Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different work pants. I wore Carhartt for years, then switched to Duluth Flex Firehose pants and even bought those pants for new guys on the crew. Back in 2012 Blaklader sent me a couple of pair of pants to try out. I liked those pants, but the kneepads didn’t line up well for me; they actually covered my shin and made me look like I was heading out to play soccer.
On the forums at JLC, I read that a lot of guys had good experience with Bjornklader pants, and then Greg DiBernardo reviewed the Ace and Jubilee pants. Based on that review, I ended up buying the Jubilee for me and the Ace for my co-worker.
What’s the big deal? Basically these European-style pants are designed with more pockets, and they have sleeves on the inside for kneepads. They are also designed to be durable, using heavier-duty cloth at wear points and reinforced stitching. Plus, they look really cool.
Björnkläder Jubilee W/Tool Pockets. I’ve been wearing this pant (same pair) since 2013 and have absolutely fallen in love with having kneepads built in. I don’t spend a lot of time on my knees as a framer/ foundation/sider, but enough that I highly recommend a pant with knee pads built in.
This pant came with tool pockets, and I think if I was a finish carpenter, I would love these pockets. I tried to use them while siding a house and found that it wasn’t comfortable to have my tape and square in the pockets, so I cut them off.
I have nothing negative to say about these pants. I get compliments on how they look, the kneepads are in exactly the right spot for me, and while I don’t use all the pockets on the pant, I can see that for someone not wearing tool bags all day, they could be useful. They run about $85, and at that price, three years later I would say they are a bargain. I have no noticeable wear, just some color fade. The 100% Polyamide knees show no wear.
I also ordered a pair in the high water or pirate length. These aren’t shorts but are shorter to keep you cool in the warmer months. On me, ¾ length ended up just being funny-looking. I do like them but prefer shorts.
Björnkläder Ace W/Tool Pockets. My co-worker chose these because they are a slimmer fit. The design is similar to the Jubilee but with a slimmer fit and slightly heavier material. As Greg noticed in his review, they are a little warmer than the Jubilee. My co-worker loves these pants and they look great. He ordered his in the Pirate Pants, which is shorter but not technically shorts.
What is odd is that he did wear holes in the side of his pants from this Occidental tool bags. But this happens to every pair of pants he wears. I’ve never heard of pants wearing like this, but since it only happens to him, I don’t think it's worth worrying about. These cost about $100.
Helly Hansen Chelsea Construction Pant. A few months ago, Helly Hansen reached out to Tools because the company had a work-wear line it was promoting. I was asked to review some of its gear. I ordered the Chelsea pant and jacket for all three of us on the crew, to get a range of opinions.
Like the Blaklader and Bjornklader pants, these pants are designed with extra pockets on the leg and can be bought with tool pockets. They have Nylon Oxford 100% Polyamide reinforced knees, bottom hem, and tool pockets (if you order with tool pockets).
Unlike either Bjronklader pants, the Chelsea has a crotch gusset. I find I have much less binding in the Chelsea than the Jubilee or Ace. It isn’t that those pants are uncomfortable, it's just that the Chelsea is more comfortable. These pants, like the Jubilee, have some reflective elements on them, and while this won’t meet ANSI hi visibilty requirements, it is nice that we can see each other as we are rolling out tools in the morning with the headlights or forklift lights on.
I was told to order pants one size up since they run small. I ordered the same size as pants I wear normally and same for my co-workers. All three of us found the fit to be spot on and the knee pads were perfectly located.
After wearing these pants on 70° days and on 30° days, I can’t say enough good about them. When it's warmer out, I don’t feel hot like I did in the Jubilee or Kyle did in the Ace. But when it's cold out, I found I wasn’t cold either. I was wearing these in the upper 20s and had room for thermals under the pant, but in the low 30s, I didn’t need my thermals.
All three of us give these pants an unqualified thumbs up. I highly recommend these pants, and at about $88, they are priced well. I have found them on Amazon depending on color and size for $70. The fit is a little looser than the Ace and Jubilee, which is perfect for me, and my co-worker can even do splits in these pants. Just an FYI: They can be lengthened 5cm if you find the size isn’t just right.
The only negative thing I noticed is that my right nail pouch gets caught on a button on my thigh. So far I haven’t noticed any wear on my bags, but I’m going to remove the button to be safe.
Often at Lowes, I see fellow construction workers in the standard Carhartt pants and a hoodie pulled up over a baseball cap. Whether they are framers or plumbers or roofers, this seems like a uniform in my area. Unfortunately, this is also the uniform of the homeless in Seattle. I don’t want to be associated with anything other than professionalism and I want our company to stand apart.
Years ago at JLC LIVE, I took a full day class from Gary Katz, and he stressed that we are professionals and need to act this way and look this way. Then combined with high-quality work, we build a good reputation. Well said, Gary!
This has proved to be true in our case. We built a large house for a customer a few years ago who lived in a house on the property while we built them a new one. The owner felt comfortable when we were on site and his wife was home; he said he felt safe and his wife felt safe. This is because we dress and act like professionals, and we don’t allow swearing.