Several years back I was at the JLC Live show and noticed an exhibitor selling Scandinavian-designed work pants that had built-in sleeves for holding kneepads, waist-level nail pouches, and all kinds of specialized pockets. I bought a couple of pairs and before long I stopped wearing my old work pants. Those first pairs were from Blåkläder, but I have since switched to a brand called Björnkläder.

I currently own five pairs of Björnkläder pants, three from the Jubilee line ($83 apiece) and two of the Ace Carpenter style ($95). After wearing European-style pants for so many years, I cringe at the thought of kneeling down on a nonpadded knee. The pads are always there on the pants, but they’re not heavy and uncomfortable the way strap-on kneepads are. I have introduced any number of guys to European-style work pants and they all swear by them.

The Ace Carpenter pants are my favorite. They’re made from heavy cotton duck with reinforced fabric at the bottom of the legs, at the knees, and above the tool pockets. They have an incredible number of things built into them: hammer loops, pockets on the lower leg, zippered pockets, and pockets designed to hold tools, fasteners, pens, phones, ID, and the like. There are so many pockets and loops that I actually cut some of the smaller ones off.

The Jubilee pants are similar to Ace Carpenters but are made from cotton twill; they’re lighter and more breathable so I tend to wear them when it’s hot. The twill and duck are both very tough, and after years of hard use I have yet to put a hole in either style of pants — not even in the knees.

The cut of Björnkläder men’s pants (the company also makes women’s) is more European than that of, say, Carhartts, which tend to be baggy. Ace pants are cut for a slimmer fit around the legs, which means the kneepads stay in front of your knees and don’t flop around to the sides. The Ace knee­pads are slightly longer than the Jubilee kneepads, and I like that.

I avoid wearing a toolbelt, and with these pants I can go without the belt and still have a large number of tools on me. This feels pounds lighter and much more compact than wearing a toolbelt. On those days when I have to use a toolbelt, I wear a pair of Jubilee pants that have had the waist pockets cut off so the belt fits more comfortably. But I still have the kneepads and all those other pockets.

Björnkläder gear is not widely distributed in the U.S. I order it from J&R Distributors ( and you can also get it from Face­line (