The psychology of wearing a uniform

Since the first days of school, the majority of people in the UK are accustomed to either wearing, or the sight, of the humble uniform. From healthcare workers to police, construction workers to sportspeople, many professionals are marked out by the particular style of uniform that they wear. Imagine watching the Grand National without distinguishing between jockeys in their distinctly-coloured shirts, or finding a police officer without first recognising them through their helmets and jackets. The silent language of each uniform informs our perception of the professional world, and is an inescapable element of our society.

So, what messages do certain types of uniform give us – even on a subconscious level? We’re going to take a look into the psychology underpinning our perception of uniform, and what conclusions we can draw when selecting the right kit for our staff.

Resistance to uniform starts in school

For any pupil attending a school which has uniform, it’s highly likely that our perceptions of it start out early as quite negative. While school attire is considered to work as a leveller, masking the relative economic circumstances of each individual, it also brings certain other subconscious feelings which may not always be positive.

Think of the times you see young students customising their uniforms in whatever way they can get away with – knotting ties in certain ways, or rolling us skirts to make them shorter. Children have an instinctive recognition of the fact that uniforms create a certain identity and association, and will often rebel against this conformity in subtle ways.

Recognising how this perception impacts corporate working

Once we leave school, many of us enter into a sector which requires a specific dress code – even if this does not necessarily mean adopting a specific uniform required for the role. Corporate working is usually associated with suits, ties and collared shirts, and adhering to this dress code tends to be associated with professionalism and collective corporate identify.

Given the fact that few of us have fond recollections of school uniforms, it’s perhaps unsurprising that many business owners resist the idea of introducing uniforms for their staff. If our own experience of something is negative, we’re less likely to want to inflict it on others. It’s tempting to consider a no-uniform policy to improve staff morale, or to encourage individuality and the creativity which may stem from this.

Embracing the positive psychology of uniform in customer-facing roles

Regardless of the potential for negative responses to the idea of wearing a uniform, there are a number of obvious benefits to providing customer-facing employees with uniform:

  • It serves to enable customers to identify your staff, should they require assistance
  • It enables you to strengthen brand recognition through reinforcing your logo and colour scheme
  • It provides teams with a collective sense of belonging and unity
  • It promotes positive professional behaviours, by ensuring that employees are conscious of their association with your organisation, and required to uphold standards.

Exploring the sense of collective identity

When we provide uniforms for our staff, we are subconsciously delivering an extremely persuasive message – that of collective identify, belonging, and responsibility. There’s a reason why uniforms are so integral to most team-based sports. Football players wear the same strip to mark them out as playing for the same side, as a unified whole. It is this message which uniforms extend into the workplace – that of ‘us and other’ – the awareness that each member of the team is working together, to achieve shared aims and objectives.

As tribal animals, Humans are essentially programmed to belong. Uniforms play an immense part in this sense of belonging, union and kinship – they represent something larger than an individual, in embodying the brand of a business. They can equip an individual with additional confidence, in knowing that they are clearly defined as someone who can undertake their role well.

If you are convinced that providing uniforms enable us to tap into psychological benefits, it’s time to equip your employees with a branded and standardised kit. Get in touch with one of our Customer Service Executives today, and we’ll be delighted to help you out!

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