How the Wrong Uniform Can Send the Wrong Message


    Do your employees wear uniforms? If so, how much thought went into designing them? This is something to really think about given that the impression people get from your employee uniforms creates an indelible image in their minds. The wrong uniform can send the wrong message.

    A good way to demonstrate this is to look at the uniforms worn by professional sports teams. Just run an internet search on the ‘ugliest uniforms in pro sports’ and take a good look at what comes up. There are plenty of articles with photos included. And yes, there are some truly ugly uniforms out there.

    You might be tempted to think this doesn’t pertain to your employees because they are not athletes. Yet uniforms are as important to your company image as they are to pro sports teams. If uniforms are ugly, customers are going to notice them – whether you play football or repair cars.

    We Can’t Bear to Look

    Playing off the ugly sports uniform theme, the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) published an enlightening and amusing post on May 23. A number of ASI staff members were asked to weigh in on what they thought the ugliest uniforms in sports were. There were a lot of great candidates.

    One staff member chose the Vancouver Canucks uniforms from the late 1970s. One look at the picture explains why. Another staff member chose the Pittsburgh Steelers striped throwbacks while another chose the Montréal Canadiens 2009 centennial celebration uniforms.

    The one thing all three of these selections have in common is this: they are extremely difficult to look at for any length of time. The stripes are just too much. Actually watching these teams play is, quite literally, painful on the eyes. Now, imagine your employees wearing uniforms people cannot stand to look at.

    It’s not just stripes though. Another staff member chose the NFL’s monochromatic uniforms worn for Thursday night games. The staff member described them as making “the players look like giant babies wearing onesies.” That’s not the kind of impression you want to project if you’re an NFL player, is it?

    Uniforms in the Corporate Environment

    We suspect that most companies are not going to choose uniforms as outlandish as those worn by some pro sports teams. But the point is still well taken. Alsco, the company that invented uniform rental service back in the late 19th century, says that corporate uniforms should reflect professionalism above all else.

    The goal of corporate uniforms is to present an image that says the person wearing the uniform can be trusted. Therefore, uniforms must fit the part, so to speak. A doctor wearing torn jeans and a stained T-shirt is not going to evoke the same level of confidence as another doctor wearing scrubs and a white lab coat.

    Corporate uniforms also should not draw attention to the people wearing them. In other words, you do not want to draw attention to individual employees. You want to draw attention to how your company can serve its customers. You do not want uniforms to be the focal point of attention.

    There is little doubt that professional sports have given us some incredibly ugly uniforms. But so has the corporate world. We will not mention any names out of politeness, but ugly corporate uniforms are out there.

    If your company’s employees wear uniforms, what do they actually look like? Do they present the kind of professional image you associate with your company? If not, perhaps it’s time for a rethink. Maybe it’s time for new uniforms that send the right message.