Streetwise style for a modern force: A closer look at the new Garda uniform

Fashion editor Deirdre McQuillan assesses the newly designed uniforms for An Garda Síochána

Abolishing the shirt and tie for the new Garda uniform has immediately established a more casual and modern look.

The lack of the sharp focus given by tailoring evident in uniforms of the French police, for instance, contributes to the now more streetwise look of the Irish force. Uniforms are about authority and the official Garda crest, now emblazoned on the uniform, and epaulettes on the attire reinforce that visually.

While the existing distinctive Garda hat has been retained as a “unique element”, there is allowance for the wearing of headwear for religious and cultural reasons in keeping with changes to Garda policy and inclusivity.

The new casual but assertive look is also underpinned by the more practical polo shirts which suit most body shapes and the so called “operational” looser fitting and more comfortable trousers, really more like cargo pants.


The two tone colours – vibrant yellow and dark navy blue – stand out and seem to co-ordinate, if not deliberately, with the colour schemes on existing Garda patrol cars. Blue is workmanlike and widely used for uniforms and less severe than black while yellow, the colour most visible from the furthest distance, is a familiar and functional safety shade. It certainly stands out.

JBS, the Irish company based in Monaghan responsible for the design and manufacture of the uniforms for the 13,000 members of the force is one of the leading providers of safety equipment in western Europe, specialising in nuclear, energy, pharmaceutical as well as frontline and public sector industry attire.

JBS managing director, Declan O’Donnell, says: “Gardai wanted a modern uniform that was functional and durable [and] which could be worn in layers that suited the Irish climate.” The design of the new uniform “evolved over a period of the years”, he says. Over this time, “a wide section of members and their representatives were consulted”, and there was a “wearer trial” involving some 400 members over three weeks.

JBS was founded in 1944 by James Boylan who was making work and hiking boots in Mullan, Co Monaghan. The company won the contract in 2000 to supply Irish government and semi-State bodies with all PPE and workwear requirements and acquired Vard, the Dublin based uniform and corporate tailoring business, in 2007.

Several technical considerations informed the new Garda uniform, O’Donnell explains. “The material used for the polos and base layers has wicking properties, which enhances the moisture-management of the garment. The trousers are durable with a water-resistant coating to make them shower-proof.

The colours, he says, are based on the traditional uniform colours from previous uniforms but with a more modern design

The uniform are made by “a range of quality manufacturing partners across Indonesia, China, India and Cambodia”.

Designing corporate wear is particularly challenging, according to fashion designer Deborah Veale who has much experience in the field and whose clients have included Irish Ferries and the Merrion Hotel. Veale is now involved in a collection for the Irish army band.

“You are given a brief and all that information has to be distilled and refined before you design,” she says.

“You need to listen to feedback and to bear in mind that when it come to a uniform, daily choice is gone and for something as serious as a Garda uniform, the most important part is function and safety, though you also need to give it a bit of panache”.

Given that this is only the third time in its history that An Garda Síochána have changed uniform, time will tell if it will retain its relevance and more laissez-faire look on duty in coming decades.

Deirdre McQuillan

Deirdre McQuillan

Deirdre McQuillan is Irish Times Fashion Editor, a freelance feature writer and an author