Eye On Apparel: The Timelessness Of Uniforms


Dressing employees in a sharp uniform that’s on-brand and specifically tailored to their position or role goes beyond strictly appearance. It provides a sense of homogeneity and sends the message that all employees are part of a team, representing the company and contributing to the collective brand experience. Uniforms can be used to convey a targeted message, elicit emotion, establish a sense of equality and communicate brand identity. In specific circumstances, uniforms are also used to signify authority—think police officers or security guards—aid with cleanliness and convey a sense of professionalism. 

On the consumer-facing side, uniforms help with brand awareness and even symbolize the brand. One of the most iconic, well-recognized uniforms in U.S. history are the service uniforms and dress blues worn by members of the U.S. Marine Corps—and it’s also the only U.S. military uniform to incorporate all three colors of the American flag. But there’s many other uniforms that may be just as recognizable to end users. UPS’s more than 125,000 drivers worldwide, for instance, wear a uniform consisting of brown polos and pants or shorts, dubbed “Browns,” according to Business Insider, that have not only come to symbolize the company, but are a part of UPS’s history. No matter where UPS drivers are working, there’s a sense of consistency. 

Other companies, like Etihad Airways, the second-largest airline in the United Arab Emirates, elevates the perception of its brand with uniforms custom-designed by Italian designer Ettore Bilotta. Drawing inspiration from 1960s couture and modern-day runway styles, the airline employees’ chocolate brown suits with regal purple accents and polka dot satin shirts contribute to the company’s luxury feel and communicates that message to travelers.

At sporting events, like the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, uniforms provide athletes with a way to proudly represent their countries and teams while standing apart from competitors. And at smaller venues, like chain restaurans, from Applebee’s to Olive Garden to The Cheesecake Factory, uniforms are used to differentiate roles, such as hostess from waitstaff and waitstaff from management. If guests have a question or concern, it allows them to easily spot management, thus contributing to a greater sense of organization.

Uniforms are also mandated in some schools as a way to signify equality and lower the likelihood of bullying—something that’s particularly on the rise for public schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 2015-2016 academic year, more than one in five public schools (21.5 percent) required students to wear uniforms—a 13.8-percent increase from 2006. And according to VocationalTrainingHQ, parents tend to spend between $25-$200 per standardized uniform and $100-$500 per school-specific uniform. 

But equally important to the look and message communicated by uniforms is whether employees are comfortable. “Companies want their staff to look good and feel good in what they are putting on every day,” says Aly Salz, CEO of supplier Righteous Clothing Agency, Inc. in Clackamas, Oregon. “When a garment is worn a lot, it should be something that people want to wear.” An example of  uniforms gone wrong were those introduced by American Airlines in 2016. They  looked good, but some employees reported they were itchy and caused chemical burns, headaches, rashes, hives and respiratory problems, according to the Chicago Tribune. The uniforms prompted a lawsuit and backlash from the American Airlines’ Association of Professional Flight Attendants resulting in a PR nightmare that made some travelers reconsider their American Airlines experience, if the comfort of the company’s own employees was being compromised. 

When employees wear uniforms that are not only comfortable for them, but easily recognizable and brand-appropriate, it impacts the end-user experience. According to a national survey of 250 companies conducted by a graduate researcher from the Sawyer Business School at Suffolk University in Boston, “Are Uniforms An Effective Marketing Tool?”, branded uniforms can outpace other advertising methods by nine-to-one—including internet, TV, radio, billboards, Yellow Pages and newspaper ads—in terms of generating positive brand perceptions and increases in brand awareness. It shows that a simple branded uniform can go a long way toward generating ongoing impressions and recognition. 

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A polo that’s made for working in the toughest jobs, the IL-50 Rental Friendly Polo is snag- and stain-resistant, and features anti-microbial BLU-X-DRI protection, a rib-knit curl-free collar and side vents. Details of the 100-percent polyester polo include hemmed, raglan sleeves, mic clips on the center placket and shoulders and reinforced dual pen pockets on the left sleeve. Available in S-6XL with a corresponding ladies’ style in nine colors, shown in red.

Blue Generation  /  PPAI 174655, S11  /    www.bluegeneration.com

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Whether your client is in the food and restaurant business or the travel and leisure industry, or a member of the executive suite or the sales team, there’s always a use for a high-quality, logoed tie to raise brand awareness. This custom-woven ties comes in three fabric choices—polyester, silk and a polyester-silk blend—with U.S.-made or China-made options and includes a custom label. The tie’s width and length can also be customized.

Harstan Ties & Accessories  /  PPAI 112106, S1  /  www.harstanties.com

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For workers in hands-on industries, like construction, carpentry and HVAC, this Heavyweight Pocket Tee can offer some reprieve. The six-ounce, 100-percent cotton jersey is crafted of pre-shrunk, ring-spun cotton, and has a front left chest pocket for storing items, like carpentry pencils. Additional details include side seams to minimize twisting,  double-needle top-stitching on the main seams and options to screen-print on the neck and sleeve labels. Available in S-4XL in regular and large to 6XL in tall in black, grey, navy and light olive (shown). 

Berne Apparel Company  /  PPAI 220676, S4  /  www.berneapparel.com

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A sporty selection, the Vansport Pro Horizon Polo is 100-percent polyester with a heather interlock body, moisture-wicking and UV-protection capabilities, and a self-goods collar with a collar band. Made with a mix of tonal textures, which adds a unique visual element, the polo’s heather jersey front and back yoke block are 92-percent polyester and eight-percent spandex. Available in men’s S-5XL and women’s XS-3XL in black, deep purple, navy and pacific blue (shown).  

Vantage Apparel  /  PPAI 113235, S10  /  www.vantageapparel.com

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The KDLTR, a 100-percent cotton denim bib apron, gives Millennials the signature look they want in their clothing. It features a vegan leather, adjustable neck tie and brown webbing self-ties at the waist for easy sizing. A large center pocket and chest pocket hold small items, while the stylish leather accent straps on the front of the apron can also keep small items handy. Available in 27-inches wide by 31-inches long in black denim and blue denim (shown).

Aprons Etc.  /  PPAI 110868, S6  /  www.apronsetc.com

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Offer an on-trend, contemporary uniform for clients working in businesses with more casual environments, like barber shops, bars and restaurants and storefronts. The Burnside Mens L/S Chambray Shirt is made from an 80-percent cotton and 20-percent polyester blend, with two chest pockets with button flaps and an inverted back pleat. Available in S-3XL in light denim and dark denim (shown). 

TSC Apparel  /  PPAI 174523, S12   /  www.tscapparel.com

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Part of Vantage Apparel’s next generation of performance woven shirts, the bestselling professional Vansport SandhillDress Shirt promises carefree comfort for wearers. Made from 95-percent polyester and five-percent spandex, the shirt is lightweight—only 2.75 ounces—with details including moisture-wicking properties, a spread co llar and bust darts, single-needle tailoring and a shirttail hem. Available in men’s S-5XL and women’s XS-3XL in black, light blue, blue and grey (shown). 

Vantage Apparel  /  PPAI 113235, S10  /  www.vantageapparel.com

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For doctors, scientists and other professionals who work in laboratory settings, a top-notch lab coat can double as a uniform and safety wear. Barco Grey’s Anatomy™ Classic Women’s Lab Coat is 28 inches long and made from 80-percent polyester and 20-percent cotton peached twill. It features three pockets, a notch collar, a midriff seam, tapering darts and a back vent. Available in XXS-XL in white.

Scrub Authority / PPAI 387935, S6   /  www.scrubauthority.com

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Employees in every industry can always use a go-to logoed jacket to throw over their shoulders during outdoor or evening events. The STEALTH jacket is made of 100-percent micro poly, medium weight fine-gauge jersey-knit fabric. It features moisture-wicking properties, monotone mesh inserts and an elastic tape finish for full range of movement. Available in XS-3XL in charcoal (shown).

Pro-Celebrity (Tee Top of California)  /  PPAI 181929, S3   /   www.goprocelebrity.com

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Looking for a durable logoed apron for a restaurant or a catering company’s waitstaff? The Teflon-Treated Twill Waist Apron is made from a 65-percent polyester and 35-percent cotton twill blend that is treated with DuPont Teflon fabric protector, so it’ll continue to look crisp, no matter how many times it’s worn and washed. The apron also features four pockets to conveniently store pens and order pads, with options to add a custom logo. Available in a one-size-fits-all option in 13 colors, shown in purple. 

 

Blue Generation /  PPAI 174655, S11  /    www.bluegeneration.com

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A sleek, clean look that’s fit for any front-facing role, the Ottoman Polo is made for professionals who are on the move. Featuring Opti-Dri technology that’s designed to keep the body cool and dry, and UV Repel technology with UPF 15+ to protect wearers from the sun, additional details include a rib-knit collar, a three-button placket with Callaway-embossed buttons, a double-needle hemmed bottom with side vents and a heat-seal label, ensuring tag-free comfort. Available in men’s S-4XL in black, bright white, peacoat navy, Provence blue, magnetic blue, salsa red and smoked pearl (shown).

Perry Ellis International  /  PPAI 255232, S8  /  www.pei-corporateapparel.com

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A 100-percent polyester polo available in summery colors, perfect for employees working at resorts or for companies in the wellness space, the Ladies Golf Earl Polo features high-gauge, double-knit, moisture-wicking fabric. Contrast tipping on the collar placket and cuffs adds a fashion-forward look, and additional details include a five-button placket, a self-fabric collar and a double-needle hemmed bottom with side vents. Available in S-3XL, with a companion men’s style, in black, iris blue, regatta blue, bright white, asphalt, caviar, Caribbean sea and high risk red (shown).

Perry Ellis International  /  PPAI 255232, S8  /  www.pei-corporateapparel.com

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For those with more intensive jobs, like firefighters, EMTs and civic workers, the 80-percent cotton and 20-percent polyester Alarm is made with mic pockets on the shoulders and reinforced dual pen pockets on the left sleeve. Additional details include a right chest pocket with a hoop-and-loop divider and side pockets, with a rib knit on the cuffs and waistband and canvas elbow patches. Available in S-4XL in black and navy (shown).

Tri-Mountain / PPAI 134335, S11 / www.trimountain.com

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Sparkly Tees Adds Bedazzle To Scrubs

A different take on standard scrubs, the GLITTERSport-Tek Ladies Sport-Wick is a stretch contrast full-zip jacket featuring a hospital logo on the front and a fun team logo on the back, which reads, “I’m a Pre-Op Nurse. What’s Your Superpower?” The Sport Tek jacket pairs well with a coordinating logoed Port & Company shirt and elastic-waist pants, provided by supplier SanMar. This custom order was fulfilled for Summerlin Hospital’s pediatric department in Las Vegas by Las Vegas-based distributor Sparkly Tees. “This gives the hospital staff something more modern than the basic scrub top and cardigan,” says Kylie Waltz, production and marketing manager of Sparkly Tees. On some jackets, Sparkly Tees also imprinted the recipient’s title, i.e. “nurse” or “tech”—ensuring the wearer’s role and team are visible to others if needed.

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Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.

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