Getting it right first time

How exactly did workwear bearing the logos of DHL and the Post Office become sought-after fashion objects? A dose of irony, surely, but also great branding.

There is no one secret to a great staff uniform, but nailing the design will certainly fulfil a number of useful purposes. A great uniform makes a statement about your brand, promotes pride in the workplace and even offers free advertising for your brand when your employees are on their way home. Here are the most important questions to ask yourself when you’re creating a staff uniform for your business.

1. Who is it for?

Think about the context of your workplace. People with specific roles such as waiters, chefs or office workers will have different clothing demands. Employees of different ages might have different levels of comfort with formal wear, considering younger generations are used to dressing more casually in the workplace. Ultimately you want a uniform which compliments your workplace, but also something workers will be happy to wear.

2. What is the purpose of the uniform?

Uniform can fulfil different purposes. In an office job it equalises staff, putting everyone on the same level – even if its a simple t-shirt. When employees leave work, they’re conscious that their actions reflect the company, even if a manager isn’t watching over them. But in a cafe, a uniform may have a more immediate purpose, such as identifying staff to customers. You might want to create different outfits for different roles, such as to distinguish waiters from managers or bar staff in a busy restaurant.

3. What are the demands of the job?

You wouldn’t wear a crisp white shirt to work in a restaurant kitchen, would you? What about overalls in an office? You need to consider the physical functions of your workwear, since different tasks demand different garments. If food is involved, then dark clothes are a good idea to hide stains. Some people work outside and need to be kept warm by their clothes, so you might want to consider different layers of uniform. Meanwhile some clothes have to be especially durable, or fulfil specific health and safety criteria.

4. How are you branding your company?

Turning away from the needs of your employees, think about what you want the uniforms to communicate to customers about your company. How will you plan the colour scheme? You don’t need to copy the colour of your branding, you might want to pick tones that compliment, rather than imitating, your logo. Will the logo itself be on the garment, and if so, where? You might want to look at contemporary uniforms for inspiration, to be inspired and learn what to do—and what to avoid.

5. What do I want to communicate about the business?

Beyond communicating your brand, the style of your uniform is part of establishing the atmosphere of your workplace. If you are running a fancy restaurant, formal clothes will make customers feel like they’re being given luxurious special treatment, and they’ll be more willing to pay for it. If you’re running a more homely establishment, put your staff in relaxed clothes so that customers know they can really unwind and feel comfortable. A separate consideration is what you want to say about company ethically. Are you dedicated to sustainability in your branding? If so you might want to consider clothes that are made locally, or designed using Fair Trade garments.

6. How much do you want to spend?

Do a poll of your employees to find out what size they wear so that you don’t end up with too many or too few uniforms, which will waste money. Also be aware that most people need a few spare sets of uniforms, and jobs involving physical labour may mean clothing wears out sooner than you expect. Try to strike a balance between affordability and durability in your uniforms – you want your clothes to be breathable, flattering and practical, making your employees happy, but you can’t afford to get everyone tailored three-piece suits. Bear these questions in mind, and make the call which is best for you, your business and your bottom line.

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