Nearly two years ago (Ha. Ha. Yes, I know), my friend sent me a link to an article from The Independent about how many of us end up gravitating towards a uniform in our adult years. The uniform may be idiosyncratic, but a uniform nonetheless. Think Anna Wintour with her A-line skirts, pointy toed pumps, and of course, her signature dark shades.
On a different but related note, another friend of mine was telling me how uninspiring and wearisome it is to be forced into a suit everyday for work. He calls it a costume he puts on for the office.
These two instances bring me to the topic of uniforms. As a fashion fanatic, I have always feared the idea of mandatory attire. Growing up, I hated the idea of a school with uniforms, and even cried when I learned I was accepted into a private school for junior high (I didn't end up attending that school, thankfully). My mom had a uniform when she was little and chides me whenever I voice criticism against it. She praises uniforms for making her morning routine much simpler. While I acknowledge the benefits of a set outfit, I most certainly believe they are not for everyone.
For me, fashion is my greatest form of self-expression. Like an artist materializing his/her mind's creativity, clothing is my paintbrush and my outfit is my masterpiece. I strongly value the freedom to wear what I want. I've always considered the liberty to dress outside of the box as a huge bonus of working in the fashion industry. Nonetheless, while I adore experimenting with fashion, I do recognize that the article from The Independent is right: we can develop our own uniforms over time. Call it personal style, call it a uniform - most of us will get into a groove. But the difference with these uniforms is that they are our own. They become our uniforms because we created them. As a result, we love them.
The problem is, as an adult, we may still find ourselves forced into a uniform - this time not of the school variety. I've been lucky enough to work for an organization that is not strict on dress code and encourages the right attire for the job, resulting in a wide range of casual to dressy. I am also glad to have worked around amazing people who were either appreciative of those who enjoyed dressing up, or liked the art of style themselves. But I can imagine if I were forced into the traditional blazer and pant for five days a week, I would very quickly begin to dislike my job. Is lack of self-expression really enough to make someone pack up and switch jobs? I think it is.
To some, clothes are just pieces of fabric. To others, they're much more than that. Being forced into a cookie cutter image can take its toll over time. Attire is an element of corporate culture that should not be overlooked, whether you consider it a priority or not. One size (or uniform, in this case) does not fit all. If you insist on a particular uniform, know that you consequently insist on recruiting a particular person. Understandably, that may be exactly what your organization wants. But if you value diversity, there's worth in having people discover their own uniform. Of course, there should always be baseline rules that must be adhered to, but freedom to operate within those rules (it can be as simple as casual Fridays) will give people the leeway they need to remain true to themselves.
Looking forward to my adulthood, I will continue to insist on my freedom of fashion expression. I never ascribed to a uniform as a kid, and I'm not going to start now. There are ways to dress appropriately for the office while still having fun. We're in the workplace for the majority of our lives - don't let it be a place you lose sense of who you are.
Image source: Speaking of Style, Pinterest, Memorandum