The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Frack Chic

Flame-resistant overalls are the latest reason to be optimistic about America’s future. The US shale boom is creating plenty of new jobs in the oil and gas industry, but it’s having a number of knock-on effects as well. Energy-intensive industries have been bolstered by the influx of cheap natural gas, for example. And a new sector has appeared to help support the rapidly growing number of oil and gas workers in America. Firms that feed, house, and, as the the WSJ reports, clothe these workers are capitalizing on this energy revolution, too.

Back in 2010, a spate of refinery accidents across the country killed workers without the proper protective equipment. In response, OSHA drafted a memo requiring workers in the industry to wear flame-resistant clothing. That memo, combined with the 180,000 new jobs created in the oil and gas industry over the past five years, has led to a surge in sales of protective clothing and footwear. That surge is expected to continue; sales of protective clothing are projected to rise by 43 percent in the next four years.

Manufacturers like Carhartt and Wrangler aren’t just selling more clothes and boots, they’re selling higher-quality products. The WSJ reports: “The appetite for fracking gear is leading clothes makers to send research and development teams to consult with oil-field workers in Texas and North Dakota, in the same way Nike Inc. taps elite athletes to test out its track shoes and football cleats.”

The clothes are getting lighter, more breathable, safer, and better looking. One refinery worker told the WSJ that he’ll “even wear the jeans out on the weekends.” Once the hipsters in Brooklyn start sporting flame-resistant overalls and clunky steel-toed boots, we’ll know that the shale boom has fully arrived. In the meantime, we can be grateful for the diffuse economic benefits fracking is bringing the country.

[Overalls model image courtesy of Gordana Sermek/Shutterstock]

Published on May 19, 2013 10:31 am
  • Lorenz Gude

    Drill, baby, drill!

  • http://twitter.com/DarthChocolate Darth Chocolate

    Since many large petrochemical companies supply the FR clothing and steel toed boots for free, why not wear it everyday?
    Personally, I wear a coverall (rarely out in the field), and with the list price of a pair of FR Wranglers up to $50 or so, why bother spending money on clothes? The only difference between standard issue and FR is a small “FR” tag.

  • Diggsc

    It was admittedly a long time ago (early 80′s), but when I was on rig near Big Piney, WY, we bought boots by the pallet load. The leather simply dissolved after a week or so standing in the drill mud. Good to see the manufacturers are getting input from the actual people using their products.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leah.keever.1 Leah Keever

    Frack the hipsters in Brooklyn. The rest of us don’t care what they think has “arrived.”