Spend any time on pole dancing forums and you will come across this common question, which pole finish should I choose? That's a great question and the answer depends on a variety of factors. On our Poles, Clothes & Lessons page we have links to the major players in the US pole market; X-Pole, Platinum Stages, Lil' Mynx and Lupit. Among these manufacturers you will find finish options including brass, chrome, powder coat, stainless steel, titanium gold, silicone, and acrylic. Not all finishes are available from all manufacturers, although every company does offer stainless steel as an option. Let's examine each option, and then I'll give you my opinion about which is the best and why.
Pros - more grippy, solid material
Cons - harder to care for, more expensive, metallic smell can linger on skin
Offered by - X-Pole & Platinum Stages
Pros - standard in most studios and competitions, easy to clean
Cons - coating than can be damaged, less grippy than other options
Offered by - X-Pole & Lupit
Pros - very grippy, good for those with nickel allergies, comes in fun colors
Cons - can be too grippy, coating that can be damaged
Offered by - X-Pole & Lil' Mynx
Pros - solid material, better than chrome for those with nickel allergies, easy to clean, 100% recyclable
Cons - less grippy than other options, costs more than chrome
Offered by - X-Pole, Platinum Stages, Lil' Mynx & Lupit
Pros - more grip than chrome or stainless
Cons - coating that can be damaged
Offered by - X-Pole
Pros - can pole in clothing
Cons - coating that can be damaged, can not do spins with pole set to static, increases pole diameter
Offered by - X-Pole
Pros - coloring changing with internal LEDs
Cons - different feel than metal poles
Offered by - Platinum Stages
X-Pole's has their own pole finish comparison here - xpoleus.com/faq/
Now here's my two cents. I am a fan of stainless steel. As a studio owner I like having poles that are unlikely to cause allergic reactions in my students and I also appreciate that there is no coating that will wear off with heavy studio usage. Two of my poles have been in place for 7 years and as fabulous and usable as ever. (Our third pole is newer as I replaced a 50mm with a 45mm about 4 years ago.) Also the process of chroming metal creates leaves behind vats of toxic waste that need to be dealt with. (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14644668 for more info) As someone who cares about the environment this concerns me deeply, especially since chrome poles have no significant advantage over stainless steel. I hope that the tide shifts and more people purchase stainless steel poles over chrome poles (or other options, but chrome is the most popular in my experience).
A quick note about competitions. Most US competitions are on chrome poles. Does that you should get chrome if you want to compete? Not at all. I still suggest stainless steel. Many people that I've taught over the years find chrome to be slightly grippier than stainless. I've always trained on stainless. At many competitions I have heard other competitors that train on chrome complain that the chrome competition pole is too slippery, but I've always found them to be quite tacky compared to what I'm used to. That is just my experience, yours may differ.
I'm going to leave you with a quote from Cliff Kusch that I found the forum at www.finishing.com,
"Comparing chrome to stainless is like comparing hardwood to laminate."