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An Post's men and women take a special delivery

OUT with the old and in with the new.

The country's fleet of weather-beaten postmen and postwomen will today discard their old-style peaked caps and tunic in favour of a beanie and cargo pants.

More than 20 years ago --when Irish designer Paul Costelloe last stepped in to cast a cool eye over their pullovers, ties and old-style trousers -- there were few mobile phones or mail scanners to be hawked along their routes.

Now, as they battle wind, rain and more frequent snow, it was decided a more utilitarian chic look was required.

Post workers the length and breadth of the country are now busy delivering packages from eBay, Amazon and on-line catalogues in addition to the business mail and traditional letters to friends and family.

Hence, steel-toe caps in the boots are now a must in case they lose hold of that flatscreen television picked up for a snip online. So too are big pockets in their new workman-style trousers for their scanning equipment, keys and phones.

"It is very comfortable, a really big improvement on the old peaked hats," said Larry Byrne (52), who covers 98km a day in his van on his Naas, Co Kildare, route.

"My first uniform was the old heavy tunic, the real long full-length overcoat, the hard-peaked hat with the silver harp on it. It has changed a lot."

The arrival of the roadside letter boxes has heralded a major change during his 33 years delivering the post.

"Years ago, you used to be on a one-to-one basis with the old people, you could always call in and see were they okay. But the job is gone so busy, it is just run like a business now," he said. "You don't see the person unless you have a registered parcel or letter."

During the snow and ice, he 'road-tested' the new machine-washable uniform for the 6,000 staff who will don it today , including the all-weather jacket, raingear and the 'Doc Marten' style boots.

Postman Keith Lally (19), who took part in the television programme 'The Apprentice', was modelling the summer uniform on a chilly O'Connell Street.

The annual bill for replacing the old uniforms was €1m, with the older coat requiring dry-cleaning. It is estimated the new uniform, produced by Derry-based Hunter Apparel, will cost €2m in the first year but will prove more cost-effective long-term.

"Within two or three years it will pay for itself," Anna McHugh, a spokeswoman for An Post, said. "It is only 25 years since the last change but the fabrics are so much more engineered now, they are durable and the most important thing which is a big cost saver is that they are machine washable."

Mr Costelloe, who designed the previous uniform introduced in 1987, also provided advice on fabrics, colours and buttonholes for the new one.

Many of the foot, bicycle and van delivery men and woman also provided feedback on what they required in an everyday uniform.

The old 1980s uniform is now destined to be relegated to the museum at the GPO Post Office on O'Connell Street.

Irish Independent