Viewing Work Uniforms Through the Lens of Fashion

Does your company require employees to wear uniforms? If so, are they well-defined uniforms that create an identical look across the workforce? Or are the rules more relaxed — only requiring employees to all wear the same colors, for example?

Whenever the topic of work uniforms comes up, discussions about fashion are usually not far behind. Employees who are expected to wear uniforms certainly do not want to be saddled with clothes that they perceive as unfashionable. On the other hand, employers are not necessarily looking to embrace the latest fashion trends when implementing a uniform program. The tricky part is coming up with a uniform everyone can be happy with.

Lessons from a Self-Imposed Uniform

Fast Company’s Elizabeth Segran wrote an interesting article published in mid-June 2019; it featured the story of a professional interior decorator who has been wearing the exact same uniform for the past 20 years. Hers is a self-imposed uniform, consisting of a black boatneck top and a pair of jeans.

The decorator, Susan Sorokanich, did not set out to impose upon herself a uniform standard at the beginning. She was out shopping and found a new black top that she liked. In fact, she liked it so much that she went back and bought a few more. It was not long before she discovered that wearing the same articles of clothing every day was benefiting her as a decorator.

One of the lessons she learned from her uniform was that she was no longer spending so much valuable time worrying about her wardrobe or trying to figure out how she was going to dress on any particular day. There were never any questions. Every workday she would dress in her favorite black top and blue jeans and be done with it. It was easy.

Sorokanich also discovered that societal norms held different standards for men and women. She discovered that men can wear essentially the same look every day and never be questioned. Not so for her. Her colleagues began wondering, and some even asked, why she wore the same outfit every day. Some wondered if she was letting herself go.

Company Uniforms Solve Both

Sorokanich’s uniform is somewhat informal. By that we mean that it is not a company uniform imposed upon all employees. It is simply a top and a pair of jeans that anyone could buy off of the shelf and wear to work. A company uniform is different in that it is designed for the job. It is a uniform that also tends to align with the company’s branding in terms of color, logos and so on.

Company uniforms solve both of the issues addressed earlier in this post. First, they eliminate the need for workers to be conscious about their own fashion choices. Employees do not have to stare blankly at their closets every morning wondering what to wear to work that day. They do not have to worry about whether their outfits fit current fashion trends.

Company uniforms also level the playing field between men and women. Because all are dressed identically, employees are less likely to have perceptions about one another based on attire. There are no double standards.

It’s difficult to talk about company uniforms without talking about fashion as well. But perhaps it is time to look at the fashion question from a different perspective. Maybe it is less about whether uniforms adhere to the latest fashion trends and more important to acknowledge that uniforms mitigate the need for workers to be slaves to modern fashion. If you’d like to talk about outfitting your company in uniforms, give Alsco a call.