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“Uniform Integration” is helping firefighters dress up

By FireRescue1 Staff

Firefighters — from top brass to fresh cadets — are a diverse mix of men and women, steadfast in their dedication to protecting the public and its resources from fire.

It goes without saying that the uniforms they wear come in all shapes and sizes.

“In the fire service, guys aren’t suit sizes,” said Steve Cohen, president of Lighthouse Uniform Company. “We don’t stock suits; we stock coats and trousers.”

Lighthouse Uniform Company takes a unique approach to firefighter uniforms, something it calls “uniform integration.” The company has created a uniform program that enables firefighters to grow into or out of sizes without having to purchase an entirely new uniform.

The process is organized so a whole department can get sized and later customize a plan for purchasing the uniforms. “We’ll come out there and size up the whole department,” Cohen said.

The company then asks for the fire department and the firefighter to split the $200 starting cost for the Class A Uniform starter package. As long as the department puts up $200, the company will work out customized payment arrangements that work best for each firefighter.

As firefighters climb the ranks, they can easily add other components in step with their progress. If a firefighter stays the same size, he or she could very well remain in the same uniform their entire career in the fire service.

Cohen talked about the effect that Sept. 11, 2001, had in creating a need for full dress uniforms for memorial services. “It pushed a lot of little departments that never considered themselves candidates for dress uniforms into dress uniforms,” he said.

But the desire for the “instant tradition” conjured by dress uniforms pre-dates Sept. 11, 2001, he said.

The desire to put the best face forward to the public is a factor. As recruiters began looking for candidates on college campuses, they quickly identified the benefit of dressing more formally in shaping potential recruits’ impressions of the fire service, he said.

“It really behooves you to dress like you belong at the head table,” he said.

More than 1,000 fire departments have already benefited from the uniform integration program at Lighthouse Uniform Company, Cohen said. “We’re probably the only nationally oriented ma and pa uniform company in the United States,” he said.