Unpacking the psychology behind uniform

Unpacking the psychology behind uniform


What is the purpose of wearing a uniform? What is the psychology behind carefully chosen uniforms specific to certain professions? Should your employees wear a uniform purely for the sake of it?

Authority and trust

It’s no secret that we make snap judgments the moment we meet another human being. This is where a uniform has the opportunity to make an impression in that split-second window! You only get one chance. There’s a reason why people trust uniforms! Whether that’s a police officer, a lifeguard, a fireman, doctor or surgeon - you immediately know a person’s profession or area of expertise based on their uniform. When engaging in some kind of business, no one has the time to get to know each other. As a customer, you know immediately if you can trust the professionals in front of you.

As a professional, you may have great character and integrity, but in reality, you only have a split-second window to get your potential client or customer to trust you. So what does your uniform say about you? Does it influence feelings of confidence and trust? Are you viewed as an authority figure who they can do business with?  

A sense of belonging 

Humans are inherently tribal. We form groups, communities and cultures based on common values and belief systems in an effort to connect with others who are like-minded. Being part of a tribe makes us feel that we are part of something bigger and contributing to a higher purpose. A company that effectively and regularly communicates its values and purpose to their employees creates this tribal effect. If you include your people in your vision and mission, and constantly remind them of how their role contributes to your company’s purpose and making them feel like they “belong”, you will effectively achieve loyalty from your staff and get the best out of them.

One way your employees can champion your company brand and demonstrate this sense of belonging is by the uniform. A well-designed uniform that aligns with your company can unite your staff in serving your company’s higher purpose each day. This is why it’s important to give careful consideration to this primal human need to belong. When a company is able to pull this off, it is very powerful. Your employees are no longer just employees - they are members and are proud to wear and embody your brand.

A sense of identity 

Following from our inherent need to belong, humans form a sense of identity. We join communities and groups because we “identify with” the values of that group. In fact, your identity is often wrapped around the group or tribe that you belong to, and you may even adhere to certain unwritten rules to ensure that you fit in with your group. And as an individual, you may follow subconscious rules and make life decisions according to your identity. As “individual” and “unique” as we think we are, we all conform to a set of values that reinforce our identity.

How can you ensure that your employees strongly identify with your company? Again, it is about regularly communicating your values and your company’s vision with them, making them feel that they are part of something bigger. That way, it’s not about what they “do” for you, it is “who” they are. A uniform can effectively reinforce their identity each day they work with you. The uniform informs them of who they are - along with the set of values, beliefs and behaviour tied with that identity. For instance, when a soldier goes to battle, they know exactly what they have to do - their duty is based on who they are, a soldier.

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