Steve Jobs did it. Mark Zuckerberg does it. Michael Kors and Tom Wolfe do it, too. And, Barack Obama swore by it during his presidency. What do tech CEOs, a fashion designer, an author, and a former president have in common? They all opted for a uniform unique to them. Perhaps, you should, too.
Why are work uniforms becoming so popular?
When you get up in the morning, it may be hard to start your day with a series of decisions about what to wear. If you have a basic outfit you put on at the start of each workday, it’s just easier. You can save your brain power for the tough issues you’ll face in the day ahead. If your job requires travel, having a set grouping of garments makes it easy to pack. When you get where you are going, you always have pieces that go together for a complete outfit. Your shoes and accessories work, too. If you leave something out of the bag, chances are great that a piece you wore to travel will bridge the gap.
A trend towards wearing a personally selected uniform may be a correction to the fast fashion trends that have filled so many of our closets to overflowing. In addition to being wasteful, all that abundance breeds stress, even a sort of paralysis that makes getting ready for work the hardest part of the day. We’ve got a hack for that!
How will I choose my work uniform?
Where you work and gender will influence the look you adopt as your uniform. Picking out a work uniform may be a bit simpler for men than women, but with a bit of thought and a commitment to trial runs, there’s a work uniform that is right for you. It might be a good idea to take General Motors CEO Mary Barra’s simple advice on workplace fashion—“Dress appropriately.” Keep that in mind as you begin the process of selecting your foundational pieces and choose how and if you will layer your uniform.
Get inspired and get noticed!
For inspiration, check out all the books and videos on capsule wardrobes, which are essentially all the pieces you choose for your personal uniform. While these sources are typically produced with women in mind, the basic concepts apply to men and women.
Choosing a uniform or capsule wardrobe is pretty simple, but before you begin, you need to think about what is right for you in terms of style, cost and care requirements. Once you have a clear mental picture of your signature style, picking the pieces to create it will be a breeze.
Let’s get started:
Get to know yourself. Are you a crisp white shirt type or a black t-shirt sort? Are you drawn to the avant-garde or are you most comfortable in a button-down shirt and khakis? Will you likely get dirty enough to need to launder the uniform after one wearing? The answers to these questions should give you at least a nudge in the direction of your personal style and your individual needs.
Pick one base color that flatters you, and then build around it. The fabrics you choose will be determined by your office environment. Think dark-washed jeans for casual offices or a black suit for more for formal workplaces. Next, pick your go-to shirt or blouse that works for your environment. You’re on a roll!
It’s important to have options that accommodate temperature changes, so you will want to have a layering option for your uniform. Choose a piece that will complement all your bottoms and tops. If you work in a casual office, this topper may be a cardigan or shrug. In a formal office, it will likely be a jacket.
Women may elect to wear a sheath with a matching coat as their work uniform. A neutral color may be accessorized to easily bridge day to evening events.
And don’t forget the shoes and accessories, such as handbags and briefcases. Buy good quality in classic styles. Make your uniform something you will feel good in every day.
Once you settle on a uniform, commit to wearing it for a week to see if it really works. Over five days or more of wear, you will come to some conclusions and determine if you need to tweak your selection. If on the first day, you decide that has to be a better way, give yourself permission to start over.
Some find wearing a single color to be a bit too confining. If this is you, find a basic color palette and choose tops and bottoms in colors that complement each other so that any two tops and bottoms work together. You may find that changing ties or scarves is enough to make your uniform work all day every day. A uniform will always be a work in progress, and occasional updates may be needed. Just remember that uniforms can offer choices from day to day while maintaining a signature look, so find what works for you and wear it well.