The debate surrounding work uniforms is an ongoing battle. There are pros and cons for each side of the argument, but will we ever reach an agreement?
When it comes to the creative industries, like fashion, built on self expression and individuality, can and should bosses dictate what workers wear?
The Icons of Uniform Dressing
“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society” – Mark Twain
Some of the most successful people swear by a uniform. Steve Jobs, Karl Lagerfeld, and Vera Wang are just a few of the individuals opting for a work ‘uniform’.
Along with creating Facebook and becoming one of the youngest billionaires in the world, Mark Zuckerberg has become known for wearing the same outfit every day.
When questioned on his choice of a grey T-shirt and hoodie every day, he gives an interesting response. “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.”
Clearly, uniform dressing works some. What about those without the choice in what they wear to work?
Should we ditch the Uniform?
Although there are many arguments for workplace uniforms, research proves it may not be the best for employees.
In some environments a uniform is a necessity, but there is an argument that performance of workers increases when given the right to choose what to wear.
Studies show that when we are most comfortable, we are more willing to perform and take instructions from bosses. Getting rid of uniforms or strict dress code allows employees to avoid showing areas of their bodies that makes them uncomfortable or self-conscious.
With a greater feeling of empowerment and comfort, it’s no surprise that many of us feel happier and more willing to get the most out of the day.
Dressing for Success: The power of Uniforms
On the other hand, research shows there is truth behind the old ‘dress for success’ saying. In a world where first impressions and appearances still count so much, it’s important to give off a sense of professionalism.
New York based designer, Laura Hahn explains, “I try to dress in such a way that I exude more expertise and gravitas.” She also makes the point that professional business attire goes a long way, even in the creative industries.
So, as a creative, what you wear can be a powerful tool in, “being taken more seriously than design tends to be in a lot of companies.”
Are Uniforms a time and money saver?
Not having to think about what to wear for work has financial and time-saving benefits. Those who have to or choose to wear the same look each day minimise the time (and stress, let’s be honest) that goes into planning what we wear.
Even if you spend just 5 minutes a day deciding on what to wear, if you reduce this to less than a minute, you’ll have saved up to 20 hours a year!
We save money by uniform dressing. When a uniform makes up a large part of what we wear during the week, because we don’t have to spend on a range of clothes to wear to work.
Maybe uniform dressing really is a win-win.
Work Uniforms: a step towards Sustainability?
In theory, spending a lot of time wearing a uniform means we require less every day clothes. This is believed by some to have a positive effect on the environment, because the amount of clothing people buy is reduced.
Fashion brand Everlane have also made the link between uniforms and sustainable fashion. Their mens ‘Uniform’ range includes just 12 pieces, but is said to be all that a man needs in their wardrobe. In an effort to encourage people to wear and keep their clothes for longer, the brand even offers a 365 day guarantee on their clothes.
However, having a uniform wardrobe needs to be done in the right way if the aim is to increase sustainability too.
It’s probably best not to follow in Karl Lagerfeld’s footsteps when it comes to the amount of pieces in your wardrobe. He reportedly had over 1000 of the same white stiff collared shirts that he became so well known for.
The future of work uniforms
The arguments for and against uniforms highlight some interesting points, making it hard for one decision to ever be made.
It’s clear that a uniform can save time, money and stress for employees. However, the freedom and comfort that comes with being able to control what we wear is also worth a lot.