The old saw "a tool for every task" takes on new meaning at high-tech glove maker Ironclad Performance Wear Corp.
The palms of a welder wearing a Heatworx glove are protected by a Kevlar shell that can shield against temperatures from 300 to 600 degrees. Warehouse workers get a honey-combed super tacky palm on their Box Handlers. Ranchworx glove wearers get extra padding over the knuckles and a strip of Kevlar from the thumb to forefinger to protect against nails and barbed wire.
And forget the bulky leather and canvas, one-size-fits-all approach of a traditional work glove. A typical Ironclad glove has the look and feel of something worn by astronaut or professional cyclist and it isn't by accident.
"We took the sports concept and married it to the construction industry," said company founder and Chief Executive Eduard Jaeger, a sports enthusiast who got behind the wheel of an off-road truck sporting the Ironclad name during the Baja 500. "The construction industry is used to having very specialized tools, but no one had really seen same need for protective gear like gloves to be as specialized."
Ironclad is considered to have created the performance work glove category in 1998, launching a line of four that has grown to more than 32 models today. The gloves are manufactured in Asia and Mexico to keep costs competitive between $15 to $60 dollars a pair but corporate, marketing and research-and-development are based in El Segundo.
The company, which had $7.2 million in sales in 2005, expects net sales to grow by up to a third this year to nearly $10 million.
Jaeger's designers take full advantage of innovations in high-tech materials such as wet-suit neoprene and cold-weather Gore-Tex washable leather. A line of outerwear introduced this year to extend the brand employs the latest breathable fabrics that help regulate body temperature and wick away moisture like the clothing that marathon runners wear.
Even decorative details on the gloves are functional. Rubberized Ironclad logos protect the back of a hand or reduce wear on parts of the glove that are subjected to friction. The reinforced roll-top fingertips on each glove protect fingernails and add dexterity. A logo-covered bodybuilder-style wrist-wrap on the Cargo Bull glove reduces the chance of repetitive stress injuries among air freight workers.
And the back of the thumb on several models is covered with terry cloth how better to wipe a sweaty brow? Pro Contractor magazine even named Ironclad's open-finger Framer glove its Tool of the Year in 2001, the first time the honor had been given to a soft good.