Propper expands options for women's armor, uniforms
Building on 50 years of experience, the tactical gear manufacturer looks to the future with an increased focus on outfitting female officers
The following is paid content sponsored by Propper International.
By PoliceOne BrandFocus Staff
If you served in the U.S. military, chances are you’ve worn a Propper garment.
Propper has been quietly supplying uniforms and tactical gear to the U.S. military since 1967. In 1991, they branched out into the law enforcement market.
Now, as Propper celebrates its 50th anniversary, the company is building on its decades of experience with an expanded catalog of uniforms and tactical gear designed specifically to meet customer needs and wants, especially those of female officers.
From Military Uniforms to Tactical Armor
Propper began in 1967 with a Navy contract and expanded through the years to become the largest provider of U.S. military apparel in the country, with more than 120 million garments worn by more than 30 million enlisted personnel over the past 50 years.
In 1991, the company launched its commercial division to appeal to military veterans working in law enforcement. They added boots and body armor in 2012 and began designing new ballistic vests to address common concerns heard from customers, focusing in particular on solving poor fit and a lack of options for female officers.
The company released its four-panel, or 4PV, armor line in 2014 after conversations with customers who were frustrated with vests that bunched up when they sat down. Propper designers created the 4PV concealable vest specifically to avoid those issues, then added the 4PV-FEM vest for women and larger tactical/outer armor to meet a variety of needs.
“By talking with law enforcement, by having them try out certain designs and sit down in the patrol car and get up and walk around, or kneel down by somebody on the ground, we were able to observe them and get their feedback about what they liked and what they didn’t like about certain designs,” said Skip Church, vice president of armor products. “That’s how products like the 4PV came to life.”
Many companies simply add stiff seams to the chest area to create the vests sold for women, he added. This yields a bulky vest that fits poorly and doesn’t move with the officer, which compromises comfort and protection.
“We knew that we could do better,” said Church, “and we solved those problems with the four-panel design.”
A Better Fit for Female Officers
Customer input drives Propper to constantly evaluate its designs and create new products that better meet officers’ needs and wants, says Joe Ruggeri, senior vice president of merchandising and product development.
In particular, they have learned that women officers are largely unhappy with how their uniform options fit, so in addition to armor, the company is focusing on providing more fitted gear for its female police customers.
“Women have been somewhat neglected in the tactical industry,” Ruggeri said. “A lot of female police officers have complained because typically uniforms are just a men’s version of the uniform. It doesn’t really help them look professional, and we wanted to address that.”
Ill-fitting uniforms can also interfere with an officer’s movements. For example, Ruggeri says, many women prefer to wear their gun belts lower on their hips than men do, but most uniforms are cut for men and simply sized down but not redesigned to fit women’s bodies. This means the pants generally don’t fit well, making the gun belt extra cumbersome for female officers.
To address this problem, Propper designed the women’s cut of its new Kinetic pants line before tackling the men’s cut. These pants can be worn as part of the class B or C duty uniform in many departments, and Ruggeri says women officers are pleased that they can now wear their gun belt where it’s more comfortable for them and where their tools and weapons are more easily accessed.
More Uniform Options
As more women join the ranks in law enforcement, Propper will continue to focus on their uniform needs. In addition to the Kinetic pants and the 4PV-FEM vest, the company is also offering new, tapered cuts of women’s jackets and polos, as well as adding a more tailored women’s cut to its summerweight uniform line this year, all to offer female officers a more complete range of professional garments.
This is just one facet of the company’s overall goal – for its customers to consider it the only brand they’ll need to stay outfitted throughout their careers.
“We carry them all the way through their careers with rugged, durable gear that anybody can own,” said Ruggeri.
Check out Propper’s 50th anniversary webpage for photos and more history, as well as special anniversary discounts throughout the year.