This issue of the Annals of Occupational Hygiene is dedicated to the topic of heat stress evaluation. For this evaluation, several evaluation programs and international standards are available. In order to understand the reasoning and underlying theory behind these programs and standards, a basic knowledge of heat exchange processes between workers and their environment is needed. This paper provides an overview of the relevant heat exchange processes, and defines the relevant parameters (air and radiant temperature, humidity, wind speed, metabolic heat production and clothing insulation). Further it presents in more detail the relation between clothing material properties and properties of clothing ensembles made from those materials. The effects of clothing design, clothing fit, and clothing air permeability are discussed, and finally an overview of methods for the determination of clothing heat and vapour resistance is given.