Steel workers and fire fighters are literally put in the hot seat for their jobs and need protective gear to keep them safe from burning. While their outer layers provide adequate protection, their undergarments, usually made of cotton, leave them vulnerable to burns from high heat or if a spark finds its way in. Urged on by Sweden’s Steel Producers’ Association, with the help of the European Space Agency, Swedish underwear maker, Björn Borg developed a line of fire-resistant undies for both men and women. Dubbed Thunderwear, the functional under garments are made from Nomex, which has been used in spacesuits, is flame-proof, and does not retain heat like most textiles.
Concerned about their member’s safety, the Swedish Association of Steel Producers set out to find fire-proof underwear, except there wasn’t any out there. Industrial designer Cecilia Hertz of Umbilical Design heard about the problem and set out to make the necessary connections to rectify the problem. Through Hertz’s work with the ESA and NASA and connections with other designers, she discovered that Nomex was the right material for the job and new that underwear maker Björn Borg could produce the garments.
Nomex, invented by DuPont, is a flame-resistant material originally designed for spacesuits and is now an integral material in gear for firefighters and other professions needing protection from heat and fire. Björn Borg then developed Thunderwear with both a man’s boxer brief and underwear and a bra for women made from the Nomex.
The flame-resistant undies can take up to 662 degrees Fahrenheit (350 degrees Celsius) of scorching heat without burning and do not retain heat afterwards. Now steel workers, fire fighters and other industrial professionals in extreme conditions will have all the gear they need to keep them safe.