimes $100 workout leggings that are now in fashion — especially if it’s both functional and flattering. Why not the same for gardening?

So, where does the average consumer go to find good quality, durable, and comfortable gardening-appropriate garb? Too often, it’s not their local IGC. Most garden centers carry a limited assortment of garden clothing, and some don’t even bother to carry gloves. Some home improvement stores only carry men’s gloves — not kidding. But I do see lots of scarves at garden centers. Not that I’m opposed to scarves — I like scarves. But a great pair of durable gardening pants that fit would certainly be more likely to catch my attention.

Work pants, overalls and even coveralls are back in a big way, but now we must call them “vintage” or even better “heirloom.” Companies like Duluth Trading Company, Red Ant Pants, Rosie’s and Handy Ma’am Goods (what a great name) carry well-thought out work clothes, such as gardening overalls with smart features like harvesting bibs and zip-up gardening vests with lots of pockets. Plus, they offer multiple colors and configurations, catering to various styles. Note, this is not an endorsement of these companies, but it’s important to look at specific brands to view current trends and product options.

Coveralls are a piece of garden garb that I’m kind of obsessed with now. If you’ve ever done outdoor landscaping, you know the benefits of wearing a coverall. But women haven’t exactly had good options in this department, until now. Coveralls are even starting to show up in other fashion clothing lines, as an alternative to the jumpsuit. And don’t forget the short work apron. There are lots of new sturdy yet attractive gardening apron options available from these companies and many others, including some you may recognize from industry trade show floors.

I’m enamored with cooling arm sun sleeves, of which there are several brands. These are stretchy sleeves that slip on and cover your forearms for sun (and plant) protection. What a great way to prevent those pesky sunburns while you’re out in the garden and protect yourself from random plant attacks. In speaking of attacks, consider carrying bug-protection clothing, too. These come with a small price tag, so they are perfect for impulse sales.

Don’t skimp on gloves. Sturdy gardening gloves, for both women and men, in a good variety of task categories and sizes, are a must.

After researching these new gardening garb options, I pretty much want to spend my money on an entirely new gardening wardrobe. And that’s probably just what I’m going to do. Wouldn’t it be great if I did it at your garden center?

Leslie (CPH) owns Halleck Horticultural, LLC, through which she provides horticultural consulting, business and marketing strategy, product development and branding, and content creation for green industry companies.
June 2018
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