Uniformity and Psychology

By Bob Morrell on October 17, 2013

I went into our local Tesco last week and they were having a charity fund raising day. They were collecting donations and wearing casual clothes instead of their usual blue shirts and tabards. The Managers weren't wearing their blue polyester suits, the only thing that could identify anyone as an employee was their badge.

So what difference did it make? Well, everyone looked more attractive and approachable. They actually looked like they would be able to answer a question, whereas sometimes, behind the drab sameness of the uniform, one could be forgiven for avoiding questions, scared of the mundanity and uselessness of their possible response.

On this day everyone was chatting away, quite delighted to be given this seemingly small concession for one shift. And customers were chatting away too. Everyone was smiling. We were enjoying our experience more. Because it was unusual? Possibly. But certainly because the staff were happier.

Isn't there something just a little bit humiliating about having to wear a uniform? During the thirties a now famous designer became very successful designing the black suits of a certain 'evil' organisation. So you would have thought that black suits would be 'verboten'. Instead black is 'slimming' and we sit down with or are served regularly by black shirted individuals who would have made a certain dictator's day in 1935...

Now, we're being naughty, but there is something very personal and impressive about how you decide to dress yourself. Schools love uniforms because the uniform covers up one's social class. These days I am not so sure - if one must judge that then surely it comes from demeanour, tone, language and attitude. Couldn't we allow our adult staff to dress how they think appropriate? We'd love your opinion.

Top Tips for Sartorial Success:

1. Men in suits: please wear ties to 'first' meetings. It is impossible to wear a tie and make a mistake by doing so, for a first meeting. However it is perfectly possible to make a mistake by NOT wearing a tie for a first meeting.

2. Women in black uniforms can be perceived as scary for numerous reasons - if you must have a uniform have a selection of colours so they can match their eyes...

3. Clean shoes are everything. We can forgive many things, but we cannot forgive dirty shoes. It's a barrier in almost every way to decent business relationships - try as you might you'll never forget those unpolished examples of slovenliness.