What should a guide look like?

Hi All,

I work at a small nature center run by the local municipality. Next year we will be purchasing new uniforms, and staff and management are having trouble agreeing on what look to go for.

The current uniform is t-shirts with our logo embroidered on the front. Management is insisting on polo shirts for next year so we look “more professional”.

The primary concern of staff is paddling comfort, and we would prefer a light weight long-sleeved shirt for bug, sun, and abrasion protection.

So, I’m looking for a shirt with these attributes:

  1. Polo-style, not full button-down (I know, don’t ask)
  2. Performance fabric (light weight, wicking, UPF)
  3. Long sleeve
  4. Available in a light color other than white
  5. Available in both Mens and Womens sizing, or at least have a XS option if only in Mens

    A tall order a know…the NRS Womens LS Guide Shirt would be pretty perfect, but the Mens version is too dark in color for our black logo, plus they don’t make it any more. lame.

    Any shirt recommendations much appreciated, plus out of personal curiosity, what do you expect a canoe or kayak guide to look like? Does a certain look inspire more confidence? Does a collar really make a paddling guide look more professional, or just make them look like a displaced office worker…

How to look

– Last Updated: Jul-31-12 11:48 AM EST –

Kayak guides are usually most visible in a boat, thus wearing a PFD, so i don't see what a collar type contributes except the likelihood of a rash. Also, doesn't it make the most sense or paddling guides to wear recognizable paddling clothing, as in that you mentioned or others.

I'd agree with your recommendation for long sleeves in this day and age of cancer awareness. And branded hats would be good, same reason.

Polo shirts are a good idea for golfing guides, should any golfer need one, and maybe the staff who don't end up going out in boats.

T-Shirts & Polo Shirts…
…don’t look “Professional.” and as Celia stated, Polo shirts are fine for golfers, but… Some kind of nylon supplex is what you need. Dries quickly, comfortable, doesn’t wrinkle as badly, and will “Look professional.” Why should you have exclusively long or short sleeve? why not both?

RailRiders long-sleeved woven shirt

– Last Updated: Jul-31-12 12:23 PM EST –

It is a FANTASTIC paddling shirt.

I think the name of it is the Adventure shirt, but I'm not sure because there are two models similar to each other, with different names.

The ones I have are whichever model features a 3-button placket front (NOT the Velcro placket) Mandarin collar, one chest pocket, buttoned (NOT elastic) cuffs, vented sleeve strips, vented body strips along both sides, and an overflapped back vent. The only Velcro is that which closes the chest pocket. Fabric is a peach-fuzzed nylon that wicks and breathes well plus it dries incredibly fast. You can roll up the sleeves to make it "short-sleeved."

Expensive stuff but the best shirt for hot weather, buggy, wet activities. Also for desert hiking.

I normally wear a stretchy, close-fitting, synthetic knit T shirt for paddling but recently switched to the RailRiders woven shirt for paddling in one location where deer flies were feasting on me. Since then, NO fly bites whatsoever! They buzz around me and land but can't contact my skin because the shirt doesn't cling to me. I also love not having to apply sunblock on my arms.

Available colors are all light: yellow, white, blue, peach, green, probably more by now, depending on whether Men's or Women's shirt.

I know they have put monograms on them for groups before, so ask.

To me, a collar looks slightly less casual than a T shirt neck, but why does formality matter for watersports? A better reason to use a collar is for sun protection on the neck. There are several shirts similar to the above that use a collar that can be rolled up or down to provide full neck coverage or not.

A professional guide appearance would focus more on being cleancut, sober, alert, articulate, and friendly. The first three in particular imply responsibility. I don't mean that "cleancut" excludes facial hair, either--I simply mean that it be clean and looks intentional rather than a result of not having your act together.


– Last Updated: Jul-31-12 1:12 PM EST –

I don't care if my guide has a collar. Whatever they wear should be reasonably neat & clean -- at least at the start of the trip. Clothing should be appropriate for the conditions and functional. Buttons or other fasteners can be a pain under a PFD.

I do like being able to easily identify the guides/leaders in a group, so some sort of "uniform" or identifying mark is helpful.

My choice for sun is a light wicking long-sleeved mock turtleneck.

You will impress more people with a professional attitude and skills than with snappy shirts -- but clothing does help make a good first impression.

Where I work we get our shirts from www.stitchesunlimited

It’s local so I don’t know where you are but I’m sure other places carry these type shirts. I have a few of the “under armor” or wicking style that I really like. They are on this page and I got the Por Authority brand although they do carry the Nike brand and maybe others. Also, they are available in long sleeve but I think this link is for short.


long sleeved mandarin collar
I think the neck zip mandarin collar long sleeve in a polyester sweat transfer and quick dry knit is the best for paddling – the collar protects the back of your neck from sun and chafing. I believe L.L.Bean has some that they will embroider for commercial bulk orders. Eddie Bauer makes some like that too and may have a bulk order program.

Forget the shirt

– Last Updated: Jul-31-12 1:38 PM EST –

It'll be covered up by the PFD anyway.

Put the logo on a hat, if you must have one.

Agree with the logo hat
I have a similar job and similar concerns from management. The PFD covers the shirt and the logo. Get them to spring for custom PFD’s.

As someone said before, being identifable is an important aspect. Acting professional is the other half of the equation.

While I generally wear a polo to lead nature walks, I generally wear the t-shirt and cap for kayak trips. But I’m in PA, not FL, our weather is a little different.

Talk to NRS
If you like the NRS shirt but the color’s wrong, talk to them. They have great customer service and could possibly do a custom order.