A uniform is a kind of clothing worn by the members of an organisation during the activities of said organisation. At work they can also be known as workwear, work uniforms or personalised workwear, variating greatly depending on many factors such as type of industry, number of employees, and country, among others. The word “uniform” may have a connotation of “official”, “serious” or “bureaucratic” to some, but you can make them anything you want them to be.
The implementation of work uniforms, as with everything else in life, it’s got advantages and disadvantages, some people find them professional while others think they don’t leave room for self-expression. Ultimately the decision to implement workwear lies on each company.
Does my business need branded workwear?
Some businesses absolutely need a uniform while others not so much, in fact there are some that would find it detrimental. If your company falls into any of the following categories then you must likely are in need of a standardised workwear.
Delivery or at-home services
If your employees go to your customers home, then some type of company clothing is an absolute must. In order to let a stranger into their houses, people need some kind of reassurance that lets them know that the character knocking on the door is a professional and not a thief. Sure, a certified qualification will do the trick, but work uniforms will provide immediate confirmation that the person in question is trustworthy.
Health Industry Uniforms
Workwear in the health industry guarantees sanitation for the patient and comfort for the employee. Uniforms in hospitals also tend to be colour coded, allowing for organisation and simplifying the identification process during an emergency. The codes change depending on where you are, but surgeons tend to wear green scrubs in clinics and hospitals. Other type of industries that may not be directly related to health, but require high levels of hygiene like spas and gyms, also benefit from having personalised polo shirts.
Although today’s kitchens are filled with all kinds of work uniforms and colours, the most popular one tends to be a simple white outfit with an apron. A clean white uniform assures clients that the cook is clean and therefore its restaurant. White garments also absorb less heat than other colours, keeping the staff fresh.
Face-to-Face customer service
If you have a store or any other type of venue where you’ll talk with the customer face-to-face, you might consider implementing work uniforms, such as embroidered polo shirts. A branded workwear will allow your customers to quickly identify your employees, which translates to a faster service.
Manual labour / Construction Industry
More than creating a brand, this types of business would benefit from custom workwear for safety reasons, like a hi-vis vest. The right attire would provide workers with the tools they need to realise their chores and reduce the chances of injuring themselves.
Even if your brand does not fit into any of the categories mentioned above, a uniform could still have a positive impact.
The benefits of branded workwear
Uniforms level the playing field for the people who wear them. For example, in schools it prevents children from feeling more or less than their peers who otherwise would wear very expensive or hand-me-down clothes. Wearing the same attire also prevents someone from showing up with distracting or offensive garments. A t-shirt with a controversial slogan printed on it, for example.
Corporate clothing will allow you to market your company. Simply put, a person with a logo printed on their clothes is a walking ad. Personalised workwear is an extension of your brand.
Creates a Professional Image
Just like having a website and a good-looking business card, a uniformed staff gives a sense of professionalism. Not only will your customers think of your business of being more professional, but your employees will feel it as well. Studies have shown that workers change their attitude and even the way they think when they wear “work clothes”. This doesn’t mean that a person who’s casually dressed is not serious about their job, it only states that having an uniform allows for the brain to differentiate more easily a “work” and a “non work” state.
When people wear the same type of clothes, they feel they’re part of the team. Employees that feel like they “belong” have an enhanced sense of pride in the company they work for.
Some people may not realise that wearing uniforms increases the safety of big teams. When everyone is dresses in a similar fashion, it is easier to spot a stranger among the group.
Personalised workwear saves time in more ways than one. When there is no uniform, a dress code must be implemented which means time spent on deciding what it is and then on enforcing it. Corporate clothes also mean that workers will spend less time deciding what to wear each morning.
How do I design my business’ uniforms?
I’ve you’ve read through all of that (yay!) and you’ve decided that your company would benefit from having uniforms, the next logical step would be to design them. Don’t worry, you don’t need to have a degree in fashion design or the ability to draw to come up with a proper outfit, but before we get to the pen and paper you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions.
PART 1 – Research
What makes my brand tick?
What makes your brand different? What makes it stand out from the competition? There’s no need to write an essay, just make a list of words. Somewhere between five and ten should be fine. Too few and you’ll run the risk of lacking material. Too many and you may complicate the process.
What are my brand’s strength’s?
Again, make another list of words. This time you’ll note down your strengths. Some of these may coincide with the first list. This is not a problem.
How do people perceive my brand?
Create a survey for your customers and ask your family and friends. Sometimes we think we know how others perceive us, but the answers to these questions may often time surprise us. An objective perspective from a third person will shed light on how your brand looks from the outside.
Do I understand the different types of uniforms?
Business casual? Business formal? Or just casual? Your target, the service you provide and the area your employees work at will give you a clue on what kind of workwear you should enforce. An embroidered polo may not be as formal as a suit, but can present a more professional look than a printed t-shirt.
PART 2 – Design
Look for inspiration
After answering the questions above you must have a pretty good understanding on what you’re brand is about and how you want to represent it. Before you express your ideas on paper though, it might be a good idea to browse around first. Look at what others have done. Underneath you’ll find a healthy collection of branded workwear. Take a look around and see what others have already done. You don’t want to spend time and money on production only to find out afterwards that someone has already done it before. If you still want to check out more examples, go to Pinterest*, type in “uniform” and see what pops up.
While* you’re there, you may want to follow us!
Think of something timeless
Everyone’s got to reinvent themselves from time to time, but it would be in everyone’s best interest if it wasn’t every season. It’s a given that once you enforce a uniform you’ll have to eventually update it, but if you do it too often you run the risk of not creating a cohesive image. Avoid this by staying away from flimsy trends. Fiesta Red might sound like a great idea now, but in a couple of years you may be accused of looking like a piñata. If you stick to timeless silhouettes and colours, your uniform will have more of a staying power. And if someone dares to call you “boring” just remember them that it’s “classic”.
Think of colours
You may find yourself thinking that this step is unnecessary as you already have got corporate colours. But think again, a palette that works for a logo may not necessarily translate into clothes. For these cases it is advisable to produce a sample (more on that later). If you decide not to use your corporate palette then I’d recommend you looked into complementary colours. Look for neutrals that balance your style guide out. A tool that might help you out in this task is Kuler. It’s free and allows to browse through thousands of pre-made palettes or create your own based on a specific hue.
Think of materials
A garment made with a synthetic fabric may be cheaper, but they don’t breathe as well or are as comfortable as a cotton piece. If your employees are required to move around, like a waiter for example, it may be advisable to consider “friendlier” materials to ensure better movement and comfort. If your business takes place on the outdoors then maybe a fabric that protects against the elements would also be advisable. Better quality fabrics usually mean more money, but consider it an investment as they will probably last longer than a cheap one.
Think of your employees
What would they like to wear? Since they’re the ones who are going to spend a good amount of time in it, it might be a good idea to get their opinion on the matter. Few things are worse than everyday wearing a uniform you don’t like (ok, there are a lot of more awful things, but you know what I mean).
Time to sketch
Now that you’ve gathered all of the information, it’s time to put your ideas down on paper. You may do this by hand or in a computer. If you don’t have the skills, ask an artistic friend to give you a hand. You may also do it with a collage or in worst case scenario, just find a picture of something similar. Pointing and imagining still works. “I want something like this, but in blue instead of yellow.”
PART 3 – Production
Find a Uniform Maker
A very important part of the production process is to find a company that will handle your design with the attention you deserve. Of course, we would love it if you picked us. I mean, why wouldn’t you? But we won’t hold it against you if you don’t. Why might carry a bit of a smug smile when you come back, but that’s about it.
Create a Sample
Before you fully commit to a design, it is very important to create sample. A sort of mockup, if you will. Creating a sample will allow you to test it. Have one or two workers wear it for a day or a week and have them report later to you. Is it comfortable? Does it still look good after many hours of use? What were the clients’ reactions? You don’t want the same experience as Virgin Airlines. Gather all of the feedback and make the necessary changes. If there are too many, it might mean going back to the drawing board, if it’s fine as it is, then send it to production.
Lastly, have fun!
You don’t need to be a design mogul in order to come up with a uniform that works for your business. Remember to think of your brand’s storytelling, find inspiration, design and have fun! Corporate workwear is not just a way to promote your business, it is an opportunity to express your brand’s idea and leave your mark on the world. Have fun and be safe!