Should I Enforce a Uniform, or Dress Code?

It might not seem like a marketing problem, but we’ve previously discussed the ways in which your retail/customer facing staff can (and should) be considered marketing collateral. More than just that, but remember their power to influence customers—in real time. While not always a make or break, the ways in which your employees present themselves can say a lot about your brand.

What’s the Difference?

I’m pretty sure that we all know a uniform is a set, standard thing that must be worn while on the job. And that a dress code is more a set of guidelines that must be followed when dressing for the job. Both can be effective, in different ways, and there’s not always a right or wrong.

Uniform Pro’s & Con’s

Uniforms usually include some form of branding on one, or several of the elements involved. This is really embracing the idea of your employees being marketing collateral. They allow your customer facing employees to be easily identified and appear, well—uniform.

In most retail settings, uniforms make sense. Your customers will never feel hesitant to approach someone for help. They’ll know who works there, and who doesn’t. It helps to further establish your brand, and provides yet another touchpoint for your consumer.

One of the downsides to a uniform, is also that your employees are easily identifiable. If they’re on their way to/from work in their uniform, and do something out of the ordinary—it may be associated with your brand. If they’re on break, and mean to the employees of a restaurant or coffee shop nearby. There’s a level of accountability that must be established with your employees while they’re in uniform (not just on the clock). Don’t make it seem like you don’t trust them, just that you’re reminding them.

You might consider that your home office, and other non-customer-facing-roles wear uniforms as well. They might be less branded, or varied in some way from that of your retail team, but it can help to build a sense of community and remove distraction from the work place. Depending on your field of business, there may be great value here. But, there can also be value in allowing these teams more freedom in their fashion choices.

Uniforms can be utilitarian, or purely for aesthetic. A uniform doesn’t have to be a shirt and pants, it could be a lanyard and a hat. An apron, or even a mask. I don’t know—I’m sure it’s been done before. These styles of uniform still allow for easy recognition, but also for personal expression and the ability to remove branded elements from your person. You could even ask that those be left in the building, if you’re particularly worried. This type of ‘uniform’ may even be considered more of a ‘dress code.’

Dress Code Pro’s & Con’s

If you don’t have a uniform, you should probably have a dress code. You can go with one of the commonly accepted and established; business formal, business casual. Or, if it fits the brand; beach-y, glamorous, sporty, anything.

No matter how laissez-faire your management, having a general set of expectations for appearance and style allows for a level of consistency that helps build and bolster your brand identity.

In addition to the types of garment considered acceptable, dress codes also set standards for personal hygiene and grooming. You cannot, and should never discriminate based on appearance during hiring; but you can still request that tattoos be covered, piercings removed, hair be a certain way, jewelry be kept to a minimum.

However, ensure that these regulations are vital to the integrity of your brand.

Avoid establishing dress codes based on your personal preferences; focus on what would and wouldn’t be acceptable to your consumer and audience. Then, explain how and why to your employees, and request their compliance.

Otherwise, you risk upsetting or offending your staff for no reason.

Which Is Right for Me?

As suggested in the introduction, there’s usually no right or wrong answer when it comes to whether or not you should establish a uniform or dress code. I guess, there could be one wrong answer: not establishing at least a base line dress code.

Other than that, it’s totally up to you. Think about the relationships that your consumers have, or could have with your employees. If you’re super customer centric, a uniform is probably a good idea. If you’re a purveyor of fashion, maybe just request that they wear clothes you sell—and give them a waist apron; headband; fanny pack; armband; headset; literally anything with a logo (that makes sense to your brand).

Feel free to change it up, allow for variety, ask for input, and most importantly: stick to it yourself, if you’re asking your employees to.

What are your opinions on uniforms? Dress codes? What are some ways in which these have been implemented at a higher level? Let’s think about it together, in the comment section below!

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