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What Constitutes A Work Uniform

Jun 6, 2008
When it comes to work uniforms, many people have different ideas. You could automatically think of the dull, sludge colour coveralls that instantly disguise any figure or any personal taste that might have otherwise been on show. These are enforced by Hitler type bosses who feel threatened by any show of individuality and like, themselves, to stand out from the masses as 'the boss'.

Or you could think of those fire hazard nylon creations in the colours that resemble the morning after the night before puke that they make bank tellers wear these days. This has to be a punishment for something terrible they did in a previous life! Why else would you choose to make your staff wear work uniforms of nylon based calf length A line skirts with multi coloured blouses that your grandmother would be proud of and then top off the whole ensemble with the scarf normally applicable to air hostesses?

Of course, in some environments, work uniforms are essential. Take the kitchen for example. This has to be an environment where work uniform is important for hygiene purposes. I can't think of anything worse than a sweaty chef turning up in yesterdays clothes that he wiped his hands, nose and god knows what else on, and then serving up a meal. But they don't have to be dull.

Work uniforms for the kitchen have taken an upturn in the fashion stakes and are no longer 'whites' but sometimes greens, or reds, or patterned or even blues. The only problem with this is that they can become confused with hospital staff in their scrubs and the last thing you want is the chef removing your appendix.

Office staff often consider their business suits to be work uniform and as such revel in the times when they can have a 'dress down Friday'. This is similar to those occasional times you had at school when you were allowed to leave behind your uniform and wear whatever you pleased. Nine times out of ten this constituted jeans back then, as it does now at work. The whole work ethic is basically lost for the day while people slip into the casual time of paper aeroplane throwing and computer games which is exactly why most offices will insist on smart dress for the majority of the time.

There is also the other end of the sliding scale of work uniforms. How many people do you see out for a Sunday afternoon stroll bedecked in sequins, feather boas and fishnets? Ok, this may happen in certain areas of Brighton but in general this type of work uniform is better left to entertainers. Indeed, this often assists them in taking on a completely diverse persona and puts them into their zone of acting/entertaining. Many entertainers are actually the shy, retiring type but put them in their flamboyant work uniforms and they become someone entirely different.

It's all very easy to say that it's not what's on the outside that counts but the inner person. However, these uniforms stand for many things. It gives people a sense of belonging and it helps them to be identified to their work group, now I sound like a teacher!

There are those, particularly of the younger age group, who will defend their right to wear whatever they want and not be railroaded to going along with the crowd of uniform wearers. This is usually because they have just got out of school and don't want to return to that feeling of being one of the sheep. They would prefer to wear their own choice of clothing which usually means the same thing that every other person there age is wearing - that'll be a uniform then?
About the Author
Fashion expert Catherine Harvey looks at the reasons why work uniforms are a good idea.
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